It's remarkable to consider how many different types of pain relievers there are
for headaches. Not just the corner drug stores but also supermarkets,
convenience stores, and gas stations keep an abundant supply. Aspirin,
acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, is consumed daily in America by the truckloads.
Have you ever thought about how we approach a health problem or symptom?
Too often it's a knee-jerk reaction where we pop a pill for whatever ill. Rarely
do we ask why there is a headache? What is causing this headache?
It is very well established that there are many causes for headaches. Chemical
imbalances in the body can of course cause head pain such as in dehydration or
But in large part, the pill stock in gas stations isn't targeted to the occasional
hangover, it supplies the masses who suffer with tension headaches, migraines,
and headaches due to mechanical neck disorders (e.g. whiplash). So what is
the pill actually doing chemically? This varies from pill to pill. The side effects
can range from stomach bleeding, to liver and kidney problems. Most people
who take these medications have pain for years and decades. It is long-term
use that is especially detrimental to the body. Headaches are a chronic disease
and it is likely there will be triggers for you for many years to come.
Prescription NSAIDs and pain pills are usually much more powerful unless
you're doubling up on over-the-counter drugs. With prescription patches and
pills it is easy to get addicted if taken over the long run.
But there is a different way to see the problem than the chemical approach.
Although the mode of action of these different drugs changes, an important
fact remains that they do not treat mechanical problems of the neck. If your
headache is being caused by a joint injury in the neck, no amount of drug can
correct this postural fault.
How would I know if my headache is really a spine problem? It could be that
you notice stiffness in the neck or maybe it's harder to look over one shoulder.
If your headaches are accompanied by a lot of shoulder and neck stiffness and
tension, this is a sign of a spine cause. In some cases though, the spine
symptoms are very mild, so it is easy to see why patients rarely make the
connection in their minds.
Several clinical trials have shown chiropractic adjustments are effective for
patients with tension-type and migraine headaches. Less immediate side
effects were also noted compared to those getting drug treatment.
By identifying the cause of your headache, you've changed your thinking to looking past the pain and asking why?
Headaches Are Letting You Know.....
.....that there is a problem. Our bodies often let us know there is something not quite right, but are we listening? Too often in life, with hectic day to day schedules, getting the kids to school
and so on, we cannot be troubled by these little warning signs. So we often just take a pill to mask the pain and get on with our lives. But is this the best way to react to a warning, a signal?
If the smoke alarm shrilled in your home, what would you do? I hope you would get out as quickly as possible and call 911. Would you say to yourself, "maybe it will go away?" I hope not. And if
there were a fire, would stopping the alarm help a raging inferno? Most likely this will help things very little.
What if the alarm started to give little beeps (letting you know to change the battery). Would you change it with a fresh one or just remove it from the device?
I think most homeowners know the answers to these simple questions. And you would think that we would give the same correct concern when are bodies give us warning signals.
Unfortunately we often pay more attention to warning signs from our homes and automobiles (like that little clicking sound), than the most important house of all-our bodies.
When your neck muscles ache, this is a signal. When you turn your head and hear clicking sounds, this is another signal. And when a headache occurs, the signal is getting louder and louder. But
are we listening?
It's better to think of these signals as just that, signals- not the actual problem. So when you take a drug to stop the signal, rarely is the actual problem being addressed.
So how are your signals and alarms?
Do you seem to take medications on a weekly or daily basis? A headache pill here and there is rarely an issue. But incorporating pain pills as part of your daily diet may be a health concern. They
are not considered one of the five basic food groups. Side effects from these types of medications are rare, but the risks do increase with long-term use. Do you go through a small bottle each
Have You Ever Had A...
There are a lot of different kinds of headaches and what causes them can range from the mundane (too little sleep) to the dangerous (a brain tumor). Some of the most common types of head pain are
tension-type and migraine. If commercials on television are any indication, sinus problems including headaches, also seem to be quite common.
A recent study (J Headache Pain 2008;Jan 25) tried to determine just how many common headaches are actually caused by a sinus problem, such as an infection (e.g. sinusitis). Sinus pain may also
include other problems such as fever, cough, nasal discharge and postnasal discharge. The researchers looked at 310 children who had long term and recurring headaches and the results were quite
interesting. Only 1% of patients had a sinus problem that was producing the headache. About 40% of the patients with migraine and 60% of the patients with tension-type headache were misdiagnosed with
a "sinus headache." The researchers concluded that children with chronic and recurrent headaches are frequently misdiagnosed with sinus headaches and may receive unnecessary sinusitis treatment.
As with any health condition it's important to have an accurate diagnosis before proceeding with treatment. It's also important to treat the cause of a problem rather than just its effects.
Chiropractors look to the spine as often contributing to headache symptoms. It's not always the case, but frequently this is an overlooked area. Some scientific evidence suggests that when the spine
is treated, patients with migraine and tension type headaches, in particular, can recover.