Prescription and Non-Prescription medications can often provide temporary relief of common stress and tension headaches, but why do they always come back? The secret to long term relief is finding the source of the headaches and target treatment accordingly. In the entirety of human existance, not one single headache has been caused by a deficiency of Aspirin. "Stress", the most common diagnosis for Non-Migraine headaches, is not the cause either, it is simply a trigger or aggravator of an underlying condition. Everyone experiences stress, yet not everyone has headaches. Instead of taking the easy--though ultimately ineffective--path to headache relief, I invite you to take the time to find, correct and prevent the source of YOUR headaches.
"Stress" or "Tension" type headaches are typically seen in patients with jobs or recreational activities that encourage "Bad Posture" which is commonly described as "forward head carriage". This certainly does not describe every headache patient, some of which have perfect posture. However, we will use this example to describe the approach to headache relief from a Chiropractic Perspective.
"Forward Head Carriage" is defined by a gradual shift of the head forward until it is no longer balanced directly above the shoulder joint. Try this, bring your head backward until your ear canal is centered over your shoulder joint. If you find yourself looking upward or your chin "poking out" when you perform this movement, it is likely you fit into this category. * Note, if you feel like your head is already in this position naturally, have someone look at you from the side to confirm.
Whether or not you passed the above test, the principles of Chiropractic remain the same so what follows will likely apply to you as well. The reason the head tilts upward or the chin pokes outward when a patient with "Bad Posture" attempts to bring their head back over their shoulders is that the muscles that attach the upper neck to the base of the skull have over-tightened as a response to the chronic "Bad Posture". The tight muscles are why the headache is called a "Tension Headache"; however we have still not found the culprit, the muscles are only a symptom and not a cause.
If your still reading, I congratulate you, we're almost done. Another exercise, again bring your head back over your shoulders. Now bring your head forward while keeping your eyes level to the horizon. Notice the head naturally tilts backward onto the neck when you bring your head forward and visa versa. What happens in patients with headaches in most cases, the upper neck vertebra remains stuck in the forward position, even when you attempt to bring the head back. When the vertebra becomes stuck (we call it a Subluxation) the muscles will gradually shorten (not tighten) into that position. Any attempt to move your neck causes the muscles to spasm (or tighten). The nerve supply that serves the head becomes "pinched" or "pressured" as it passes through a tiny canal in the first vertebra as well as the muscles mentioned above.
The key to relieving your recurring headaches is to correct the stuck vertebra (Subluxation), thereby relaxing the muscles at the base of the skull and removing the pressure on the nerve responsible for the head pain. The above scenario is only "ONE" way the first vertebra can become mis-aligned (Subluxated), there are a countless number of other ways for the first vertebra to Subluxate, not to mention the other 23 vertebrae of the spine, that could cause headaches. I'm sure you have plenty of questions, please feel free to schedule a free consultation or use the "Ask a Question" link above.