There are a number of causes for headaches, of which I will be focusing on the one most commonly seen in the clinic, cervicogenic headaches. Cervicogenic headache literally means that the headache itself is as a result of a problem in the neck.
So what is causing the headache?
Usually to be classified as a cervicogenic headache the spinal dysfunction has to be within the upper three vertebrae in the neck whereby these have been shown to have the highest correlation of dysfunction, with onward pain referral into the head.
What does it feel like?
Really this varies from person to person, generally it begins as a tightness/pressure at the top of the neck which then extends into the back of the head (the occiput) and then sometimes extends to the top of the head and can go into the eyebrow/back of the eye region. Interestingly some people don’t even feel the neck pain or discomfort!
What causes the joint dysfunction in the first place?
First of all there are a number of potential causes. I find there is a high correlation with cervicogenic headaches and anterior head syndrome (AHS), this is a postural/structural condition that puts increased strain onto the joints and muscles of the neck and upper back. If a person also has degenerative changes within the spine, which can be seen on an x ray or MRI scan, along with AHS then this usually indicates that the condition has been present for quite a while.
What causes AHS?
Unfortunately it’s the usual suspects:
-previous neck trauma (e.g whiplash)
-inappropriate desk set up
-poor sleeping positions
-prolonged use of computers, tablets
Can anything be done for cervicogenic headaches?
The evidence is good supporting chiropractic care for cervicogenic headaches. At Chiropractic Works I focus on working to correct the structure which in turn helps to improve the function of the spine decreasing joint dysfunction, muscle tightness and ultimately the headache.
1. Haas M., et al. , Dose response for chiropractic care of chronic cervicogenic headache and associated neck pain: a randomized pilot study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2004. 27(9): p. 547–53 [PubMed]
2.Haas M., et al. , Dose response and efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic cervicogenic headache: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Spine J, 2010. 10(2): p. 117–28 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Jull G., et al. , A randomized controlled trial of exercise and manipulative therapy for cervicogenic headache. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 2002. 27(17): p. 1835–43; discussion 1843. [PubMed]
1. It’s good for your nervous system
This is the system that controls and regulates every single function in your body.
Haldeman, S. Neurological Effects of the Adjustment.
JMPT 2000; 23
2. It’s good for your posture
The author of the supporting paper also suggests that you may need more than one or two adjustments if you want to train yourself out of poor postural habits.
Troyanovich et al. Structural rehabilitation of the spine and posture: rational for treatment beyond resolution of symptoms.
3. It keeps your joints young and well lubricated
An adjustment can help restore normal joint movement and mechanics and help remove joint adhesions or scar tissue.
Nugent-Derfus GE, et al. Continuous passive motion applied to whole joints stimulates chondrocyte biosynthesis of PRG4.
Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2007 May;15(5):566-74.
4. It can make you more flexible
This article uses hamstrings as an example of how being adjusted and stretching can help your muscles to relax.
Fox, M. Effect on hamstring flexibility of hamstring stretching compared to hamstring stretching and sacroiliac joint manipulation.
Clinical Chiropractic – Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2006, Pages 21-32.5. It can make your muscles stronger and more flexible
Quite an in-depth explanation into why getting adjusted can improve neurological control and muscle strength.
Smith DL, Cox RH. Muscular strength and chiropractic: theoretical mechanisms and health implications.
Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research 1999-2000; 3(4):1-13.
6. It can improve your co-ordination
Significant improvement to hand-eye co-ordination are noted in this article following a series of adjustments.
Dean L. Smith, DC, PhD, Marvin J. Dainoff, PhD, and Jane P. Smith, DC. & The effect of a Chiropractic adjustment on movement time… Fitts law.
JMPT May 2006.
7. It is an effective treatment for back pain
Chiropractic came out on top in this article relative to hospital out patient physiotherapy treatment.
Meade et al. Low back pain of mechanical origin: randomised comparison of chiropractic and hospital outpatient treatment.
British Medical J, 1991.
We offer a 15 minute complimentary consultation to new patients to find out more about chiropractic and how it can benefit them.
To book use the online booking feature or call us on 0114 266 5959.
I think it’s my age…
At Chiropractic Works, we here this all too often. Yes age does play a factor with spinal problems but the majority of the time it is not the causative factor. A point in case is the increase in the number of students that we have seen recently.
[ezcol_1half]One trigger for the students who have been in to see us is exam time! Prolonged periods of sitting, working on the computer or staring at books. Not to mention the extra stress, long hours and by the time you throw in a poorer diet due to time constraints, eventually something has to give.
Most students that we see come in with upper back and neck problems from the long periods of studying. So here are some tips on how to minimise the strain that studying puts on you:
- Plan your day, know what you are doing and when you are doing it – as dull as it sounds this will free up a lot of your time, and if you have planned well it will be a case of looking at what you should be doing and getting on with it.
- Have a work free area, a sacred space where no studying takes place, this is especially problematic if you study in a bedroom – you want to keep that area as a sleeping/relaxing zone.
- Plan down time – meet up with friends, play the Xbox or catch up on tv. Be strict with yourself, you don’t want to end up doing a marathon of Game of Thrones.
- Take regular breaks, prop your books/laptop up so you are looking ahead not looking down.
- Snack well – ditch the chocolate and energy drinks, stick to fruit & veg and the odd tea/coffee.
If you have any questions give us a call on 0114 266 5959, or if you would like to book a complimentary 15 minute consultation to discuss how we can help you get in touch.
Driving and back pain
Driving is a tricky subject, we all do it, some for longer than others and at some stage we all feel the effects of driving. Whether it’s your daily commute or a longer drive to see family or friends it can all rack up and put more stress on your spine and your health.
Why does it create strain?
Sitting creates strain on the spine, that’s why we advise people to take a break from sitting every 45 – 60 minutes. When we drive we usually are not sitting in the optimal position for our bodies. Generally, the sportier your car the worse the position is likely to be due to space constraints.
Sitting in the car creates a lot of strain in two key areas the low back/pelvis and the neck. The low back is affected as the normal curve (lordosis) is usually reduced – the aim of a lumbar support is to maintain the curve while you are sitting. The second area affected is the neck, I think part of this is because we are so focused on the low back we ignore the fact that we sit in our cars with our heads poking forward – this increases the strain onto the neck as your body has to work harder to keep your head up!
So what can you do to reduce the impact of driving?
1. Take 30 seconds to sort out your car!
This is really important if you share a car, put the mirrors, seat and back support into the correct position FOR YOU. If you don’t you will be under/over-stretching to reach the wheel and pedals.
2. Relax your shoulders.
Make sure you aren’t holding yourself in an artificial position. On your daily commute there’s enough to deal with without overloading your postural muscles and increasing stress on the spine and nervous system. This will also allow you to breath more easily which is always handy.
3. Take regular breaks.
It is always tempting to do a 4 hour journey in one go, I would recommend taking at least one break. You do not need to go into the services and buy a latte and a disposable tooth brush, instead have a brisk walk, do some basic stretches or tai-chi. It will only add 5 minutes to your journey but the difference it will make to your spine will be much greater.
Many cars now come with in built lumbar supports but they may not be suitable for everyone. Although car seat designs have improved significantly they are still built for the masses, or built to fit a ‘standard’ person, as we are all unique it means that for some it will work and others it wont. The solution is simple, a small pillow or a rolled up towel placed in the low back with the purpose of maintaining the curve.
There are two key factors with head rests:
1. The top of the headrest should be level with the top of your head.
2. The head rest should be as close to your head as possible, no more than 10cm from your head.
For some great advice on how to adjust your car seat have a look at the BackCare information sheet
If you feel you are struggling due to driving allow us to help you, book an examination or a 15 minute complimentary consultation on 0114 266 5959.
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