by Tracey Roizman, DC, DACBN
Cures from the Past
For some people headaches are an occasional annoyance, for others a disabling chronic condition. There have been many creative headache cures throughout history. In China around 200 a.d., Hua Tho, a famous surgeon and the discoverer of anesthesia offered to relieve the emperor’s headaches by removing a portion of his skull. In medieval Europe headaches were treated by applying a solution of vinegar and opium to the scalp. And, in the late 1800’s William Gowers, an eminent physician and founder of modern neurology emphasized the importance of a healthy diet. Failing that he recommended nitroglycerin dissolved in alcohol.
The Sensible Solution
Fortunately, modern chiropractic care has a lot to offer headache sufferers. Chiropractic has proven through numerous studies to be highly effective and provide longer and more permanent relief for headaches than even some of the most highly touted wonder drugs. Because headaches are a common health issue, people often accept the idea that they are a normal, inevitable part of life. But headaches, particularly those that recur, are signs that something is wrong. Aspirin and other medications relieve the pain of tension, migraines and cluster headaches without correcting the underlying causes. Moreover, analgesics often cover up the warning signs associated with neck, head and back pain. When those causes are eliminated so also are the headaches that come from them.
An important study by Duke University compared a variety of methods for the treatment of muscle tension headaches. When chiropractic care was compared to the drug amitriptyline the results were greatly in favor of chiropractic therapy. During the six week study the short term effectiveness was similar for each type of therapy. It was the long term benefits in the three months after treatments were discontinued that chiropractic care was shown to have a tremendous advantage over drug therapy.
Patients who had received chiropractic care continued to experience fewer and less severe headaches while patients who’d had drug therapy went back to their previous condition. Additionally, 82% of patients taking amitriptyline reported adverse side effects including fast heart rate, blurred vision, urinary retention, dry mouth, constipation, weight gain or loss, low blood pressure on standing, rash, hives, seizures, and hepatitis.
Another study, this one from Harvard, discovered that chiropractic care is the leading alternative therapy sought by patients seeking relief for headaches. Could it be a healthcare revolution in the making? Let’s hope so.
How it Works
The reason chiropractic care outperforms drug therapy for headaches is simple. Chiropractic care provides lasting relief by removing the causes of headaches and it does so safely. Drugs, on the other hand are designed to put out fires once they’ve started. The preferable solution is obvious and that is why studies and patients support chiropractic for the care and cure of headaches
Headaches have a spectrum of causes or triggers. One of the most common triggers for headaches is cervicogenic problems, meaning ‘arising from the neck’. It’s possible to have a cervicogenic headache in the absence of neck pain.
One of the ways chiropractic treatment helps decrease the occurrence of headaches is by improving the balance of the upper neck. Postural strain is one reason for the neck to become misaligned. Stress from sitting at a desk or computer or from driving accumulates quickly because these are activities we spend a lot of time doing. Traumatic injuries such as slip and fall accidents, auto accidents or athletic injuries cause misalignments in the spine and tension in muscles that get set in.
In many cases the original injuries go back to childhood. These persist and cause a domino effect of underlying weakness that makes the headache sufferer vulnerable to other stressors in the environment. Sinus headaches, which are generally associated with allergies or weather patterns often have a structural component of spinal imbalance together with muscle tension. Your food sensitivity headache, in fact, might respond very well to chiropractic care.
Helping headache sufferers is a daily occurrence in chiropractic clinics. In my practice I see patients whose primary complaint is headaches and I also see patients who come in for general health care and remark that their headaches have vanished since the start of their chiropractic treatments. In all cases the result is less pain and greater health. Certainly, that is preferable to pain pills with their temporary relief and associated side effects. And, best of all you can keep your cranium intact.