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Headaches: How to Treat and Supplements that Help!

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Headaches are a common condition that most people experience at some point during their lives. The main symptom is usually pain in your head or face.

They can be caused by chemical activity in the brain, the nerves or blood vessels surrounding the skull, and your head and neck muscles (or a combination of these). Some people may have genes that increase their risk of headaches.

What is a headache?

A headache is a pain in your head or face that’s often described as a pressure that’s throbbing, constant, sharp or dull. They can affect any part of the head, and pain may be present in one or several locations. Headaches also cause various types of pain. Classifying the pain can help a doctor reach a diagnosis. They can differ greatly in regard to severity, type, location and frequency.

What causes headaches or migraines?

The interaction of impulses between your brain, blood vessels, and surrounding nerves can cause headaches. During a headache, multiple mechanisms activate specific nerves that affect muscles and blood vessels. These nerves send pain signals to your brain, causing a headache. Stress, diet, and underlying conditions could contribute to these conditions.

There are over 150 types of headaches. The most common types we see in our office are cervicogenic headaches, tension type headaches, and hormonal migraines. A migraine is a form of a headache disorder, which is a common neurological condition that causes a variety of symptoms – most notably a throbbing headache on one side of your head. Migraines often get worse with physical activity, lights, sounds or smells. They usually last at least four hours or even days and can be associated with or without auras. Migraines are 3 times more common in women than men. This statistic has led researchers to believe that it could be hormone related.

How are headaches treated?

Many patients come to the office suffering from migraine headaches and have tried a variety of treatments without success. Chiropractic is an incredibly beneficial tool in reducing the discomfort associated with this condition!

Alternative therapies aimed at stress reduction might help:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

  • Stress Management

  • Biofeedback

  • Massage therapy

  • Acupuncture

One of the most crucial aspects of treating headaches is figuring out your triggers. When headache triggers are known, avoiding these triggers can prevent an attack. Reducing stress can also minimize or prevent headaches altogether. Migraine and cluster headaches may be prevented by taking a daily preventive medicines or lifestyle changes. You can treat the occasional or mild headache at home with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Other self-care treatments for headaches:

  • Applying heat or cold packs to your head

  • Doing stretching exercises

  • Massaging your head, neck or back

  • Resting in a dark and quiet room

  • Taking a walk

Almost everyone gets headaches, and many are nothing to worry about. But if headaches are disrupting your activities, work or personal life, it's time to see your doctor. Headaches can't always be prevented, but your doctor can help you manage the symptoms. There are hundreds of therapies available for headache sufferers, we're happy to help you!

Chiropractic care for headache treatment?

A chiropractic treatment for headaches usually involves soft tissue work around the musculature at the base of the skull as well as the neck and shoulders. Loosening these muscles is very beneficial in reducing tightness and tension associated with these issues. Cervical and atlanto-occipital adjustments as well as manual occipital release can help to release tension and bring blood flow to the area which is beneficial in reducing inflammation.

At our office we also have additional treatment modalities such as ultrasound, electric stimulation, cupping and cold laser therapy.

  • Sub-Occipital Muscles: These are deep muscles that are a direct connection between the head and upper cervical (neck) region. When they become tight and irritated it can be a common pain generator. Chiropractors can use a variety of techniques to loosen these muscles such as scraping, ART, occipital release technique and massage.

  • Neck Musculature: Tension type headaches can be associated with the head and neck muscles. Stretching out muscles such as the anterior, middle and posterior scalenes, levator scapulae and trapezius muscles can be beneficial for patients who are experiencing tension headaches. Chiropractors can also utilize additional therapeutic modalities such as electric stimulation and ultrasound along these muscles to reduce pain and inflammation.

What else can I do to treat headaches or migraines?

  • Decrease stress levels

  • Increase water intake

  • Exercise and move your body daily

  • See a massage therapist

  • Supplementation

  • Decrease inflammation with infrared saunas

  • Use our salt booth to decrease congestion

Which supplements are helpful?

  • Magnesium: An incredibly beneficial addition to your supplement regime is magnesium. A study performed in 2020 has shown a correlation between magnesium deficiency and chronic headaches. The results of the study stated, “Overall, the use of oral magnesium salt represents a well-tolerated and inexpensive addition for the treatment of headache patients, to reduce the frequency of attacks and the costs of treatment both in terms of economic burden and adverse events.” This is one of our first recommendations to patients who have not been able to find relief. Magnesium is a safe alternative for pregnant patients as well and has been shown to relieve headaches as well as muscle cramping.

  • Riboflavin aka Vitamin B2: Remember in middle school when they taught us that “Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell!” This vitamin is used in the processes in our body that utilize mitochondria and produce energy. Studies have shown that migraines are potentially an issue with metabolism and it has been shown that taking additional B2 can be beneficial in reducing your migraine frequency.

  • CoenzymeQ10: This is naturally produced in the human body and acts as a “start button” for metabolic processes hence the “co” portion of its name. It is highly involved in metabolic function and is helpful in producing energy as well. Studies have shown that supplementing with this can also reduce migraine headaches. It is important to note that this can interact with certain anticoagulants and make them less effective.

In Conclusion:

If your headaches are interfering with your daily functioning or affecting your mood, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. Even through treatment, you should still steer clear of the things you know can trigger your headaches, like foods or smells. And it’s important to stick to healthy habits that will keep you feeling good, like regular exercise, enough sleep, and a healthy diet.

Come visit us at ANH Wellness if you are struggling with any of these issues or talk to your own provider about adding some of these techniques to your care plan. If you are experiencing headaches or migraines, we would be happy to help!

By: Dr. Abby Kellogg

Chiropractor at ANH Wellness

Disclaimer: "The information including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment."

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