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Headaches and migraines


Not only adults know the phenomenon, but also children can have headaches. Some headaches are mild and do not last long, others are chronic. The pain can be felt locally, for example at the temples, in the front or back of the head, above one of the eyes or in the whole head. One should not consider a headache as a disease, but as a symptom of it.img-4img-6

A headache is in fact a natural signal. A signal that somewhere in your body something is wrong. So if your headache is acting up, it is because something is wrong, maybe even something serious. Your body gives you a signal so that you can do something to remove the cause of the headache before the problems become more serious.

Woman drinking water to assist with a headache or migraine from dehydration and neck pain. Chiropractic can help.

Woman drinking water to assist with a headache or migraine from dehydration and neck pain. Chiropractic can help.

In our society, the slightest pain is enough to make us resort to medication. But every pain – of whatever kind – is a natural warning, just like a siren in case of fire. Clearly, turning off the siren does not extinguish the fire. So the cause of headaches cannot be eliminated by taking painkillers. Painkillers do not cure. Headache medicines suppress and cover up the problem. The pain may be gone, but the cause is not yet eliminated.

Treatment of headaches depends on the cause. A headache caused by visual problems can often be solved by glasses. A headache caused by an infection of the sinuses or ears is often relieved when the infection subsides. There are many causes for headaches, sinus problems, high blood pressure, dental problems, eye problems, kidney or digestive problems, meningitis, lumbar puncture, alcohol, drugs, nerve irritations (due to abnormalities in the spine) and in rare cases a brain tumour.

Scientific research has shown that the most frequent cause of headaches is the cervical vertebrae and their nerves. The seven cervical vertebrae can become fixed due to excessive physical and/or emotional strain, such as a car accident (whiplash), a fall, bad posture and stress.

The result is an irritation of the nerves and cramping of the muscles. Subsequently, a small narrowing may occur in the blood vessels supplying the brain with oxygen.

Tension headache

The most common headache is called tension headache or “stress” headache. These headaches account for 90% of all headaches. Despite the fact that stress and fatigue can aggravate this type of headache, the cause of tension headaches is usually a blocked vertebra. This blockage can irritate a nerve in the spinal column, causing tense muscles and constant pain, which a tension headache entails.

The development (build-up) of tension-type headaches:

Young man with a headache or migraine after waking up in the morning. Chiropractic can help.

Young man with a headache or migraine after waking up in the morning. Chiropractic can help.

  1. Prolonged poor posture or spinal injuries can lead to blockages, which are aggravated by stress and fatigue.
  2. Fear, frustration, worries about your job or personal life and even the irresistible urge to avoid problems or stressful situations, rather than learning to cope with them, can contribute to muscle tension and tension headaches. Even some symptoms of stress suppression, such as teeth grinding and jaw clenching, can cause tension headaches.
  3. A blocked vertebra irritates a spinal nerve, which sends a warning signal to the surrounding neck muscles.
  4. The neck muscles tighten (spasm) to protect the blocked vertebra. This irritates the underlying nerves in the neck.
  5. These irritated nerves send warning signals to the muscles in your head. In response, the muscles suddenly tighten.
  6. These tense muscles create a chain reaction of spasms, pain like a ball around your head. The result, tension headaches.


Vascular headache

Migraine and cluster headaches are also called vascular headaches, because they are due to the swelling of the vessels, which supply the skull and brain with blood.

This vascular swelling results in a stabbing, throbbing (in the rhythm of the heart) pain.



A migraine attack sometimes starts with hallucinations, called auras, which are caused by a strong contraction of the blood vessels to the brain. Later, when the blood vessels suddenly expand dramatically, this causes an agonising, throbbing headache that can last from minutes to days. Some common symptoms are:

  • The pain usually appears on one side of the head.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • The throbbing sensation eventually turns into dull, constant pain.

Migraines start with blockages in the spine that restrict the blood flow to your head or irritate a spinal nerve. This nerve irritation upsets your autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious functions such as narrowing or expanding blood vessels. Foods that constrict (vasoconstrict) or expand (vasodilators) the blood vessels can also be the cause of migraines.

The development (build-up) of vascular headaches, like migraines

  1. Prolonged bad posture or spinal injuries can lead to blockages, which are aggravated by stress.
  2. A blocked vertebra can put pressure on the blood vessels in your neck. It can also irritate a spinal nerve, which then sends warning signals to the autonomic nerves.
  3. If a blood vessel is under pressure, the blood supply to your head may decrease. If a spinal nerve is irritated, the autonomic nerves will constrict the blood vessels, which also reduces the blood flow.
  4. The blood vessels in your head dilate to compensate for the decrease in blood supply. This sudden elimination irritates the surrounding nerves. As a result, the throbbing pain of a migraine headache.


Cluster headache

Another type of vascular headache is the cluster headache. It is more common in men than in women. As the name suggests, these headaches come in clusters. Each headache can last from ten minutes to three hours and occur up to eight times a day. This pattern may last for weeks or months and then stop for a long time or never appear again. The pain is always on one side of the head and is more severe than the worst migraine attack.

Cluster headaches are rare and often occur in heavy smokers and drinkers.

Things that you can do to help with the cluster headaches:

  • Pay attention to correct body posture.
  • Try to avoid stressful situations or learn to deal with them in a healthy way.
  • Take time to relax.
  • Take a walk around the block or go for a brisk walk. Avoid overtiredness and exhaustion.
  • Exercise regularly to improve blood circulation. Avoid too much or too little sleep.
  • Do not sleep on your stomach.
  • Interrupt your work regularly with standing or walking breaks.
  • If your headache is related to certain food products, do not eat even the smallest amounts (the most common food allergies are to chocolate, cheese, wine, coffee, nuts and citrus fruits).
  • Relax your eyes and make sure you have good light. Do not watch TV in bed.

Your chiropractor can, through chiropractic manipulation of the neck, alleviate your pain and advise you on how to avoid headaches in the future. During the first examination a complete chiropractic examination will take place.

This examination will show whether a blockage in the spinal column is the culprit and disturbs the nerve and muscle function and blood flow. If the chiropractor believes that you would benefit from his help, he will recommend chiropractic treatment.

If necessary, a referral to another specialist follows. The chiropractic treatment is aimed at improving a faulty mobility of the back and cervical vertebrae and thereby restoring the nerve function and blood flow. Abnormalities in the spine can damage your nerves, cause inflammation in the tissue, muscle tension and muscle knots, weaken your body and cause fatigue.

A survey among 870 headache patients showed that the pain was strongly reduced after they had undergone chiropractic treatment. In 85% of the female migraine sufferers and 50% of the male migraine sufferers, the pain had totally disappeared or had been greatly reduced. This percentage was even higher for those who suffered from classic migraine, 78% and 75% respectively.

At the University of Odense in Denmark, a study was conducted on people who regularly suffered from cervical headaches (headaches originating in the neck). In the chiropractic group, the use of medication fell by 36%. The number of headache hours per day fell by 69% in the group. Finally, the intensity of the headache per episode fell by 36% in the chiropractic group.



spinal manipulation performed by a chiropractor has a significant effect on cervical headaches.

Another study of six thousand long-term (two to twenty-five years) headache sufferers revealed that damage to the neck (whiplash, accidents) is the most important factor in the cause of headaches.


Headaches and migraines

Not only adults know the phenomenon, but also children can have headaches. Some headaches are mild and do not last long, others are chronic. The

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