There are many people who frequently suffer from headaches, some even on a daily basis. Many feel this is “normal.” In fact, when they visit a chiropractor for the first time for what they believe to be an unrelated issue, they may not even bring it up. They may only discuss it after being asked if they have headaches, as if everyone has headaches.
That’s why it is very important to take a very thorough health and family history when a patient first presents for care at any doctor’s office.
In this process, patients may offer clues to the cause of their headaches. For example, if a patients indicates that she has had headaches as long as she could remember and her family history includes her mother having headaches that were debilitating and an MRI revealed that part of her brain stem extended down into the upper part of the neck, this would prompt an MRI of the patient which could reveal a similar finding. Another example is a patient with headaches that occur one week prior to menstruation. This may lead to the trial of several nutritional vitamin / herbal approaches aimed at reducing fluid retention or build up that frequently occurs pre-menses. Other causes have included traumas from car accidents, slips and falls, and sports injuries. In these cases, the physical examination may lead to a diagnosis of abnormal biomechanics in the cervical spine and chiropractic treatment addressing these findings may prove very satisfying. Other causes may include stress and/or psychological conditions that required co-management with a mental health practitioner and/or the patient’s primary care physician. The combined efforts of medication and chiropractic treatments are most satisfying for these patients.
In general, the cause of headaches are usually multi-factorial and therefore, the most effective treatment is a multi-dimensional approach in which chiropractic treatment methods are, in most cases, the most important contribution to the successful management of headaches. Chiropractic treatment approaches include spinal manipulation, mobilization, muscle release techniques such as trigger point therapy, longitudinal and /or transverse friction massage, massage therapy, manual and/or instrumental traction both at home and office, physical therapy modalities including ice/heat, electrical stimulation (several types), ultrasound, light/low level laser therapy, infrared, diet and nutritional counseling, and stress management. Co-management needed for some patients can be arranged through by their doctor of chiropractic and may include primary care physicians, physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, pain management doctors, rheumatologists, internists, neurologists, physical therapists, as well as acupuncturists.