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  • Writer's pictureDr. Doug Pooley

Headaches can be a "real" pain in the neck!

Updated: Feb 8, 2019

“The people in control of the headache field seemingly have not, cannot, or will not, recognize this paradox … that the model for cervicogenic headache is not only the best evolved of all headaches but is testable in vivo, in patients with headache complaints. No other form of headache has that facility.”

Several years ago, a Canadian anesthesiologist, Peter Rothbart, MD, FRCPC, came to the same conclusions about cervicogenic headaches. Many headaches are caused by damaged structures in the neck — and scientific evidence proves it.

In 1995, a team of MDs at Syracuse University established neck problems as the cause of many headaches “with scientific, anatomical proof” Dr. Rothbart termed the Syracuse results ” a minor miracle.”

A diagnosis of cervicogenic headache is rarely made. Thus, there are a large number of chronic headache sufferers who go through life with the wrong diagnosis and hence the wrong treatment for their headache.

If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.

A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practical 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 effect and longer-lasting relief of tension-type than a commonly prescribed medication.

Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems.

Ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern.

“The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck,” says Dr. George B. McClelland, a doctor of chiropractic from Christiansburg, VA. “Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities that they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.”

What can you do?

The ACA suggests the following:

If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on a sewing machine, typing or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.

Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.

Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.

In the United States in the year 2001 alone, there were 9,876,000 visits to doctors by patients seeking some sort of relief for their headache pains.

“Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to help their patients in many ways – not just back pain,” says Dr. McClelland. “They know how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, and they can take steps to relieve those problems.”

When it comes to the rate of chronic headaches in America, studies have shown that roughly 45million Americans suffer from them per year. There is an average of 20 million females in America that experience chronic headaches and an average of 25 million males. This represents a prevalence of chronic headaches that is roughly 1 out of every six people. Percentage-wise, 6.54 percent of all Americans experience the agony of a chronic headache condition.

A study in Australia that was created in 1995 showed that a full 15 percent of the Australian population used headache medications. The survey also showed that the most commonly reported recent illness suffered by the survey group was a headache.

Sufferers of migraines were shown to miss a collective 157million workdays throughout one year.

There are many different types of headaches. First, they are classified by the ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ categories. Primary headaches are the most commonly occurring, with an estimated 90 percent of all headaches being primary. Tension headaches, migraine headaches, and cluster headaches are all different subcategories of primary headache. Secondary headaches, on the other hand, are headaches that occur due to another underlying problem. One may experience traction headaches or inflammatory headaches due to a problem with another medical condition.

The average onset age for a migraine condition is between the ages of 5 and 8. Those who experience migraines more often than not have a family history of the problem. Tension headaches are definitely the most common, with roughly 69 percent of all males experiencing problems with them as well as 88 percent of all females. They usually appear between the ages of 9 and 12.

Although most headaches and migraines are non-life threatening, it is easy to see that headaches can result in a drop in productivity as this condition affects millions.

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