Headaches and Migraines

Just about everyone suffers with headaches at some point in time but headaches can be very individual. Headaches can vary from a sharp pain, to a dull ache that may be very short lived or may go on for several days. The causes of headaches can be just as varied as their symptoms. Fortunately, very few headaches have serious underlying causes.

Cervicogenic Headaches

The most common cause (75%) of recurrent headache is the cervicogenic headache. This headaches feel like a constant dull, achy feeling either on one side or both sides of the head, some people describe it as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. Cervicogenic basically means coming from the neck. Cervicogenic headache, in a way, is one of the most unusual headaches because the pain truly isn’t in the head. Cervicogenic headache is referred pain from a source in the neck.

The researchers say cervicogenic headache is caused by:

a syndrome characterized by chronic hemi-cranial pain that is referred to the head from either bony structures or soft tissues of the neck. This is a result of the convergence of upper cervical and trigeminal sensory pathways allows the bi-directional referral of painful sensations between the neck and trigeminal sensory receptive fields of the face and head resulting in referral of cervical pain to the head.

That lot doesn’t mean to anyone – I’m not particularly keen on scientist speak, so I will explain this in more friendly language –

Trigeminal Nucleus

The nerves that supply the face and head go to a point just at the top of your neck, but there are another set of nerves here that also control the sensations and muscles around the neck. All these nerves are packed into a tiny space – and are all twisted around each other.

Imagine telephone lines – if they got twisted up then the signal would go to the wrong place – the same thing is happening with the nerves, a problem in the neck is causing a pain into the head – causing that headache.

Telephone Exchange

Chiropractors are fantastic with Cervicogenic headaches – back at university we spend years learning everything about the neck, every single muscle, nerve and bone to the nth degree. This makes us perfect to diagnosis problems the neck. Once we know exactly what the problem is we can go about fixing it.


Migraines are the other sort of headache that we see a lot of. If you suffer with migraine your not alone, 190,000 people suffer with a migraine everyday in the UK. A Migraine tends to feel different from a headache.

Migraine headaches are caused by restriction of the blood supply to the brain, as a result parts of the brain can lack oxygen. The lack of oxygen creates an “aura”, for most migraine suffers these results in visual disturbances, double vision, flashing lights, wavy lines almost like a dream appearance. The aura can cause many other symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, and weakness in different parts of the body.

Migraine Aura

The restriction of blood supply to the brain is caused by constriction of the blood vessels. Some people don’t suffer the ‘classic’ aura type symptoms, but because of the restriction of blood to the brain they become aware that ‘something isn't right’ and can tell an episode is imminent.

Lack of oxygen in the brain results in a sudden and rapid increase in blood pressure inside the head, this is the bodies way of counteracting the hypoxia. This increase in pressure leads to the pounding/throbbing headache. Every beat of the heart feels like a shock wave hammering through the skull.

It may not be easy to identify what is triggering your migraine if your attacks are linked to a number of different things. A trigger may not cause an attack every time, which may confuse the situation even more. The most common are wine, cheese, chocolate, caffeine etc.

Chiropractors are great at dealing with migraines. Since these headaches will not subside until whatever issue is triggering them is remedied, it is essential to get to the source of the problem as opposed to take medication to mask the symptoms. Chiropractors focus primarily on the nerves and musculoskeletal system. Posture and muscular asymmetries may be contributing factors to migraines. Particular attention will be paid to the muscles and joints of the neck, tension or spasm in the neck, loss of neck movement.

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