Diagnosis and Treatment of Headaches

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are thought to be caused by tension in both the neck and upper back muscles. This tension is sometimes related to trauma, injury, or muscle tear.  Tension headaches are diagnosed following a detailed history, examination of the muscles of the neck, and neurologic evaluation.  At times, x-rays may be used to evaluate injury associated with trauma or if the headaches have been chronic.

The x-rays gives us vital information regarding the the health status of the vertebra and the joints of the spine. Arthritis can be evaluated, signs of nerve pressure can be seen. Muscle tension throughout your body is controlled by your nervous system. As the muscles are tight and injured, they clamp down on the nerves traveling into the head from the neck and cause the tension headache.

Just as you can move your hand by simply thinking it – nerve impulses must travel from your brain, down the nerves to the muscles in your hand to make them move. In like fashion, when muscle tension is high, causing headaches, this can be controlled by your nerves.

Spinal manipulation by a chiropractor removes nerve pressure and allows the nerve to transmit information to the muscle normally so that it can relax. This relaxation removes the headache. For this to be permanent, therapeutic exercise must be done near the same time as the chiropractic spinal manipulation or adjustment.

In our office, nearly all patients perform therapeutic exercise immediately following their adjustments to ensure that the correction of their problem is permanent.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are complex and terrible to experience. You will be asked in your detailed history to give your headache history. This will include questions about:

  • How old were you when you started getting headaches?
  • How long have had these type of headaches?
  • Do you experience a single type of headache or multiple types of headaches?
  • How often the headaches occur?
  • What causes the headaches? Are there any triggers?
  • Who else in your family has headaches?
  • What symptoms, if any, occur between headaches?
  • Has your school or work performance been affected by these?
  • What it feels like
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how severe are the headaches
  • How long the headaches last
  • Do they occur out of the blue, or can you tell they’re coming
  • What time of day the headache usually occurs
  • Are there changes in vision, blind spots, or bright lights before the headache – known as an aura
  • What other symptoms or warning signs occur with a headache (such as weakness, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise, appetite changes, changes in attitude or behavior)
  • How frequently you get headaches

It is also important to tell your doctor how you feel when you get a headache and what happens when you get a headache, such as:

  • Where the pain is located

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