Most likely this is something that you have experienced multiple times in your life as it is the most common form of pain in the head. Pain that can be felt in one area or throughout the entire head and can last from minutes to days. It can be felt has a dull pain or a sharp stabbing feeling. Though most headaches do not require immediate medical attention there are some that do.
The cause of headaches can range from tight neck muscles, low blood sugar, high blood pressure, stress, fatigue, or even medication side effects. These headaches can be categorized down to three different types: tension (cervicogenic), migraines, and cluster.
Among the three tension beaches are the most common, with up to 80% of the population experiencing them, and usually, elicit a constant dull to severe pain in either side or both sides of the head. This pain can feel like pressure around the head or behind the eyes. Most people experience these types of headaches mid to late day and will last anywhere from minutes to days.
Tension headaches are caused by trigger points and subluxations in the spine due to tension in the supporting muscles in the back, shoulders, and neck. When this subluxation causes the top vertebrae to become misaligned the rectus capitis posterior muscle will go into spasm. This spasm causes pulling of the dura mater, thin covering of the brain, with the tendons that connect the two. This causes the pain that we feel as the dura mater is very pain-sensitive.
Avoiding the following will reduce your chances of getting a tension headache:
- Lack of sleep
- Bad Posture
- Emotional and Mental Stress
- Low Iron Levels
Migraines are the second most common form of headaches and mostly experienced by woman. They tend to run in families and suffer from their first episode before the age of 30. People experience can intense, throbbing pain, along with nausea, and sensitivity to light or noise from anywhere to a few hours to days. These migraines can happen as little as per year or as much as several per month. An interesting note about migraines is that person may see a sort of warning sign to a migraine with what is called an “aura. And aura can be experienced as flashing lights or a surreal appearance to the surroundings. Though some may not experience an aura, sufferers will start to notice other symptoms prior to a migraine happening.
A migraine occurs when the blood vessels in the brain constrict decreasing blood flow, causing the aura symptoms prior to an attack, and then dilate. The rapid increase in blood flow from dilating causes the pounding feeling, which is in sync to your heartbeat, and pain. It is not fully understood why the blood vessels contract in the first place some common imbalances from the following have been known to elicit them.
- Lack of sleep
- Flickering lights
- Strong smells
- Change in weather
- Foods containing tyrosine
Though a smaller amount of people experience cluster headaches they are excruciating. They typically happen at night for a short period of time. Unlike migraines, men tend to experience this type of headaches more than woman but are similarly caused by the dilation of the blood vessels. They are called cluster headaches because they happen several times throughout the day and come on unexpectedly without warning. Cluster headaches are felt on one side of the head and often behind the eye.
There are four main muscle groups that contain the trigger points that can associate with the heads pain.
Splenius Muscles – These muscles contain the splenius capitis and the splines cervicis and are the prime movers of the head and extend from the upper thoracic to the lower cervical spinous process. Trigger points contained in these muscles cause pain felt in the head and back of the eye.
Suboccipital Muscles – These comprise of four smaller muscles that are connected from the C1 and C2 vertebrae to the base of the skull and are also responsible for the movement of the head. Trigger points contained in these muscles cause pain felt behind the eye, and inside the head and create difficulty rotating the head.
Sternocleidomastoid Muscle – This muscle runs from behind the ears at the base of the neck down to the top of the sternum on each side. Trigger points in these muscles can cause pain around the eyes and ears and can have more severe effects such as dizziness, nausea, poor balance, and visual disturbances.
Trapezius Muscle – This is a large flat muscle that runs from the mid-back to the base of the skull that helps with support and movement of the arms. Trigger points in the upper portion of these muscles cause pain felt in the temple and back of the head as well as temple and jaw or tooth pain.
Chiropractic treatment has shown to be very effective in the treatment of tension headaches and in most cases the effects are felt immediately since most problems stem from misalignments in the neck. A study found that just four weeks of chiropractic care provided a sustained relief versus pain medications. In fact, there are far fewer side effects and much longer relief with chiropractic care than pain medications.
How to Avoid Headaches
As with any other condition, there are always ways to help prevent headaches from happening and most just come from a healthy quality of life. Aside from stress there are certain foods and chemicals that can cause headaches.
- Foods containing nitrite compounds which are mainly used in preserving meats should be avoided as they dilate the blood vessels.
- The amino acid tyramine can be found in foods like ripe cheese, soy sauce, and any pickled or fermented food and a should be avoided.
- The famous MSG or monosodium glutamate can cause headaches and is used in everything from soy sauce, meat tenderizers, to packaged foods as a way to enhance the flavors of food.
- Chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride that are used in common household cleaners and insecticides are harmful as well as anything containing lead.
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