Chiropractors and Headaches
Do you suffer from headaches? Do you know what type of headache you suffer from? Is it a classical migraine? A cervicogenic headache? What about a rhinosinusitis headache? You see, there are lots of different types of ‘headaches’ (in fact the international headache society classifies about 200 different types and depending on which headache you have, the treatment can vary substantially. So it’s important to get the diagnosis correct. Geelong chiropractors at Latrobe Health Centre are trained to diagnosis and treat some of the most common types of headache. And if we diagnose a patient with a headache that we’re not able to treat, you’ll be referred for more appropriate treatment.
Have you heard of ‘tension-type’ (or simply ‘tension’) headaches?
Most people have heard of this type of headache. And that’s not surprising since tension-type headaches (TTH) are the most widespread headache disorder. This headache is described as a dull, aching head pain, a sensation of pressure or tightness, like a band around the head, which sometimes spreads into or from the neck. Tension headaches can be ‘episodic or intermittent’ meaning they come and go, lasting anywhere between 30min and 7 days. Or they can be ‘chronic’ meaning the headache lasts hours and occurs 15 or more days per month.
Although the name suggests that the cause of these headaches is simply ‘tension’ (things like emotional stress, anxiety, tiredness etc), there are in fact a number of potential causes of tension-type headaches. Physical stresses such as poor posture, tightness in the head and neck muscles, bright sunlight, heat and cold can trigger these headaches. There is even some suggestion that there may be a genetic factor involved.
Recent international studies have shown the average prevalence as 40% for men and 47% for women. Compare that with migraine which has a prevalence of 6% for men and 14% for women. This means that about 8 million Australians are likely to suffer from TTH.
The World Health Organisation states that TTH often begins during the teenage years and affects three women to every two men. Its mechanism may be stress-related or associated with musculoskeletal problems in the neck.
Can chiropractic care help people who suffer with tension-type headache?
Until recently, there has not been a lot of good quality research support around the use of manual therapy (which is a part of what our geelong chiropractors do) for TTH, mainly on the basis that few good quality clinical trials had been done. A new study, published online supports a growing body of recent research that is now recognising that chiropractic treatments are an effective treatment option for patients with TTH compared to both placebo and usual GP care.
Patients were sourced from neurology clinics and the study, a randomised controlled trial, was conducted in a specialised centre for headache treatment. Manual therapy treatment was given once a week for 4 weeks.. The trial consisted of 4 groups all of whom received different treatment approaches. The first group received soft tissue therapy to the neck, the second group received manipulation to the neck, the third group received a combination of soft tissue therapy and manipulation to the neck region and the forth group received a placebo.
So what were the results?
The group who received the combination of treatments (soft tissue therapy plus manipulation) did better overall. There was a decrease in headache frequency, and severity as well as less disability associated with the headaches. In addition, other symptoms often associated with TTH, like an aversion to bright lights, loud noises and tenderness around the muscles of the neck and shoulders was also reduced.
That’s a good result if you suffer from intermittent or chronic headaches!
What treatment is available to people who suffer Tension-type headache?
Common medications for chronic TTH are anti-depressants and paracetamol, anti-inflammatories and aspirin for intermittent TTH.
The prospect that a relatively short course of manual therapy can result in a reduction in headache frequency, severity and other associated symptoms is a really promising step forward in the management of this condition. It not only expands the available treatment options available to sufferers of TTH, which is the most common type of headache worldwide, but offers a safe, drug free alternative.
If you’re interested in discussing your headaches with one of our Chiropractors, please give the clinic a calll or drop in to our Latrobe Terrace clinic.