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Integrated Health Solutions

The leading Downtown, Carmel and Northeast side Indianapolis Chiropractor

Comprehensive treatment for lasting pain relief.

Headache Types and Associated Reasons for Them

Headaches can present in a variety of ways and understanding not only why they are occurring, but how we can treat and prevent them is a burning question for so many of us.

Questions answered:

What are the different types of headaches? What are the causes of headaches? What can IHS do to help in the treatment and overall prevention of headaches? Recent case history and resolution of a patient with chronic headaches.

What are the different types of headaches?

Headaches can vary in intensity, duration, location and many more factors. Headaches can be categorized as: migraine, tension/stress, sinus/allergy, and cluster. Migraine headaches are one of the most known types of headaches, and can vary greatly in their presentation and symptomatology. Migraines are headaches that usually present unilaterally (on one side of the head), moderate to severe in intensity, have a pulsing or throbbing feeling and occur with additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears and sensitivity to light. 

Tension headaches (or commonly known as stress headaches) occur in a band-like fashion spanning around the head from the forehead level. These are the most common headaches that are experienced and feel like a steady aching pain rather than a sharp or pulsing sensation, and do not cause sensitivity to light or sound and do not cause nausea. Imagine you have on a headband that is about 5 sizes too small for your head and you are wearing that around throughout the day and night. 

Sinus headaches (or headaches associated with allergies) occur in a large amount of people and feel like a pressure in the middle of the facial region in the shape of an “X”. This pressure is mainly noticed and is increased behind the eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead and presents as a dull aching sensation and can occasionally feel like a pulsing throughout the area. 

Cluster headaches are the least common type of headaches and present as a sharp and sudden pain usually surrounding one eye and are fairly short in duration. These can last for days to weeks at a time and are intermittent, meaning they are not felt constantly, they come and go throughout the day and are more common at night time. 

While these are the main types of headaches, there are certainly others ranging anywhere from cervicogenic (referred from the neck), temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and even hormonal. Please reach out to us with any questions on headaches not covered in this blog, as we can provide treatment and knowledgeable advice on these topics as well. We are always here to help.

What are the causes of headaches?

Depending on your type of headache there can be several different reasons for why they are occurring. Let’s start with migraine headaches. For those of us that struggle with these headaches, we are most likely familiar with the certain things that can trigger a headache to begin. These include but are not limited to: stress or anxiety, hormonal changes, exercise, dehydration, certain foods or drinks and even a lack of sleep. While the exact cause of migraine headaches is not known for certain, any of these triggers are thought to provoke a migraine headache by temporarily altering the brain activity through nerve signals, blood vessels and even chemical make-up. 

Stress/tension headaches are normally caused by increased contraction of the musculature in the head and neck region. When these muscles become hypertonic, they pull on the surrounding insertion points and layers of fascia to create the dull aching sensation usually noted in the band-like fashion around the head. This tension can be caused by a wide variety of factors including: stress, poor posture, straining of the eyes, clenching or grinding of the teeth, injury and dehydration. As the name gives away, stress is one of the main triggers for these headaches and can vary from physical stress, mental stress and even emotional stress to cause this tension. 

Next we have sinus or allergy headaches. Also as the name gives away, allergies are the main cause of sinus headaches. These headaches are brought on by an increase in mucus production or a blockage of the nasal passageways that causes the increased pressure in the facial region. This can be due to allergies, sickness and infection or even conditions such as a deviated septum which alters the space in the nasal region and can impact the bodys’ ability to properly breathe, or in this case, properly drain the sinuses of fluid and pressure. The two main sinuses that are associated with this condition are the frontal and maxillary sinuses. The frontal sinus spans over the eyebrows and down towards the bridge of the nose, while the maxillary sinus runs from the bridge of the nose towards the corner of the mouth down the outside of the nostrils. In between these two are the ethmoidal sinuses, which drain additional fluid to keep the inside of the nose from drying out. 

Lastly, we have cluster headaches. Similar to migraine headaches, the exact cause of cluster headaches is not well-known. However, it is suggested that these headaches are brought on due to a temporary change in the bodys’ biological clock, which is controlled by the hypothalamus. Things that are commonly thought to bring about this change include: increased amounts of drinking, smoking, high altitude change (flights or locations at high elevation) or physical and mental stress. It is also thought that the sudden release of histamine or serotonin plays a role in these headaches, due to the role of the hypothalamus, which opens the door to additional causes such as allergies, exercise, certain foods with high levels of nitrates (bacon or types of lunch meat like ham, turkey or salami) and drug use.

What can Integrated Health Solutions do for the treatment and prevention of these conditions?

During a session with a doctor at Integrated Health Solutions, you will be given 4 different types of treatment, each with a specialized purpose and role in the healing process. The first treatment is medical dry needling. This solution applies the use of different filaments to stimulate blood flow, reduce spasm and muscle tension as well as to promote the reparation and growth of healthy functioning tissue. This is crucial for any muscle related injury, and specifically great for tension type headaches with increased muscle tightness. Dry needling can reduce the spastic tension in the muscles surrounding the head and neck region due to day to day stress, poor posture and many other causes. This treatment helps alleviate the pressure and allow for better blood flow to the region.

The next treatment administered is soft tissue manual therapy. This treatment follows the medical dry needling, and is a form of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) which is used for muscle fiber alignment and continued blood flow promotion. This therapy is done initially with a tool by the doctor to align the now relieved muscle fibers after the dry needling therapy. Following the instrument, the doctor will then use their hands with the active and passive motions of the patient to further stretch and release tension from the muscle fibers. This specific therapy called Active Release Technique (ART), is performed by shortening then subsequently lengthening the muscle, all while the doctor provides a pinning pressure to an active point of tension along the muscle fiber. Light pressure and tissue mobilization can also be performed along the sinuses in the facial region to release additional pressure which can cause the sinus/allergy headaches.

After the muscles have been released of the tension, the doctor will then provide the patient with an adjustment. These high velocity, low amplitude (HVLA) manipulations provide proper joint centration as well as increased joint range of motion. During our day to day activities, joints are manipulated into improper positions through muscle tension and faulty movements. The adjustment is applied to correct this joint disturbance and allow for better movement. During the adjustment, some patients report hearing a “pop” or “cracking” sound. This is perfectly normal. As the joint is centered into its proper positioning, it is temporarily taken into the paraphysiological space and a small amount of gas is released from the joint space. This gas consists of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide and is what produces this normal sensation.

The final aspect of treatment is the functional rehabilitation. This is a vital piece of the treatment process as it is used to not only treat, but prevent future pain and dysfunction. By using the methods of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS), our doctors can institute global stability along with proper functional mobility to stimulate healthy tissue. This is the part of the treatment process that is used to empower our patients to be active in their treatment plan and help prevent future problems. Each rehabilitation plan is carefully monitored and tailored to the individual patient given their limitations and daily requirements.

Recent case history and patient resolution:

A recent patient we had in the clinic presented with chronic headaches. Upon examination and thorough questioning, this patient’s headaches were found to be stemming from not only physical tension along the neck and back side of the head, but from a heavy amount of emotional and mental stress from work. The treatment plan was followed as presented above with medical dry needling and soft tissue manual therapy being applied for tension relief and improved blood flow, chiropractic manipulation to institute proper joint centration and allow for improved range of motion, and a specifically catered rehabilitation program to promote the activation of the deeper stabilizing musculature as well as meditation and mental exercises to create a more present sense of relaxation. 

This approach allowed for the patient to have the physical as well as the mental/emotional states of the problem be treated. The patient admitted they had other approaches in the past, but were unsuccessful in treating his pain.

After 6 fantastic sessions with the doctor, the patient reported a new daily regimen with improved ergonomics and posture, daily exercises to continue diminishing and preventing future pain, a meditation routine to calm their mental stress levels and a 90% improvement from the initial visit. After 2 additional visits they felt 99% overall improvement in the neck pain and chronic headaches.

Each visit lasted about 40 minutes with the patient to fully incorporate all aspects of treatment and receive the best potential outcome. 

In Summary:

This blog spent time discussing the several main types of headaches that a person experiences, what can potentially cause these headaches, what we can do to help alleviate and prevent the headaches from returning, and gave a case example of a patient who experienced a complete resolution of their headaches during treatment.

Headaches can have a variety of causes and present with a plethora of symptoms you may feel on a day to day basis. Whether it be migraine headaches occurring on one side of the head and face with associated nausea and light sensitivity or tension based headaches due to increased physical and mental stress from a fatiguing lifestyle, we can help provide the optimal treatment plan individually catered to the patient to give the most relief possible. 

Our integrated approach offers a multi-faceted solution to the pain and difficulty of headaches. Dry needling and soft tissue manual therapy are provided for muscle tension and spasm relief, chiropractic adjustments are given to allow proper joint centration and increased range of motion and an individually catered functional rehabilitation plan is given to empower the patient to get the best out of each and every day possible. Seeing a doctor here is like seeing four doctors in one visit.

Some people have lived with headaches and pain for so long that they think it is just a part of their day to day life now. There are so many different treatment options for headaches and other conditions, and we aim to blend the best of all options into one wholesome Integrated Health Solution for you. If you or someone you know struggles with the constant day to day disruption and pain of headaches, call and schedule your first appointment with any of our incredible team members and see the difference today!

Content provided by Dr. Jordan Miller

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