How can a chiropractor help with headaches?
Recent research and basic anatomy shows how structures within the neck and shoulders can give rise to headaches, and what can be done to treat them.
For example, nerves communicating sensation from the scalp return to the brain via the top of the neck, and dysfunction or postural change here can affect the signals these nerves transmit. This is called a cervicogenic headache, a type of headache originating from neck problems. This is a cause of around 20% of all headaches.
Other causes of headache include local muscle tightness, referred myofascial pain, and joint referral. Muscles such as those involved in eating and talking are easily irritated, a symptom of which is headaches.
Bizarrely, even muscles some distance from the head can give rise to headaches. Muscles in the front of the neck, and even those in the shoulders are often involved in headaches.
A final, and often overlooked, cause of headaches is pain from joint referral. As discussed in a previous article regarding low back pain, joints can give rise to referred pain. When joints within the neck are injured, either over a long period of time or one instance of trauma, this referred pain may affect the top of the shoulders or the head.
All of the above causes, which account for a great proportion of headaches, can be dealt with using a range of manual techniques offered by chiropractors. Manipulation to release trapped nerves or mobilise restricted joints, and needling or stretching over-used muscles are just some of the methods employed.
It shouldn't be taken from the above that chiropractic treatment will resolve all types of headaches, but chiropractors are trained to diagnose different types of headache, and in many cases can treat you on the day with excellent results. When chiropractic treatment is not appropriate, a chiropractor will refer you for further investigation and appropriate treatment.