"I have a headache." It's not always just an excuse to get out of something, but a headache is a red flag telling you that something is wrong. That something likely starts in your neck.
descriptor of pain in the head, face, and neck
If you suffer from headaches, you are not alone. 45 million people (1 in 6 people) report chronic, recurring headaches in the US. (1)
The headache pain can be throbbing or achy, in one or more areas of the head, neck, or face. It can be bad enough to send you to a dark, quiet room or just the medicine cabinet for a pill. Headaches can involve muscles, discs, nerves and facet joints in the neck as a source of aggravation of headache pain.
There are two types of headaches: primary and secondary.
- Primary - due to head and neck pain itself
- Secondary - due to some other underlying issue like infection or flu or other organic disease.
Description of Headache due to cervical spine issues
There are three "primary" headache types that account for 90% of headaches:
- Stress Headaches - These are the most common. They start around middle age when the stresses and aggravation of our busy lives increase. 90% of headache sufferers get these. (2) The pain usually starts as dull, aching, steady pain felt on both sides of the head. They may develop into throbbing pain. Eye strain, stress, tension, tightness may trigger stress headaches.
- Cluster Headaches - These headaches appear in "clusters," like repeatedly over weeks or months. They may recur the same time every year. These headaches are quite painful and usually affect only one side of the head around the eye. Men are affected more than women with this type of headache.
- Incidence: less than 1% of headache sufferers. (3)
- Migraine Headaches - Reduced blood flow to various areas of the head may be a source of migraines. These headaches generally start with a visual disturbance that goes away in about an hour leaving behind just a good amount of pain. Sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, vomiting and intense throbbing on side of the head accompany a migraine. A migraine will last typically 6 to 72 hours.
- Incidence: 12% of headache sufferers (4)
- Incidence: About 11 million adults in the US get migraines. (5)
A thorough, clinical examination that may include imaging is important to your headache diagnosis and pain relief treatment plan.
Cervical Spine Exam Description
In-office, OrthoIllinois Chiropractic uses chiropractic Cox Technic Flexion Distraction and Decompression which is a less invasive means to pain relief as it stretches the neck musculature, reduces disc pressures, and realigns any misaligned spinal segments. Tension headaches that involve tight muscles do well with exercises designed to stretch those muscles.
Graphic Animation of Cox Technic - Cervical Spine
The disc is pressing on the nerve. Note that as the disc herniation reduces, the pinched nerve is relieved.
This is an animation of the goal of Cox Technic
Flexion-Distraction and Decompression: reduced irritation of spinal elements
enough to relieve pain and help you regain your quality of life. The amount of
decrease in size of the herniated disc necessary for pain relief varies from 0%
to 100% for each individual patient.
Cox Technic Protocol I - for severe pain or pain that extends below the elbow
Cox Technic Protocol II - for pain that is in the neck and stays above the elbow
At Home Care
OrthoIllinois Chiropractic recommends some basic at home care tips like sleeping on a supportive pillow and mattress, reduce your exposure to eye straining situations for long periods of time, and exercises among other strategies to deal with your headaches.
Contact OrthoIllinois Chiropractic for a gentle, conservative approach to headache relief.