Headache is one the most common pain in the body. Some headaches are caused by vision, but there are other types of headaches with different causes and treatments. The following article, courtesy of Dr. Josephine Lo, explains a few commonly seen types of headaches in her chiropractic practice.
The term “cervicogenic” literally means “coming from the neck”. It can be caused by from poor posture and/or misalignments in the spine.
What you can do to prevent this type of headache is to take micro-breaks to keep the fluid in your joints moving. Also, take a look at the activities you spend most of your time doing, and evaluate your ergonomics. Here are two examples:
- Make sure your elbows are close at your side and not too forward.
- Make sure your monitor is eye level and you don’t have to tilt your neck up or down.
- Make sure your chair is at the height where your feet are flat on the ground)
- Prop your reading material up so you are not looking down
- Make sure your steering wheel is close enough and your seat is upright enough that you can lean back and have your head against the head rest
- The top of your head rest should be at the same level as the top of your ears
During a headache, there are many ways to treat it. First, ice alternating with heat can be useful (ice 20mins, heat 60mins). Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Aspirin are commonly used over-the-counter medications as pain killers. But be aware of the side effects of long term use such as liver damage, gastric ulcers, even risk of stroke.
Seek chiropractic care to correct any misalignment that are causing you pain.
This type of headache is mainly stress induced, and it is usually worst after a long work day. The best way to prevent it is to explore some stress management or relaxation techniques such as prayer/meditation, exercise, professional therapy, etc. Often tension headaches are also associated with cervicogenic headaches, so treatment recommendations can be very similar.
Some migraine sufferers experience aura before an attack. Auras usually present in visual or audio forms (flashing lights, lines of colour, etc). The headache would feel like a strong throbbing pain. During the attack, you may be very sensitive to light, sound and movement. After the attack, you may still feel nauseous and sick.
Common triggers that migraine sufferers should avoid are: nitrites (processed meats), wine, caffeine, sharp cheese, nuts, pickled foods, artificial sweeteners, MSG and nicotine. Certain medications can trigger migraine headaches as well. Before starting a medication, always ask your doctor about the side effects. Some women migraine sufferers also correlate the attacks with their menstrual cycles.
The most effective time to seek chiropractic care is the aura stage, before actual migraine starts. During an attack, try putting heat on hands/feet, then ice on neck. This helps draw blood away from the head and neck area. Imitrex is a common medication used to treat moderate migraine. But if you have any heart conditions or are taking any other medications, be sure to let your doctor know.
Sinus headaches are caused by inflammation and congestion in the sinuses. The inflammation can be a result from cold/flu or from allergies. The pain can be felt in the forehead, cheeks and nasal area. The position of the head can affect the pain (going from lying down to sitting up)
If allergy is the cause of the sinusitis, avoid the allergen. Also explore any food allergies. The most common food allergies are: wheat (gluten), diary, soy, corn and sugar.
If the cause is a cold or flu, make sure to take in lots of fluids and vitamins/minerals. Try to avoid sugars and starches, and substitute with complex carbohydrates instead. Echinacea drops or sprays can be used to boost the immune system. Your doctor may decide to prescribe antibiotics depending on your specific condition.
The sinus congestion can be treated by nasal lavage or nasal spray. Breathing in steam can help too (Ex. step in a hot shower). There are over-the-counter decongestants also.
Cluster headaches are experienced as jabbing pain around the eye that can last from hours to days. With sudden onset of excruciating pain, seek professional advice to rule out other more serious causes.
Capsaicin cream or intranasal spray can be used to help relieve the pain. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers and is a natural alternative to pharmaceutical pain killers
Generally, an average person needs about 8-9 cups a day. Alcohol, caffeine and salt can dehydrate your body. So when consuming those items, make sure you drink plenty of water. Remember to replenish your fluids when you are exercising or perspiring.
More serious causes of headaches include but are not limited to tumor, hemorrhage, stroke and infection. So it is important to seek health care professionals to better assess your situation through detailed history and examination.
Dr. Josephine Lo, B.Sc., D.C.
Acqua Medical Centre
#118 – 5811 No.3 Rd
Richmond BC V6X 4L7