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.
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