Headaches: Causes and Treatments

Patients suffering from many different types of headaches can achieve long-term relief by following the unique headache treatment protocol created and customized for them by the team at Advanced Health Chiropractic.

What are the different type of headaches people experience and how do you describe the pain and symptoms experienced with each type?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Great question, Liz. There’s a wide variety of headaches. You name it. You could have a cluster headache, a tension headache, a cervicogenic headache, seasonal headaches. But the biggest one that we come in contact with at the clinic and treat the most are those tension headaches. Tension headaches usually cause pain around the base of the skull and then kind of wrap around into the temple region, over on the side of the head. And they’re the most common headaches that we see and treat within the clinic.

What are some of the most common causes of headaches?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, many causes can be big traumas, car accidents, for example, or what we see a lot of, again in the clinic, are essentially repetitive stresses. So, people who work in a corporate environment essentially have to sit for a living. We’re built to be upright and moving and people who have to sit for 40 plus hours a week, over time that repetitive stress creates massive amounts of stress and tension on the spine, the soft tissue, and the nerve. And when that stress and tension shifts us out of alignment, common side effects are headaches.

Can you describe some of the specialized treatment methods you use to treat patients with headaches?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. As a chiropractor, our bread and butter is obviously working with the spine and working on spinal alignment. So, the first thing we are going to do is evaluate your spine for both its alignment and then also its function on an individual joint level. And our goal is to get the joints in alignment and moving well.

What separates us from other clinics is we do a lot of soft tissue therapy in conjunction with our chiropractic adjustments and that really focuses on the health of the tissue and improving the health of the tissue and allowing it to move better. And then we supplement that with lots of physical therapy too, to really stabilize those joints. So, when you combine those three types of treatment, the adjustments to the joint, working on the spinal alignment, do spinal traction and rehab, and then the health of the soft tissue, we get really good results.

Can chronic headaches be relieved with drug-free chiropractic treatments?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. Chiropractic care focuses on the innate ability of the body and that’s done without the use of drugs and surgery. Again, condition varies person to person, but if you are looking objectively at the issue, the alignment of the spine, specifically the cervical spine, the function of the joint, and then the integrity of the soft tissue, you can improve on that. Better alignment within the spine, better function within the joints, and better health and stability within the soft tissue, then there’s a very good chance that you’re going to be able to get rid of the headaches if they’re acute and/or if they’re chronic.

How does the headache treatment protocol you follow at Advanced Health make you unique from other clinics in your area?

Dr. Luke Stringer: We are really thorough in our approach. So, if you’re a brand-new patient, you’ll set up a new patient appointment, you’ll come in, and you’ll sit down with one of our doctors. We’ll do a really thorough health history and we’ll perform a spinal examination. We focus on function within the joint, which is critically important, particularly in and around how well the joint moves. And then we shoot some x-rays digital, and digital x-rays provide essentially an objective picture of what’s going on. And we also shoot a specific type of x-ray, called essentially a motion study. It’s a biomechanical assessment of the spine. So, we can actually pinpoint the joints which essentially have shifted and aren’t moving.

From there, we can build out a treatment plan based on correcting what we found on your exam findings. And typical treatment at Advanced Health will involve three to four aspects. First of all, cervical alignment of the spine. Cervical alignment’s really important, particularly when we’re working with a lot of our patients who are those corporate athletes who sit for a living. That forward head posture just shoots forward and the cervical spine straightens out and puts a massive amount of stress and tension on to the nerves, particularly in the upper part of the neck. And those are the nerves that cause the headaches.

So, through specific protocols, we practice here through a particular technique called chiropractic biophysics we could work on bringing that spine back into alignment and we can do that objectively, which offers more of a long-term solution. And again, obviously, the spine needs to move. 80% of communication with the brain comes through movement off the spine. So, you want to make sure those joints are not only in alignment, they’re moving well. So, then we will go through an adjustment protocol. And there’s many different ways we can adjust the spine, if its instrument based, it’s manual based, but we’re going to focus on those upper cervicals, the top two bones in your neck. Because again, those nerve roots come out the spine, go back into your head, they innervate your eyes, your ears, nose, throat.

We also going to address that soft tissue, particularly the suboccipitals that anchor the base of your skull to the top two vertebrae in your neck. They’re put under a lot of stress and tension and over time, that tension breaks that tissue down and as it breaks down, it just gets weak and inflexible. So, we’re going to address that tissue, that weak and inflexible tissue, do some soft tissue protocols. And by doing that, you can improve the health of the tissue and improve the range of motion within the joint.

And then lastly, we’re going to supplement all of that with physical therapy and we’re going to address the imbalances. Commonly what we see within headaches, particularly those tension headaches, those postural headaches, is essentially people that have had that forward head shift and then those big muscles in your upper back and shoulders dominate with the little muscles that sit deep in front of your neck and deep between our shoulder blades are the ones that control stability within the spine.

So essentially, we’re going to activate those little muscles that have switched off, so those deep neck flexors and those muscles that sit deep between your shoulder blades. And when you combine all of those facets of treatment, that’s how we get really good results and we do awesome work with headaches in the clinic. And again, that’s what separates us from other clinics. Not that they don’t do great work, but if you’re only adjusting the spine, not addressing the alignment, or you’re only addressing the muscle imbalance, not addressing the soft tissue, you can get results.  

Long-term results are going to be coming through alignment, function, health of the tissue, and then fixing those muscle imbalances. And essentially, that’s exactly what we do.

Learn More

If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Luke Stringer visit www.southloopchiropractor.com or call (312) 987-4878 to schedule an appointment.

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