HEADACHE: IT COULD BE YOUR NECK
By Dr. Joseph J. Murphy

Headache: That vice like pressure you feel around your temples, forehead, and the back of your head as though someone is squeezing your head and won't let go - or the pounding, unrelenting pressure you feel at your temples or between your eyes. It interferes with everything that you do. You can't concentrate; sometimes you can't even smile. Headache, especially severe headache can be devastating.

Headache is an interesting phenomenon in that some people never get headaches and some people get them all the time. People that do get headaches get different types of headache. There are "pressure" type headaches; there are "pounding, pulsating" headaches; there are headaches around the whole head, and headache that hurts just in one spot. There are "migraine" headaches; true migraines, on one side of the head with a prodrome, and severe headaches called "migraines".

What causes headache and what can be done to rid oneself of this terrible problem? Well, there are many types of headaches and many causes. Some we understand the cause of and some we have no idea. There are many ways to categorize headaches. The most frequent categorizations are 1.) muscle tension headaches or cluster headaches and 2.) migraines. Interestingly enough both problems tend to have some genetic basis. Although migraine headaches are the ones that most often seem to run in families, I've noticed in my own practice that other types of headaches such as muscle tension headache can run in families as well. This is because the bio-mechanical faults that cause people to get headaches in the first place can be inherited, causing headaches in the next generation.

Muscle tension headaches are caused by contraction of the muscles around the skull, either in the forehead, in the back of the head, or on the sides. It can feel like a "tight band" contracting around your head with constant pressure, or it can feel a tight spot, either between the eyes, above the eyes, or in the back or sides of the head. Very often, TMJ problems can cause headaches in the temples which then spread to the rest of head. But most often we find muscle tension headaches to be caused by problems in the neck and shoulders.

Migraine headaches, true migraine headaches seem to be caused by a vascular phenomenon within the brain, although even migraine headache experts disagree as to whether the vascular phenomenon is the cause of the headaches or the result of them. Often, people have severe muscle tension headaches can call them migraines, but they're actually not true migraines.

Many times headache sufferers worry that there is a severe or organic cause to their headaches, such as a brain tumor. The reality is in the vast majority of cases there is no severe underlying pathology causing headaches and only in the rarest of cases are they caused by intercranial lesions or tumors.

We at the Suburban Chiropractic Center find that many headaches are caused by biomechanical problems within the neck, causing irritation and contraction of the muscles in the neck and head. Such things as degenerated joints within the neck, a loss of neck motion, a loss of the normal cervical curve as well as changes in the neck caused by traumas (such as whiplash) can generate headaches. Nazar Haidri, MD, a noted neurologist, past Professor of Neurology at UMDNJ, and an expert in headache has written several papers documenting chronic headache syndrome caused by even minor flexion/extension sprains of the neck (whiplash).

Whiplash of the neck can cause biomechanical changes in the musculature, ligaments and nerve elements of the neck that can generate severe headache. These headaches can occur months to years after the auto collision actually happens and can last for very long periods of time.

We at the Suburban Chiropractic Center take a holistic approach to headache diagnosis and treatment. We examine all the factors that might be causing headache, examining especially the bio-mechanical elements of the cervical spine (neck), and the nervous system. Through gentle chiropractic alignment and the use of other types of physical medicine, we can often restore the normal bio-mechanics to the neck, reducing or completely eliminating the symptoms of headache caused by these altered factors.

How do you know that your headache is being caused by problems in your neck? The only way to find out is to visit your doctor of chiropractic. He can perform a thorough evaluation and prescribe the proper treatment to eliminate the cause of your headache and eliminate the need for powerful drugs.

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