Every year, over 90% of Americans will suffer from a headache. Nearly 10% of men and 12% of women will experience at least one headache each month, and 4% of the American population will suffer from headaches occurring more than 180 days per year. Needless to say, headaches have become a massive social and economic burden in our country.
Headaches are often a result of brain neurons becoming irritated. Some chemical culprits of headache include pesticides, cleaning products, artificial sweeteners (aspartame and Nutrasweet), and salt substitutes such as MSG. These well-known contributors to headache are ritualistic elements in the daily lives of millions.
Decreased oxygen levels in the body can also cause painful headaches. Blood vessels in the brain naturally expand when circulating blood carries insufficient oxygen. Delicate nerve fibers wrap around these expanded blood vessels, causing that familiar throbbing or pounding sensation. Circulating oxygen levels can be decreased for many reasons including stress, nutritional status, shallow breathing, overexertion, blood loss during menses, or any number of prescribed medications.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Headaches come in many shapes and sizes. Cluster, tension, and sinus headaches each exhibit certain symptoms, but for the sake of simplicity, we will address the more serious migraine variety.
Migraines are commonly associated with nausea as well as light or sound sensitivity. Prodrome, a physical signal to an impending migraine, can induce appetite or mood changes, fatigue, balance problems, neck stiffness, and decreased alertness. One quarter of migraine sufferers will experience a pre-migraine visual disturbance called an aura. Although migraine duration varies among patients, a typical attack can persist for several hours or even up to several days.
History and physical examinations are used to diagnose and categorize headaches. MRI, CT scans, or a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) may be used to help rule out other possible conditions if a severe headache persists despite treatment.
Pharmaceuticals address both acute and preventive strategies but often have limited success, intolerable side effects, and innumerable contraindications with other drugs. Although triptans (sumatriptan, rizatriptan, eletriptan, and almotriptan) are the “gold standard” for medical treatment of migraines, they must be carefully monitored and avoided in patients with heart disease or stroke risk. Corticosteroids and powerfully addictive opioids account for other prescription strategies which frequently lead to long-term dependence.
Ironically, taking too much medication for too long can lead to “medication overuse headache” which then leads to another self-perpetuating condition called “chronic daily headache.” Yes, these are actual conditions documented in current medical literature. Despite a massive array of drug options, many patients will never experience adequate symptom relief unless certain lifestyle changes are adopted.
As many as 25% of those who seek chiropractic care initially do so for the natural treatment of persistent headaches once medical options have been exhausted. Clearly, chiropractic management of headaches is unequaled in comparison to other forms of treatment. Chiropractors are widely considered musculoskeletal physicians, so many headaches originating from the muscles and joints in the upper back and neck stand very little chance of remaining long-term.
Headaches with more complicated causes have also been successfully treated with nutrition supplementation, brain balancing, cold laser therapy, detoxification, and the elimination of chemical culprits from one’s diet and environment. At Divine Design Natural Health, we have been able to help many patients obtain safe, effective, long-term relief from headaches with this conservative, simple, and practical approach. If conservative treatment is unable to relieve long-term symptoms, there is a chance that more serious underlying pathologies may exist. However, this is only the case in less than 1% of all headache scenarios.