Headaches and Migraine Headaches
Dr. Harlan Sparer, Tempe Chiropractor
We all know what a headache is and treat it typically with a pain killer. The problem with this approach is that it does nothing to remove the cause of the problem. While some causes are benign, others can be lethal. It’s important to get to the cause by diagnosing and treating it, rather than palliate the symptoms, whether it’s with herbs and essential oils, or aspirin and ibuprofen.
A headache can have many causes but also can be from a combination of them. The general categories are direct pressure on the brain, neurological, vascular, biochemical, and infection. Remember that often there are multiple causative factors, rather than a single one.
Direct pressure on the brain is the most serious but least likely of the group. Persistent headaches should be ruled out by a health care professional well versed in diagnosis such as a Chiropractor, Naturopath, Acupuncturist, Osteopath, Nurse, or MD. The same is true for an infection.
A biochemical cause can sometimes exist due to diet and/or hormonal imbalance, and is often found with other root causes in tandem. Sometimes lack of food, dehydration, or blood sugar imbalances are at the bottom of this providing for a quick and dirty fix. It can also be due to a food intolerance or reaction; sometimes it is chemical from toxins and/or pesticides. Other times, there is a glandular or organ dysfunction. This problem is typically ignored or minimized when it is operating in concert with other causes.
The vascular type often responds to Chiropractic care. 50% of the blood supply to the brain travels through the vertebra via the vertebral arteries, while the other 50% travels in blood vessels with thick muscular coverings (coats). When this is compromised by subluxation of the vertebra, headaches can result from mechanical compression of the blood supply. The head and neck are also enervated by the upper cervical nerves. When this nerve supply is compromised by an alignment issue that causes interference with nerve function (vertebral subluxation), a vascular headache is often the result. Vascular headaches can be caused on occasion by other factors as well, usually requiring more invasive methods to resolve them.
A common and particularly nasty form of headache is the Migraine Headache. These are characterized by specific symptoms which include nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity, and can last for days. There is a series of events which precede the headache, known as the prodromal period. The muscle coat, a covering which controls the diameter of the blood vessels to the brain, goes into spasm with this condition. The muscle coat eventually fatigues and the blood vessel gets flaccid as a result, causing a throbbing of the vessel with each heartbeat, creating severe, debilitating symptoms. This condition often responds dramatically to Chiropractic care. This is because the muscle coats of these blood vessels (actually all muscle coats) are controlled by nerve impulses from the cervical spine.
The important fact about a headache is that it is a general symptom (albeit a miserable one) that needs to be associated with a cause and treated rather than palliated with oils, aspirin, or the like. Failure to do so will only complicate the cause and make it more difficult to help when the cause progresses further, saving no money, time, or pain.