Chiropractic for headache relief in Oakville
Welcome to the Mobility Plus Chiropractic patient resource for headache diagnosis, management and relief
It’s hard to accomplish anything when your head is pounding.
Headaches can cripple your livelihood, but if you can identify their cause and understand the mechanism, finding a solution for relief becomes clear. Let’s dig into the causes, dangers, mechanisms and solutions to an array of headaches.
Headache pain can originate from the tissues and structures surrounding the brain and skull. The brain itself does not have nerves that are capable of triggering the sensation of pain. That is, brain tissue is not comprised of pain receptors or neural pathways for pain.
What causes headaches?
The cause of a patient’s headache can range from stress, dehydration, physical trauma, to various medical conditions.
The tissues involved may include the thin layer surrounding bone (periosteum), muscles encasing the skull, sinuses, eyes, and ears. The thin layer of tissue covering the surface of the brain and spinal cord (meninges), arteries, veins and nerves can also become involved. These tissues can become inflamed or irritated, resulting in a painful headache. The pain may be a dull ache, sharp and stabbing, throbbing, constant, pounding, pressure, intermittent, mild, or intense
Systemic illnesses resulting in infection or dehydration can also result in associated headache. These can be termed toxic headaches. They can also result from alterations in brain chemistry, for example with medication reactions, drug abuse and withdrawal.
Headaches are classified based on their cause. The International Headache Society has created the standard classification system for headache. The latest version was released in 2013 and attempts to guide health care professionals towards making a more specific diagnosis. This in turn directs the most effective treatment option
There are three major categories of headache based upon the source of the pain.
- Primary headaches
- Secondary headaches
- Cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches
We must keep in mind that patients may fall in to more than one category and have multiple sources to their pain.
A primary headache is the stimulation or dysfunction of pain-sensitive structures and tissues in your head or neck. This form of headache is not a symptom of an underlying disease. Some primary headaches are debilitating, while others resolve quickly. It’s clear however, that they can dramatically impact a patient’s quality of life. This type of headache is rarely life threatening, but may express symptoms that mimic a stroke, so we must diagnose accurately.
The chemical activity in the brain, nerves, blood vessels, or the muscles of your head and neck play their part in primary headaches. Unfortunately your genetic makeup may also impact your potential in developing these headaches.
Most common primary headaches:
- Tension headache
- Cluster headache
- Migraine with aura
Primary headaches may also have these lifestyle factors as triggers:
- Alcohol, particularly red wine
- Certain foods, such as processed meats that contain nitrates
- Changes in sleep pattern or poor quality/quantity of sleep
- Prolonged poor posture
Tension headaches are the most commonly occurring headache in our society by a long shot.
What causes a tension headache?
The cause of tension headaches is often unknown. The most likely cause is muscle spasm and dysfunction. The muscles and fascia surrounding your skull and neck can become stressed, inflamed, spasm and cause pain and referred pain around your skull, forehead, temple and face. Emotional stressors can impact the contracted state of muscles in the head and neck. However, these issues are most often due to physical stressors such as difficult and prolonged labor, sitting at a computer and concentrating for extended periods of time, or physical trauma such as whiplash from a car accident. See our helpful resources on these topics:
What are the signs and symptoms of tension headaches?
Tension headache are often described as:
- Pain that starts in the back of the head and upper area of the neck. It at times is described as a band-like tightness or pressure surrounding the head.
- The most intense discomfort is often felt near the temples or in the forehead, where the temporalis muscle and frontalis muscle are situated.
- The pain often on both sides of the head.
- The pain is not associated with an aura, like migraines often are, nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound.
- Sufferers of tension headaches are often able to continue their normal daily, despite the headache.
How are tension headaches treated?
Our Chiropractors at Mobility Plus Chiropractic are highly trained at diagnosis of tension headaches and ruling out other more sinister causes. If you are diagnosed with a tension headache, you are in luck. We have extensive experience dealing with this form of headache and our treatment approach has been extremely effective at alleviating tension headache pain in our patients.
Cluster headaches are less common than tension headaches. They derive their name because they tend to occur daily, for periods of a week or more, then followed by long periods of time without any symptoms. During assessment from a trained professional, the pain and discomfort will not be traced to muscle spasm or tension. The true cause of cluster headaches is uncertain. However, some evidence suggests that they may result from the sudden release of the chemicals histamine and serotonin in the brain. Scans of the brain while a patient has been experiencing a cluster headache has revealed abnormal activity in the hypothalamus, an area located at the base of the brain and responsible for the body’s circadian rhythm (our biological clocks). This may be a potential source of the pain. These forms of headaches often have a genetic component and run in families, may be triggered by changes in sleep patterns and may be triggered by certain medications. Other potential aggravating and triggering factors found in research include cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and certain foods like chocolate and those containing nitrites, like certain smoked meats.
What are the symptoms of cluster headaches?
Cluster headaches affects men more frequently. They can begin in adolescence and extend into adulthood. Here are more common symptoms:
- Pain typically occurs once or twice daily.
- Each episode of pain usually will last between 30 to 90 minutes.
- They often occur roughly around the same time each day and can even wake the person at night from sleep.
- The pain typically is excruciating and located around or behind one eye.
- The eye on the affected side can become red, inflamed, and watery.
- The nose on the affected side can become congested and runny.
The pain of cluster headaches can at times become so extreme that people suffering have been known to have suicidal thoughts and bang their heads against walls.
When should you be worried about your headache and seek medical care
Seek medical care if your headache is:
- If your headache can be confidently described as the “worst headache of your life.” This is the wording medical professionals will use (if volunteered by the patient without being prompted) as a cue to consider a subarachnoid hemorrhage diagnosis. This is a ruptured cerebral aneurysm and is a medial emergency.
- Starts suddenly or is aggravated by physical exertion, coughing, sexual activity or straining.
- Changes dramatically with positional changes in the body such as bending forward.
- Associated with persistent nausea and vomiting.
- Associated fever, chills, weight loss or night sweats (systemic symptoms)
- Associated with stiffness in the neck. This can indicate meningitis or blood pooling from a ruptured aneurysm. However, don’t be too concerned if you are also experiencing a stiff neck, as this is most often simply the result of associated muscle spasm of inflammation.
- Associated with seizures.
- Associated with recent head trauma or a fall.
- Associated with changes in vision, speech, or behavior.
- Associated with weakness or sensation changes on only one side of the body. This may be a sign of a stroke.
- Do not respond to treatment or is progressively getting worse.
Secondary headaches are exactly that; secondary to underlying structural or infectious problem in the head or neck. It describes a broad group of medical conditions that could include dental pain, sinus infections, to life-threatening conditions like brain bleeds, encephalitis or meningitis.
Possible causes of secondary headaches include:
- Acute sinusitis (sinus infection)
- Arterial tears (carotid or vertebral dissections)
- Blood clot (venous thrombosis) within the brain — separate from stroke
- Brain aneurysm (a bulge in an artery in your brain)
- Brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation) — an abnormal formation of brain blood vessels
- Brain tumor
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Chiari malformation (structural problem at the base of your skull)
- Dental problems
- Ear infection (middle ear)
- Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
- Giant cell arteritis (inflammation of the lining of the arteries)
- Glaucoma (acute angle closure glaucoma)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Influenza (flu) and other febrile (fever) illnesses
- Intracranial hematoma
- Medications to treat other disorders
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Overuse of pain medication
- Panic attacks and panic disorder
- Post-concussion syndrome
- Pressure from tight headgear, such as a helmet or goggles
- Pseudotumor cerebri
- Trigeminal neuralgia
How to get rid of a headache on your own
1. Assess your sleep schedule – consistent sleep that is neither too little or too much can impact headache intensity and onset.
2. Eat regular meals every day at similar times.
3. Physical exercise – helps release endorphins and can be as simple as walking, swimming, biking, jogging or lifting weights at the gym.
4. Stay well hydrated – dehydration is a known trigger for migraine and suboccipital headaches.
5. Check your stress – take action to lower any external stressors in your life that you may have control over. Meditation and the above mentioned strategies could also have a dramatic impact on lowering stress levels.
6. Drink coffee – at least as much as your body is used to. Evidence suggests that if you are used to having several cups of coffee each morning and then miss out, you may trigger a withdrawal headache.
7. Reach for an ice pack or hot pack – cold will slow blood flow around the nerves and potentially reduce the intensity and frequency of their pain signaling, while heat may improve blood flow to muscles that are in spasm or tension, thereby allowing them to relax.
8. Get a massage – especially if you are suffering from a tension type headache.
9. Seek out a dark, quiet room.
10. Take a break from screens.
11. Take a Vitamin B2 supplement.
12. Keep a diary to identify triggers.
Chiropractic Treatment for Headache Relief
Our Chiropractor in Oakville will allow you to finally discover what is causing your headache (in most cases it’s not what you think). You will learn the most important self-management techniques to keep your headaches at bay and leave knowing how to apply them. During your expert headache relief session you will:
- Receive a personalized plan to get you pain free FAST
- Receive expert treatment to help give you relief and end your frustrating battle with headaches
- Leave with clarity and certainty about how you can be headache free
If you’d like to end your headaches and you know that this session will help you, simply follow the link below to check our schedules and book your appointment online.