A headache is pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck. It can be a symptom of a number of different conditions of the head and neck. The brain tissue itself is not sensitive to pain because it lacks pain receptors. Rather, the pain is caused by disturbance of the pain-sensitive structures around the brain. Several areas of the head and neck have these pain-sensitive structures, which are the cranium, muscles, nerves, arteries and veins, subcutaneous tissues, eyes, ears, sinuses and mucous membranes.
The most Common Types of Headaches:
Tension headaches: Also called chronic daily headaches or chronic non-progressive headaches, tension headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults and adolescents. These muscle contraction headaches cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over a prolonged period of time.
Migraines: The exact causes of migraines are unknown, although they are related to blood vessel contractions and other changes in the brain as well as inherited abnormalities in certain areas of the brain. Migraine pain is moderate to severe, often described as pounding, throbbing pain. They can last from four hours to three days and usually occur one to four times per month. Migraines are associated with symptoms such as sensitivity to light, noise, or odors; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and stomach upset or abdominal pain. When a child is having a migraine they often look pale, feel dizzy, have blurred vision, fever, stomach upset, in addition to having the above listed symptoms.
A small percentage of pediatric migraines include recurrent (cyclic) gastrointestinal symptoms, in which vomiting is most common. Cyclic vomiting means that the symptoms occur on a regular basis — about once a month. These types of migraines are sometimes called abdominal migraines.
Mixed headache syndrome: Also called transformed migraines, this is a combination of migraine and tension headaches. Both adults and children experience this type of headache.
Cluster headaches: The least common — although the most severe — type of primary headache, the pain of a cluster headache is intense and may be described as having a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant. The pain is so severe that most cluster headache sufferers cannot sit still and will often pace during an attack. The pain is located behind one eye or in the eye region, without changing sides. The term “cluster headache” refers to headaches that have a characteristic grouping of attacks. Cluster headaches occur one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last two weeks to three months. The headaches may disappear completely (go into “remission”) for months or years, only to recur.
Sinus headaches: Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining and usually occurs with other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling.
A randomized, controlled, and blind observer study evaluated whether cervical adjustment alone had any effect on cervicogenic headache. Of the 53 subjects studied, 28 received cervical manipulation twice a week for 3 weeks. 25 received low level laser and deep tissue massage. Results showed a 69% reduction in headache hours per day in the manipulation group with a 36% decrease in both use of analgesics and headache intensity. (JMPT, June 1997)
A Journal of Manipulative Physiologic Therapeutics article compared the effectiveness of spinal manipulation and the drug amytriptyline for chronic tension-type headache. The results showed spinal manipulation to be “effective in tension headache treatment” and after 4 week follow-up there was “sustained therapeutic benefit.” The patients taking amytriptyline reverted to baseline values at the 4 week follow-up. (JMPT, May 1996).
A 1995 study evaluated nasal specific technique with other chiropractic interventions in the management of chronic head pain. The conclusion was that these techniques were useful in treating chronic sinus inflammation and pain. (JMPT, Jan. 1995)
A 2004 study assessed whether manipulation, or mobilization, relieved pain or improved functional disability in mechanical neck disorders with or without headache. The study concluded that there was “strong evidence” that manipulation with exercise was a beneficial treatment. (Spine, 2004)
A 2002 case study of a patient with TMJ disorder and atlas subluxation concluded that the patients symptoms “improved and eventually resolved after 9 visits of chiropractic treatment.” (JMPT, Jan. 2002)
Cervical spinal manipulation was associated with significant improvement in headache outcomes in two trials involving patients with neck pain and/or neck dysfunction and headache. There was immediate improvement in headache severity when used to treat episodes of cervicogenic headache when compared with an attention-placebo control. (Duke University Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC))
A 1996 study published in the journal “Injury” concluded that chiropractic treatment was able to help relieve pain in 93% of patients with chronic whiplash injuries. (Injury, 1996;27:643-645)
In 1994 a study published by the US Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) and the US Department of Health and Human Services endorsed spinal manipulation for acute low back pain in adults in its Clinical Practice Guideline #14. An independent multidisciplinary panel of private-sector clinicians and other experts convened and developed specific statements on appropriate health care of acute low back problems in adults. One statement cited, that relief of discomfort (low back pain) can be accomplished most safely with spinal manipulation, and/or non-prescriptive medication.
The 1993 Manga study, published in Canada, investigated the cost effectiveness of chiropractic care. The report supported chiropractic care as a safe, efficient care and stated it would save hundreds of millions of dollars annually with regard to work disability payments and direct health care costs when compared to conventional medical treatment.
A June 1993 Stano cost comparison study, reported in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics, involved 395,641 patients with neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Results over a two-year period showed that patients who received chiropractic care incurred significantly lower health care costs than patients treated solely by medical or osteopathic physicians.
A 1991 Gallup Pole (demographic poll) revealed that 90% of chiropractic patients felt their treatment was effective; more than 80% were satisfied with that treatment; and nearly 75% felt most of their expectations had been met during their chiropractic visits.