National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

Did you know?…Migraines and headaches impact 40 million people in the United States, 1 billion people across the globe, and are recognized as the 2nd leading cause of disability worldwide (National Migraine & Headache Foundation). Headaches come in all forms, but the most common types are: tension, cervicogenic, cluster, and migraine. 

Tension Headaches are the most common type of headache. The exact cause is unknown but tight muscles are a big contributing factor. Tension headaches are characterized by mild to moderate pain felt in the back of the neck and base of the skull, and both sides of the head are affected, and pain is described as feeling dull, achy and tight. Tension headaches are more common in women, and are thought to be triggered or associated with stress, depression,  anxiety, poor posture, lack of sleep, and hormone changes. 

Cervicogenic Headaches result from structural problems in the neck, due to joint dysfunction or misalignments with the cervical vertebrae. In most cases, cervicogenic headaches are accompanied by neck pain, muscle tightness, reduced range of motion in the neck, upper back pain and tension. People can also develop cervicogenic headaches after an injury to the neck, such as whiplash. 

Cluster headaches are one of the most severe types of headaches. They are so named because they are a cluster of headaches that occur in a short period of time (usually weeks) followed by a remission period (months or years) where there are no headaches. Most clusters occur 1-2x per year. Cluster headaches are rare, affecting less than 1% of the population, most of which are men aged 20-50. Cluster headaches come on quickly, often one-sided, described as a sharp, penetrating-pain, and may include excessive tearing of the eye, runny or stuffy nose, with a red flushed face. 

 Migraine headaches are more common in women, and typically begin in childhood or early adulthood, but become less frequent and intense with age. They are often severe, disabling and can last hours to days. They’re typically felt on one side and can be worsened with exposure to light and/or sound, accompanied by nausea, vomiting and may even be preceded by an aura. Auras usually occur 15-30min before a migraine/headache begins and may include sparkling flashes of light, slowly spreading “blind spots,” tingling, pins and needles sensation, weakness or even a change in speech. It’s important to note that not all patients who suffer from migraines experience auras, as they are quite rare. Migraines that include auras are also known as a “classic” migraine, and those without auras are also known as “common” migraines

Prevention & Treatment: Suffering from migraines/headaches is common, but here are some helpful prevention tips and treatment. At home recommendations include but are not limited to: avoid headache triggers such as alcohol (especially beer and red wine), cheese, chocolate, aspartame, caffeine, skipping meals or fasting, bright lights, and certain smells such as perfumes, smoke, chemicals. There is also research that suggests regular exercise, supplementing with Vitamin B and Magnesium, sleeping 7-8hrs per night, and managing stress can all play a role in reducing intensity and frequency of headaches/migraines. Research also supports that quitting smoking helps as well. Regular chiropractic care to help maintain proper structure, function, and range of motion in the cervical spine to prevent various headache episodes is one avenue of treatment that research supports. Massage therapy is another treatment option to help reduce tight muscles and trigger points contributing to headaches.

Unfortunately, there are instances when chiropractic care, massage, and lifestyle changes are simply not enough. When conservative management is not helping, it is advised you seek care from your medical provider for further evaluation and treatment. 

I hope you found this blog on Migraine and Headache Awareness to be informative and helpful. Windom Area Health Outreach offers Chiropractic services throughout the week, to learn more about these services and how to set up an appointment, go to our Chiropractic Services page.

By Dr. Kylie J. Norell, D.C.

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