Chiropractic Care for Headaches

Over the past month we’ve been posting about chiropractic care for headaches on our social media outlets. This will serve as a summary for all of that information plus I will delve a bit deeper into some of the details. So what can a chiropractor in Beaverton, Oregon do for headaches? We can offer a solution that is sustainable, longer lasting and less toxic than the pills most people take to relieve their headache pain. Of course there are many types of headaches and many different causes for those headaches. In this article I’m going to cover how we find and treat tension-type headaches because they are the most common headaches as well as cervicogenic headaches because they are very much caused by mechanical dysfunction in the joint of the neck, and chiropractic adjustments are a mechanical solution for mechanical problems. First I’ll go over what each of these headaches looks like in terms of symptoms, what we find on examination in the office, techniques you can use to help treat them yourself, and techniques we use to treat them in the office. I want to first start by describing headache symptoms that suggest something serious is going on for which you should seek immediate medical care. Keep an eye out for the following and get evaluated by a physician in these circumstances: headaches that are becoming progressively worse over time, sudden onset severe headaches, new and unfamiliar headache, headache following recent head injury, presence of fever, significant neck stiffness, rash, rigid neck, facial numbness or tingling, vertigo, double vision, passing out, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, difficulty walking, nausea, extremity numbness. If you come to our chiropractic office in Beaverton you will be evaluated for all of those symptoms above with a thorough medical history and examination. During that exam we may find symptoms and signs that suggest your headache may be either a tenstion-type headache or a cervicogenic (coming from the neck) headache. Here are signs that you might have a tension-type headache.
  • Pain on both sides of your head
  • Pressing or tightening quality (not pulsating)
  • Mild to moderate intensity
  • Routine physical activity does not make it worse (walking, going up stairs, etc.
  • No nausea/vomiting
  • Usually not sensitive to both light or sound (but sometimes one of those)
Here is a list of what we might find on your chiropractic examination and/or history if you have a tension-type headache:
  • Tight, tender muscles in the head, neck and shoulders/upper back
  • Postural stress
  • Emotional stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Dehydration
  • Inflammation
The second type of headache we’re covering here is called a cervicogenic headache. That’s just fancy language for headaches caused by something in the neck. Here is what these headaches look like:
  • Typically just on one side of your head
  • Starts in your neck, spreads to the back, side or front of your head and around the eye
On history and examination, the following clues will tell us your headaches are likely coming from your neck:
  • Neck pain
  • Stiff neck (limited mobility, hard to check your blindspot)
  • Painful knots in muscles around your neck and head
  • Previous concussion
  • Previous whiplash/motor vehicle collision
  • Weakness in certain neck muscles
  • Chest breathing instead of belly breathing
If you come to see your chiropractor in Beaverton, OR for headache treatment and you look to be a good candidate for chiropractic care based on the findings listed above, we’ll start you on what we call a Trial of Care. There are two things to note here. First of all, a trial of care means 4-8 visits over the course of 2-4 weeks. We will NOT ask you to commit to a care plan that lasts several months and require you to pay up front. Not everybody responds to chiropractic care the same way in the same time frame. We start with a trial of care and if we don’t see significant improvement in that time span, then we know we’re on the wrong track. Secondly, chiropractic care is an all-inclusive term. Chiropractors don’t just manipulate/adjust the spine. A chiropractic treatment plan for headaches can include any/all of the following: Spinal manipulation (the neck and back “popping” that we’re known for), soft tissue massage, electric muscle stimulation, therapeutic ultrasound, Graston or other instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, cupping, dry-needling, stretches, exercises, nutritional counseling, and lifestyle recommendations. At Catalyst Chiropractic and Rehabilitation we offer most of these things, except for dry-needling because Oregon law prevents chiropractors from providing that service 🙁 Referring back to our social media posts from January, here are some examples of how we approach tension-type and cervicogenic headaches.

Chiropractic adjustments

This is where we would insert a video of me performing some adjustments, however we haven’t filmed any yet! We’re working on this and will definitely be uploading some videos soon. In the meantime, I want to mention a research article that was published recently about chiropractic treatment for cervicogenic headaches. This study was published by a researcher from my alma mater, the University of Western States here in Portland, Oregon. For this study, they had patients with cervicogenic headaches receive treatment 3x/week for 6 weeks. Treatment either involved a light massage (control group) or chiropractic adjustment. The reference is here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29481979

The conclusion reads as follows: “There was a linear dose-response relationship between SMT (chiropractic adjustment) visits and days with CGH (Cervicogenic headache). For the highest and most effective dose of 18 SMT visits, CGH days were reduced by half and about 3 more days per month than for the light-massage control.” In other words, the group who had the most adjustments during the 6 week study period showed the greatest decrease in number of days with a headache. It also looks like the control group who just received massage improved as well, so imagine getting both treatments combined!

In conclusion, headaches are nothing to ignore because they can have a negative effect on many aspects of your life and in some cases can even be dangerous. Chiropractic care can effectively manage many of the aspects that causes some types of headaches without the need for drugs or more invasive treatments. If you or a loved one are suffering from headaches and would like to learn more about how we can help you, call us at 503-526-8782 or contact us here today.