There’s nothing like waking up with a throbbing headache to send your day into an early tailspin. Perhaps the pain is behind the eye or occupying the entire side of your head. Maybe it starts in the back of the head and radiates around to the front or sides. Regardless of the location, it hurts and can zap your concentration making it hard to focus on whatever task it is at hand. Here, we’ll go through a general overview of headaches and how we treat these types of conditions.
There are many different kinds of headaches that present in a variety of ways. Let’s talk about the major players that we see affecting Knoxville and the surrounding communities:
The most common of these are tension headaches. These are headaches that most commonly stem from the base of the skull and ride up from deep in the upper thoracic area and shoulders. These are frequently brought on by, you guessed it, the tension in this musculature. Being in high-stress situations or sitting in front of a computer for hours on end puts all of these muscles in a tense state which causes them to pull on their attachment site at the base of the skull. The pain may radiate from the back of the skull to the front or just sit localized in the back of the head. You may even find that pressing on a certain muscle in your neck or shoulders makes all of the pain go away. This is a classic indicator that you are dealing with a tension headache.
This is a fancy term meaning that the headache is being caused by some type of dysfunction in the neck. Most commonly the upper cervical area is to blame for these. The facet joints of the upper neck are common culprits and will sometimes become jammed or not move the way that they need to. The body responds to this by causing the muscles around them to tighten down and brace them. This will then cause pulling on the base of the skull similar to what you see in tension headaches. However, in these sometimes the nerves also become impinged and it is not uncommon to have pain or nerve sensations in the face or jaw.
If we’re being technical, all migraines are headaches, but certainly, not all headaches are considered migraines. A migraine is actually a very specific type of headache that can be triggered by a plethora of different causes. These headaches can manifest themselves all over the head or neck and come with a variety of symptoms. Nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and face tingling can all be part of a migraine. Unlike a tension or cervicogenic headache though, these headaches can be caused by a variety of different seemingly unrelated sources such as weather change, heightened emotional events, alcohol, and even certain smells. Some types of migraines come with something called an aura in which case a certain sensation is felt, seen, or smelled as a precursor to the headache starting. This could look like a halo of light, a specific tingling sensation, or even smelling pop tarts.
There are other types as well, but these account for a large majority of the types of headaches that the public faces every day.
These tend to be slightly less severe than the other two discussed but just as annoying. These are very common in folks who tend to hold their stress on their shoulders and traps. This type of headache is described as a pressing or tightening sensation often also felt in the neck and upper back. It tends to be present on both sides and is not aggravated by climbing stairs or any other low-intensity activity. Nausea and vomiting are rarely involved here. Postural dysfunction is one of the main culprits here, especially with regard to the upper body. Rounded shoulders and anterior head posture all preload the trapezius thoracic and cervical erector spinae muscles thus causing them to be extra stretched.
We have had tremendous results in our Knoxville clinic utilizing Chiropractic and Physical therapy to treat all of these types of headaches. We utilize a plethora of treatments and modalities to very specifically address each unique condition. Some of the most common treatments we use for the treatment of Headaches and Migraines are:
Don’t let headaches or migraines be a condition that you live with. Give us a call and let us help get you out of pain today. (865) 229-8796 or if you want to learn more, continue reading more about each type of headache and migraine our chiropractors treat
It’s 3:00 in the afternoon and it has been a long, stressful workday. Deadlines due, meetings to attend, and a lot of time spent in front of a computer screen typing with all you’ve got. That familiar ache in the back of your head and neck starts to creep in. Before long it starts to reach around your head to the front and in behind the eyes, and the race is on. Can you finish up your last bit of work before it gets bad enough to have to take pain meds?
This is a textbook example of a tension headache and boy can they be a nightmare. The classic tension headache starts from tension in the muscles of your upper back and neck and plants itself where these muscles are inserted in the back of the skull. From this attachment point, pain can refer to the front, the side and temple area, and even behind the eyes. Pain is commonly felt in the shoulder blade area as well as the trapezius since trigger points in these areas typically provoke this condition.
This may be a good time to take a moment to explain trigger points. These are commonly seen as muscle knots that when pressure is applied to them, a change in pain, for the worse or better, occurs down from the point. A true trigger point will always refer to pain elsewhere. You may notice that when you push on one of these in your neck or upper back the headache changes in some way, much of the time for the better.
These trigger points are small bands of inflamed muscle fibers that have become damaged due to being under constant tension for longer periods of time than they are able to withstand. Once inflamed these muscle fibers will pull additional muscles all along their fascial connections. Since much of the tissue of the upper back and neck connect to and around the back of the head, this is the area that bears the brunt of the pain.
Trigger points in the muscles in the upper cervical area and jaw also contribute to these types of headaches. The suboccipital muscles are small groups of muscles on either side of the base of the skull and neck that are responsible for fine movements of the neck and head as well as righting us to the horizon. These muscles are typically overworked when looking down or when the head is in front of the body for long periods of time. Dull achiness and sometimes vertigo-type symptoms can go along with trigger points in this area.
So then, if stress and muscle tension from questionable posture/ergonomics are the main contributors to these types of headaches, then removing myself from these types of situations will be the way that I get rid of them, right? Maybe. True, decreasing overall stress levels will help considerably and hopefully will give your traps and neck musculature a break. However, depending on the severity of the trigger points in these areas, the pain may not fully resolve. Or if it does during times of rest, it may come right back once you find yourself in a similar situation.
Believe it or not, these types of headaches do not qualify as something that you just have to suck up and deal with the consequences. You absolutely don’t need to be doomed to headaches and muscle pain forever because you have a stressful job. The treatment of these trigger points and muscle imbalances can be a really straightforward thing.
We have found that between the chiropractic adjustment, and specific soft tissue mobilization techniques we can get rid of these types of conditions relatively quickly. In addition to the adjustment, trigger point dry needling has been an incredibly useful tool in the fight against unhealthy tissue. The correct application of a small acupuncture needle into the affected area can cause a rapid depolarization of muscle fibers and effectively reset the muscle’s tone. Active release technique (a manual muscle release technique), as well as FAKTR or AFR (types of fascial release that utilizes a tool), have also shown to be very effective at relieving entire chains of muscles and tissue that are being affected. Given the far-reaching and radiating effects of trigger points, these types of tools can be very effective.
However, when dealing with headaches it is always important to rule out other issues before assuming that all of the pain is coming from tight muscles. Past trauma in the form of car accidents, concussions, and especially things like vertebral misalignments can play a major part in headache symptoms. It is therefore imperative to be fully assessed to determine the individual cause of your symptoms.
Constant tension headaches don’t have to be something that you live with. Give us a call today so that we can show you how we can help.
Migraine is a term most of us are familiar with. It is likely that you or someone you know has suffered a migraine or is chronically plagued by it. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know exactly what causes this debilitating type of headache. Some can link it to certain environmental factors, foods, and emotions, and others are very much left in the dark as to what may set it off. My goal is to explain what a migraine is and some of its causes, as well as to discuss some treatments, many of which we provide here at Knoxville Spine and Sports.
Let us start with a description of a migraine, not to be confused with a headache, they are not the same thing, according to The Mayo Clinic, “A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It's often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities.” A migraine is often accompanied by one or more of the above symptoms along with severe head pain, which is what separates them from a headache.
Some migraine sufferers actually get a warning sign they are about to get a migraine, this is called an aura. The following are some types of auras that people may experience: flashes of light, blind spots, difficulty speaking, and tingling in the face or arm. These can initially be quite scary as some of these symptoms mimic other rather serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and other types of cerebrovascular conditions. It is therefore important to rule these out before chalking it up to a migraine. If any of these symptoms persist longer than a few hours, immediately seek medical help.
Let me start off by saying that the causes of migraines are still not exactly clear. It is believed that some people who suffer from migraines are more sensitive to their environment or to certain foods. These causes are also called triggers. Some people have triggers, and some do not. For some folks, literally, anything can be a trigger, even things as seemingly benign as chocolate or salt. It can also be something in their surroundings, strong scents, or perfumes for example. Another trigger can be hormone changes in the body.
Then there are people who do not have triggers at all and the problem is more biomechanical in nature. This is where we come in. Various types of chronic neck or back pain are potent instigators for migraine headaches. Muscles that spasm in the neck and back can cause tension and pressure on the nerves and surrounding vasculature that can directly cause a migraine. The aberrant spinal vertebral movement also plays a role in this as fixated joints, especially those in the upper cervical region, will cause muscles to lock down around them even further as they “guard” this dysfunctional joint.
There are many options to treat migraines. We will go over some of those treatments and we will also talk about what we do here at Knoxville Spine and Sport to help treat and prevent migraines for our patients. Many people use prescriptions to try and control a migraine. There are prescriptions that can be taken daily to try and prevent or reduce the number of migraines a person has.
Another option in the prevention of migraines is to be aware of the food or drink that starts a migraine and avoid those things. It can be difficult to avoid scents that start migraines but trying to purchase products that are “fragrance-free” can help with that. Our Doctors of Chiropractic and Physical Therapists here at Knoxville Spine and Sport are trained in methods that can help reduce or prevent the number of migraines a person has without the use of prescriptions.
Neck pain sufferers may have restrictions in their neck that prevent them from being able to fully move their head in all directions. They may also have some type of nerve entrapment, either by malpositioned vertebrae or by soft tissue that can cause a migraine. A chiropractic adjustment will reduce the restrictions and decrease the nerve entrapment to prevent a migraine from starting. Regular chiropractic adjustments can be a great drug-free way to prevent migraines or reduce the number of migraines.
Another treatment method used by our Physical Therapists and Chiropractors is called Dry Needling. It is the use of a very fine needle that is put into a muscle that is irritated or spasming. This can cause the muscle to release or relax and stop spasming, therefore preventing migraines or helping to reduce a current migraine.
Active release technique (ART) is another method that has been very helpful with many patients. ART is a way of manually releasing out the muscles around this upper cervical area to reduce tension and the potential nerve entrapments that we spoke of earlier.
As you can see there are many causes of migraines and many treatments. Come visit us at Knoxville Spine and Sport and let us be part of your drug-free way to prevent or reduce the number of migraines you suffer.
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