When you feel like a knife has been stabbing into your brain, somebody is squeezing your head with a vice around the temples, or there’s a mysterious throbbing in between your ears, you should seek chiropractic care, first.
Because the pain in your head is not likely to be true ‘head pain’, but is almost always caused by an irritation and/or tension involving the structures of the neck. Several neck tissues (including muscles, joints, or nerves) can cause pain that is ‘referred’ into the head. So, the best thing to get rid of it is to find the cause, and correct it. Often, a simple chiropractic adjustment can take the pressure off those irritated tissues and dissipate the pain in your head.
The most common headache? Tension-type. The achy pain in your temples that feels like pressure between your eyes or in your sinuses. The cause of these headaches is usually an irritation and/or tightness in the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull, or the upper trapezius muscles in the shoulder. When these muscles get ‘knots’ in them, this can cause a referral of pain into the temples (see diagrams below). These knots are called ‘trigger points’.
The ‘X’ in the diagram on the left shows where the suboccipital ‘trigger point’ is, and the red dots show where the referral pain is felt on the head from this irritating trigger point.
At Back2Health Chiropractic, our practitioners are well-trained in a number of soft-tissue therapies, including trigger point, neuromuscular and myofascial protocols – to help relieve you of these types of headaches.
Another type of headache that has origins in the neck is the cervicogenic headache. This problem is caused by irritation of the occipital nerves, which exit the spine at the top of the neck, just below the base of the skull. Why does irritation of these nerves cause a headache? Because the occipital nerves supply the scalp with innervation (see diagram below). And, just like any nerve in the body, when it gets irritated at any point along the nerve, the pain can be felt along the entire nerve. Since occipital nerves travel along the back of the head, the top of the head and just behind/above the ear, this is where this type of headache is commonly felt. In the diagram, you can see how those occipital nerves lead right to the most common areas of the head that are affected by those pesky cervicogenic headaches.
What is the cause of occipital nerve irritation? The most common reason for irritation of this nerve is joint inflammation/irritation caused by malposition or restriction of the upper two vertebrae in the neck. Your chiropractor is the best person to be able to identify this as the cause, and to remove the irritation with a series of gentle, effective adjustments in this area. With the painful pressure taken off the nerve, often a person will feel immediate relief following the adjustment.
So, the next time you feel a headache coming on, think of calling us at Back2Health Chiropractic. We have myriad treatments and professionals who can help you. And, if you know of anyone who suffers from more than one headache per month, tell them about us. We’d love to help ease the pain.