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If your headache pain feels like a band wrapped too tightly around your head, then chances are good you have tension headaches.
Can a chiropractor help with tension headaches? Most definitely! Research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.1
It’s important to take headaches seriously. You should see your doctor if your headache pattern changes, or if your headaches are getting worse.
Seek emergency care if you have any of these signs and symptoms:
- An abrupt, severe headache, often like a thunderclap
- Headache with a fever, nausea or vomiting, stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, numbness, or speaking difficulties, which may signal a number of serious conditions such as stroke, meningitis, encephalitis or brain tumor
- Headache after a head injury, even if it’s a minor fall or bump, especially if it gets worse.
- A sudden, severe headache unlike any other headache you’ve experienced
- Headache that gets progressively worse over days and changes in pattern
If you’re experiencing frequent tension headaches, I recommend that your first course of action should be to educate yourself on the symptoms and causes.
What is a tension headache?
Tension headaches are described as tight, band like pain that goes around the temples and are non-throbbing. They can last from 30 minutes to as long as 7 days and include the following:
- Bilateral location
- Pressing or tightening or squeezing in character
- Mild to moderate intensity
- Not aggravated by activity
In addition, tension headaches rarely include nausea, sensitivity to light or sensitivity to sound. If your headache is accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light or sensitivity to sound, your headache may be a common or classic migraine.
Sometimes the pain of tension headaches can be so severe that it is difficult to distinguish it from a migraine. To make matters worse, it’s possible to suffer from both tension headaches and migraine headaches. Fortunately, appropriate chiropractic care can effectively treat headache pain.
What causes tension headaches?
Although tension headaches are the most common type of headache, the cause remains a relative mystery. Posture, stress and diet all seem to be contributing factors. Women and middle aged individuals are at a greater risk, although the reasoning behind this is still unclear.
It is possible that those who suffer from tension headaches are more sensitive to stress and pain.
Another popular explanation for tension headaches is muscle spasms, although there is debate about whether the muscle spasms cause the tension headache or if the increased sensitivity to pain makes the muscle spasms more pronounced.
Tension headaches are most prevalent in the afternoon and evening hours.
Current evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including manual therapy, can be effective in treating cervicogenic and tension headaches. 1
Treatment includes lifestyle changes and stress reduction in addition to chiropractic care.
Lifestyle changes include:
- Diet changes to reduce alcohol and nitrates.
- Posture while sitting at a desk, driving and standing
- Increased water consumption to reduce muscle spasms
- Increase exercise
Stress reduction can include:
- Setting aside a certain time of day to relax and unwind
- Start a calming hobby
Drug Free Pain Relief for Tension Headaches
Overuse of Pain Relief Medication Can Actually Cause More Headaches
If you have frequent headaches, you should know that repeated use of pain relievers can cause another type of headache, overuse headaches.2 Medication-overuse headache (MOH) is clinical diagnosis. It’s classified as a secondary disorder affecting patients who use pain relieving medication (OTC or prescription) more than two to three days per week.
The bad news: the most effective treatment for MOH is to stop using pain relieving medication.3
The good news: chiropractic care for headaches can help many different types of headaches. Current evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including manual therapy, can be effective in treating cervicogenic and tension headaches. Studies have also shown that chiropractic care can help decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines.4
Chiropractic care may include
- Spinal Adjustments
- Postural and Ergonomic Instruction
- Nutritional Supplementation
- Trigger Point Therapy
According to the ACA website 5:
Research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.Also, a 1995 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches and that those who ceased chiropractic treatment after four weeks experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in contrast with those patients who received a commonly prescribed medication.
If you are experiencing tension headaches and wish to discuss your treatments options please contact Advanced Wellness Solutions today.