Migraine and Headache Relief - Rhode Island Chiropractic Clinic - Chiropractor Services

Migraine and Headache Relief -  Rhode Island Chiropractic Clinic - Chiropractor Services

Headache and Migraine Chiropractic Treatment

What kinds of headaches are there?

More than 90 percent of headaches can be classified as tension-type, migraine or cervicogenic.

By far, most people get tension-type headaches and get them frequently. They typically suffer mild to moderate pain, on both sides of the head, that is often described as tight, stiff, constricting – like having something wrapped around your head and pressing tightly.

Migraines are periodic severe, throbbing headaches that afflict far fewer people (and more women than men), usually hurt on one side of the head, can cause loss of appetite, nausea and even vomiting, and may involve a visual change called an aura.

Cervicogenic headache is a muskuloskeletal form of tension-type headache (which may also be related to migraines). Many times, cervicogenic headache goes undiagnosed as such due to the relative newness of this classification.

Who suffers from headaches?

Many millions of adults, worldwide, get headaches regularly. Headaches are among the most common physical complaints prompting people to treat themselves or get professional assistance. One estimate holds that some 50 million people in the U.S. get severe, long-lasting, recurring headaches. Most headaches are not signs of serious underlying conditions, but they can be very distracting, debilitating and account for significant amounts of time lost from work.

What should I be concerned about?

If you are a headache sufferer, your obvious concern is to obtain safe, dependable relief. You should avoid making things worse by using drugs – even over-the-counter, nonprescription drugs – that can have serious side effects and dangerous interactions with other medications or supplements you take. You should also be aware that many people experience what are termed "analgesic rebound headaches" from taking painkillers every day, or nearly every day. Watch out! The medicine you take to get rid of today's headache may give you a headache tomorrow and the days after.

What can chiropractic do?

Chiropractors have had considerable success relieving the cause of headache pain and releasing headache sufferers from the dangerous vicious circle of taking ever-larger doses of ever-stronger painkillers that may even be causing new and worse headaches.

Chiropractic adjustments have shown to be as effective and even more effective than medications in reducing the severity and frequency of headaches. Chiropractic is particularly successful dealing with cervicogenic headache. Even though cervicogenic and other tension-type headaches may not actually involve stress or muscle tension, chiropractic's ability to adjust spinal abnormalities seems to lessen or remove the forces contributing to many individuals¹ headache pain.

The Rhode Island Chiropractic clinic of Dr. Stephen Estner provides migraine and headache relief for many ailments including (Click on a topic below for more information):

Headache Chiropractor

People around the world continue to turn to headache chiropractor treatment. It was estimated in 1995 by the National Institutes of Health that already about 48 million people in the USA used chiropractic treatment, and the numbers around the world are growing. A recent trial by Dr Peter Tuchin, done for a PHD thesis at Macquarie University, showed that 60% of migraine sufferers had a reduction in their symptoms during the course of the treatment.

In the ACA Journal of Chiropractic (1978) reviewed headache chiropractor and other chiropractic treatments since 1923, and found a success rate between 72% and 90%. The benefits at times seemed to last for years after the treatments.

Chiropractic adjustments seem to be most successful in the treatment of back problems, headache and migraine. HT Vernon published a study in 1995 that related to tension headache, in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. It found that headache chiropractor care did provide some benefits.

What is chiropractic headache treatment?

Chiropractic care deals with subluxations (misalignments of vertebrae causing nerve irritation) anywhere along the spinal column, not just in the lower back. Sometimes the vertebrae of the spine become misaligned or lose their range of motion for one reason or another. This misalignment puts pressure on nerves leading to and from the brain. A chiropractor helps put them back in place by using gentle and highly skilled adjustments.

How and when should I try headache chiropractor treatment?

Chiropractic treatment is not something that is generally used on its own. One of the dangers of chiropractic is simply that someone will rely on the treatment alone and miss out on other issues that need to be treated. It's best to talk to your doctor and let her know that you're using an alternate therapy, and for what.

That being said, going to a headache chiropractor seems to be a safe and effective way to treat headache or migraine without drugs. The idea behind chiropractic is not that the condition itself is treated, but that the body is able to heal itself. Some people have dramatic results, and become completely headache free. Some migraine sufferers find complete relief. Others find relief simply from some symptoms or after effects of the migraine attack. The best thing to do is find a chiropractor that you're comfortable with, and track the results of the treatment over time.

For a great overview of how chiropractic care can fit into an overall strategy for banishing headache, read this May 2005 interview with Dr Michael Kricken on migraine and headache chiropractor treatment.
There are three things to remember when considering headache chiropractor treatment. First, always talk to your doctor and let her know what you're doing. You especially need to see your doctor if you're having new symptoms.

Second, choose your chiropractor carefully. Make sure you're comfortable, and that the person really is a trained doctor of chiropractic, not a well intentioned neighbour.

Third, remember that headache chiropractor treatment is not a treatment of conditions. It helps the body heal itself. That means that chiropractic care often goes along with other treatments and general healthy living.

Contact a Rhode Island Headache Chiropractor for Chiropractic Care today at 401.275.2225 or EMAIL US NOW

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Migraine Headaches

Migraines are severe, recurrent headaches that are generally accompanied by other symptoms such as visual disturbances or nausea. There are two types of migraine – classic and common. A classic migraine has an "aura" or warning associated with it that precedes the headache. The aura is often a visual disturbance (like seeing stars or zigzag lines or a temporary blind spot.) A common migraine does not have such a warning before the head pain begins. The experience of migraines, which affect 6 out of 100 people, tend to start between the ages of 10 and 46. More women than men have migraines.

Signs and Symptoms

The headache from a migraine, classic or common, has the following characteristics:

  • Throbbing, pounding, or pulsating pain
  • Often, begins on one side of your head and may spread to both or stay localized
  • Most intense pain is often concentrated around the temple(s) (side of the forehead)
  • Commonly lasts from 6 to 48 hours

Accompanying symptoms that may precede or occur at the same time as the migraine include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness described as lightheadedness or even vertigo (feeling like the room is spinning)
  • Loss of appetite
  • FatigueVisual disturbances, like seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines, temporary blind spots (for example, loss of your peripheral vision), or blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to light (called photophobia)
  • Parts of your body may feel numb, weak, or tingly
  • Light, noise, and movement—especially bending over—make your head hurt worse; you want to lie down in a dark, quiet room
  • Irritability

Symptoms that may linger even after the migraine has resolved:

  • Feeling mentally dull, like your thinking is not clear or sharp
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Neck pain

The symptoms of migraines occur as a result of changes in the diameter of blood vessels to the brain and surrounding structures. Initially, the blood vessles constrict (narrow), reducing blood flow to these areas and leading to visual disturbances, difficulty speaking, weakness, numbness, or tingling sensation in one area of the body, or other similar symptoms. When these symptoms start before the actual headache (as in classical migraine), it is called an aura. Minutes to hours later, the blood vessels dilate (enlarge) leading to increased blood flow and a severe headache. Things that can trigger migraine (that is, the change in the diameter of blood vessels) include the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Low blood sugar from, for example, missing meals
  • Certain foods such as those containing the amino acid tyramine (found in red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, some fruits (like avocado, banana, and citrus), foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG – an additive in many foods), onions, dairy products, meats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats) fermented or pickled foods
  • Fluctuations in hormones (for example, menstruation)
  • Certain odors, such as perfume
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Stress, physical or emotional (often, the headache occurs during the period of relaxation just following a particularly stressful time)
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Prolonged muscle tension (for example, from a tension headache can lead to a mixed migraine-tension headache)
Risk Factors
  • Women are more likely to get migraines than men
  • Having other family members with migraine headaches
  • Use of birth control pills, especially if you also smoke or have high blood pressure
  • Being under age 40; after that point, the likelihood of migraine declines for both men and women
  • Exposure and sensitivity to any of the potential triggers listed above

When you see your health care provider, he or she will take a detailed history in order to distinguish migraine headaches from other types of headaches, such as tension or sinus. Sometimes, headaches are a combination, like mixed migraine and tension. Your health care provider will ask questions about when your headaches occur, how long they last, how frequently they come on, the location of the pain, and any symptoms that accompany or precede the headaches. Sometimes it helps to keep a diary about your headaches prior to seeing the doctor; this way, you'll have an accurate recording of how often they happen and you won't forget the details related to your headaches.

When you do see your physician, the physical exam will include assessing your head, neck, eyes, and sinuses as well as performance of a neurologic examination. Don't be surprised if the doctor asks you some questions to test your short term memory. On exam, the physician is likely to find nothing wrong.

Tests that your doctor may order, depending on your symptoms and exam, include:

  • CT scan or MRI to look for a mass or other brain disorder or to check for sinusitis
  • Xray of the neck to look for arthritis or spinal problems; xray of the sinuses to look for sinusitis
  • Electroencephalogram(EEG) – a brain wave study, looking for any seizure activity
  • Lumbar puncture

You should contact your physician right away if any of the following apply:

  • You have unusual neurologic symptoms that you have not experienced before like speech disturbance, change in vision, loss of balance, or difficulty moving a limb.
  • Your headache pattern or intensity is different
  • You are experiencing "the worst headache of your life"
  • Your headache worsens when you are lying down
  • These may indicate a stroke, a bleed in the brain, or other serious condition that warrants immediate attention and evaluation.
Treatment Approach

There is no specific cure for migraine headaches. The treatment is geared toward preventing such symptoms by avoiding or altering triggers. Once migraine symptoms begin, however, treatment is aimed at preventing the headache pain if you have an aura (namely, associated symptoms that precede the headache) or treating the head pain once it has set in. There are a number of ways to accomplish all three of these – reduce the number and intensity of your headaches, quickly abort the onset of a headache by treating the migraine at the time of the aura, or successfully diminish the head pain once you have it.

Chiropracticf Migraine Relief Treatment

Chiropractic methods employ a holistic approach to pain relief through massage, spinal manipulation and periodic adjustment of joints and soft tissue. Not all who suffer from Migraines find relief with chiropractic treatment but often suffers have quite positive results.

We have noted several studies that demonstrate efficacy levels. Take a look at the follow example:

One hundred and twenty-seven Migraine patients (at least one Migraine per month) were divided into two groups for comparison. Group 1 received chiropractic adjustments at specific vertebral subluxations determined by the treating practitioner; group 2 served as controls and received inactive treatment (electrical stimulation with no current delivered). Subjects receiving chiropractic adjustments reported substantial improvement in Migraine frequency, duration, disability, and medication use following two months of treatment. One in five participants reported a 90% reduction in Migraines, and half reported significant improvement in Migraine severity.

In another study, 218 individuals with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to receive spinal manipulation, a daily medication (amitryptiline—a drug used to prevent pain in chronic conditions such as migraine headache), or a combination of both. Spinal manipulation was as effective as the medication and had fewer side effects. There was no added benefit to combining the two therapies.

In addition, a review article evaluating nine studies that tested spinal manipulative therapy for tension or migraine headaches concluded that this chiropractic technique is comparable to medications used to try to prevent either of these two types of headaches.

Are you tired of Migraine headaches ruining your day? With conventional over-the-counter medications proving less than effective (and often accompanied by dangerous side effects), it’s time to fight the pain from another angle. To find out more about the potential benefits of chiropractic care, schedule an appointment with your doctor of chiropractic.

Contact a Rhode Island Migraine Headache Chiropractor for Chiropractic Care today at 401.275.2225 or EMAIL US NOW

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Tension Headaches

One third of Americans suffer from tension headaches. These headaches can be felt on both sides of the head as a dull, steady pain that often becomes intense at the end of the day. Unfortunately, traditional medicine has little to offer chronic headache sufferers. Pain medicine and muscle relaxants will ease the pain. Stress reduction, relaxation and exercise can improve wellness and perhaps prevent the occurrence of the headache.

A recent study has suggested, however, that chiropractic treatments can decrease the frequency and length of headaches as well as the number of painkillers needed for relief. Dr. Niels Nilsson of Odense University in Odense, Denmark, and Dr. Geoffrey Bove of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, have studied the impact of chiropractic treatment on headaches. They have found that chiropractic treatment can work, but accurate diagnosis of the headache is key to efficacy. The diagnosis of tension headaches relies on very general symptoms.

Unfortunately, these symptoms can mask a headache of a different nature: cervicogenic headaches (originating in the cervical / neck region). Dr. Nilsson estimates that 15-20 percent of all recurrent headaches are cervicogenic.

Cervicogenic headaches are characterized by pain on one side of the head with associated neck pain on the same side. A patient with these headaches perceives pain in the head, but the actual source of the pain lies in the cervical spine.

This distinction is important, because cervicogenic headaches improve upon chiropractic spinal manipulation. Dr. Nilsson says, "My 1997 study showed that a group of cervicogenic headache patients who received spinal manipulation and soft tissue therapy did significantly better than a similar group which received only soft tissue therapy. Spinal manipulation in itself has a significant effect on cervicogenic headaches."

The most recent study indicates that, in contrast to cervicogenic headaches that respond specifically to spinal manipulation, tension headaches respond to chiropractic intervention regardless of whether or not spinal manipulation was performed. Dr. Bove says, "This study shows that tension-type headaches do respond to hands-on therapy, but that cervical spinal manipulation is unlikely to be the factor that affects change."

Dr. Norman Harden, director of the Center for Pain Studies at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, believes the study was well designed. "All in all a very good study, considering the impossibility of blinding a chiropractic procedure. This study, a very vast amount of anecdotal and empiric evidence and now some legitimate studies such as this support the use of chiropractic treatment for tension-type headaches," he says. Most chiropractic patients have yet to realize the contribution chiropractic intervention can make to headache improvements. Only about two percent of patients visit a chiropractor for headache relief.

"Mary" is an example of the typical patient who turned to chiropractic treatment for her sore back. She was pleased to discover that the treatment could also eradicate her headaches. "I began to see a chiropractor for my back problems," she says. "During the treatment for back pain, I casually mentioned my almost daily "normal" tension headaches. My chiropractor advised me that a headache is not "normal". He recommended a few simple lifestyle changes and performed spinal manipulations. With the help of my chiropractor, I haven't had any notable headaches now for close to 10 years."

Contact a Rhode Island Tension Headache Relief Chiropractor today at 401.275.2225 or EMAIL US NOW

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Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches affect one side of the head (unilateral) and may be associated with tearing of the eyes and nasal congestion. They occur in clusters, happening repeatedly every day at the same time for several weeks and then remitting.

Cluster headaches are a fairly common form of chronic, recurrent headache. Unlike migraines, they affect men more often than women. They can affect people of any age but are most common between adolescence and middle age. There does not seem to be a pattern among families in the development of cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches occur as a severe, sudden headache. The onset is sudden, and it occurs most commonly during the dreaming (REM) phase of sleep.

Cluster headaches may occur daily for months, alternating with periods without headaches (episodic), or they can occur for a year or more without stopping (chronic). A person may experience alternating chronic and episodic phases.




Why Choose Chiropractic for Headache Relief?

According to the International Chiropractic Association, the primary focus of chiropractic is the detection, reduction and correction of spinal misalignments and nervous system dysfunction. Doctors of chiropractic attempt to get to the root cause of a health problem, rather than just treat the symptoms. Chiropractic seeks to maximize the natural strengths of the body and its capacity to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery.

Contact a Rhode Island Cluster Headache Relief Chiropractor today at 401.275.2225 or EMAIL US NOW

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Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are headaches caused by the cervical spine.

Whether from chronic tension or acute whiplash injury, intervertebral disc disease or progressive facet joint arthritis, the neck can be a hidden and severely debilitating source of headaches. Such headaches are grouped under the term "cervicogenic headache," indicating that the primary contributing structural source of the headache is the cervical spine. There are well mapped out patterns of headache relating to a multiplicity of muscular trigger points in the neck and shoulder-blade (or peri-scapular) region, as well as to disc and joint levels in the upper cervical spine. Even headaches located predominantly in the forehead, or behind, in and around the eyes are very often "referred" pain zones for pathology located in the back of the neck and at the base of the skull. This base of the skull area is called the suboccipital region, because it is below the occipital part of the head. The joints connecting the top two or three levels of the cervical spine to the base of the skull handle almost 50% of the total motion of the entire neck and head region, thus absorbing a continuous amount of repetitive stress and strain, in addition to bearing the primary load of the weight of the head. Fatigue, postural malalignment, injuries, disc problems, joint degeneration, muscular stress and even prior neck surgeries all can compound the wear and tear on this critical region of the human skeletal anatomy. One may also develop a narrowing of the spinal canal itself, through which runs the spinal cord and all of its exiting nerve roots, leading to a condition termed spinal stenosis, also a possible source of headaches, among other symptoms.

Chiropractic Cervicogenic Headache Treatment

Treatment requires a thorough evaluation of the possible contributing factors, several of which often exist together. Physical therapy, provided by an expert spine therapist, is critical to the success of most other treatment modalities, whether those include pain injections or surgery or relaxation and posture techniques. Injections can take the form of muscle (or myofascial) trigger point blocks, nerve blocks or epidural spinal injections. The most effective injections for cervicogenic headaches usually end up being x-ray guided facet joint blocks, especially of the upper facet levels. These should only be performed by a physician trained, skilled and experienced in such procedures, as the area in the neck where they are given is quite complex. If investigation leads to discovery of significant enough disc or joint disease in the cervical spine, leading to altered load bearing in that area and pain, surgery is sometimes the best answer. Any particular treatment, however, is provided in the context of a comprehensive program addressing all of the issues and possible contributing factors noted above.

Chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture and massage are all excellent therapeutic options to assist in managing chronic pain problems or in arresting acute flare-ups of headache pain emanating from the neck area. A word of caution about such modalities, though, is that they are passive. A critical component of any long-term effective pain-management regimen is a committed, active participation of the patient. Triggering activities need to be recognized. Early pain-building warning signs must be learned and counter-acted. Posture and exercise need to be attended to, while stress must be diffused out of the body. Medications are very effective for cervicogenic headaches, to the degree that they can be tolerated while an individual goes on living a functional life. Certainly in severe pain crises, the paramount goal is to maximally relieve pain as quickly as possible. The balance is to work toward minimizing the number of crises one has to experience, whether through corrective treatment or proactive effective management.

Severe headaches are almost universally described as "oh this was a migraine," but true migraine variant headaches are thought to comprise only 8% of all headache episodes. The much more common, but just as severe, pounding, throbbing, stabbing and nauseating headaches originate from tension, absorbed most frequently in the body in the neck and shoulder region. The majority of these can fall into the category of cervicogenic headache. TMJ and sinus sources are in actuality small fractions of the primary etiologies of headaches. They certainly can be secondary contributors, which set off a smoldering major complex headache. But beware of sinus or major dental surgical procedures without at least a thorough evaluation of all diagnostic possibilities.

Remember, pain is invisible. Very few headaches "show up" on brain MRI scans. There is much to be seen and found in the high stress zone of the neck, however, and this area should be evaluated in detail and treated aggressively in anyone with chronic or recurrent headaches. Even patients with true migraines or cluster headaches will eventually also often end up with compounding cervicogenic headaches, because of the severe stress of the original headache in the first place. One headache is bad enough. No one needs two types to suffer under.

Contact a Rhode Island Cervicogenic Headache Chiropractic Clinic today at 401.275.2225 or EMAIL US NOW

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Suboccipital Triangle of Muscles

These muscles are commonly taut in patients with upper neck pain. Trigger points in these muscles can refer pain to other areas of the head causing headaches. Adjusting this area usually eliminates these headaches completely. These cervicogenic headaches are the most common type of headache.

Tension headaches generally result from prolonged contraction of the suboccipital muscles. These muscles bridge the junction between the posterior (back) of the skull and the vertebrae (bones) of the cervical spine (neck). Several mechanisms seem to be involved in the causation of the common headache:

  • Muscle inflammation and "trigger points."
  • Joint irritation and nerve compression.
  • Dural traction on the spinal cord and brainstem.
  • Muscle Inflammation and Trigger Points

Several of the nerves that exit the highest portion of the neck loop back to travel over the top of the head to the forehead. These nerves pass through a triangle of muscles called the suboccipital (“below the skull”) triangle. When these muscles at the base of the neck become irritated (due to either physical strain or emotional stress), they tend to tighten impinging the nerves passing through the triangle.

It should be fairly obvious that alleviating joint dysfunction and muscle tightness in the neck would eliminate headaches caused by physical stress. However, even if the headaches are caused entirely by emotional stress, decreasing irritation of the same joints, muscles and nerves can also greatly improve symptoms.

Contact a Rhode Island Suboccipital Chiropractor today at 401.275.2225 or EMAIL US NOW

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