It’s remarkable to consider how many different types of pain relievers there are for headaches—not just at the corner drug stores but also supermarkets, convenience stores, and gas stations. Drugs like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are consumed daily in America by the truckloads.
Have you ever thought about how we approach a health problem or symptom? Too often it’s a knee-jerk reaction where we pop a pill to alleviate an ailment. Rarely do we ask why there is a headache? What is causing this headache?
It is very well established that there are many potential causes for headaches. For example, chemical imbalances in the body can cause head pain—such as in dehydration or intoxication.
In large part, the pill stock in gas stations isn’t targeted to the occasional hangover, it supplies the masses who suffer with tension headaches, migraines, and headaches due to mechanical neck disorders (e.g. whiplash). So what is the pill actually doing chemically? This varies from pill to pill. The side effects can range from stomach bleeding to liver and kidney problems. Most people who take these medications have had pain for years and decades. It is long-term use that is especially detrimental to the body. Headaches are a chronic disease, and it is likely there will be triggers for you for many years to come.
Prescription pain relief drugs are usually much more powerful—unless you’re doubling up on the over the counter variety—but they also come with a risk of addiction or dependence, especially if taken over a long period of time.
But, there is a different way to see the problem than the chemical approach. Although the mode of action of these different drugs changes, an important fact remains that they do not treat mechanical problems of the neck. If your headache is being caused by a joint injury in the neck, no amount of any drug can correct this postural fault.
How would you know if your headache is really a spinal problem? It could be that you notice stiffness in the neck or maybe it’s harder to look over one shoulder. If your headaches are accompanied by a lot of shoulder and neck stiffness and tension, this is a sign of a spine-related cause. In some cases though, the spine symptoms are very mild, so it is easy to see why patients rarely make the connection in their minds.
A thorough examination is needed to determine if your headache is being caused by a spine injury. X-rays are often used to precisely determine the positions of your spinal vertebrae. They also show the condition of the disks, and any degeneration from older spine injuries.
Several clinical trials have shown chiropractic adjustments are effective for patients with tension-type and migraine headaches, with a lower risk of negative side effects when compared with patients who are given medications to treat their headaches.