Possible (or probable) solution for headaches

I was just thinking back to some of the first patients I saw after I opened up my office here in Schuylkill County. One was a 30ish year old female with chronic headaches that she had almost daily for 15 years. It was a case that I felt I could not help, but turns out she responded very very well. Since, I’ve realized that headaches is one of the conditions that responds best and most consistently to chiropractic care.

Headaches can occur for a variety of reasons. They are usually multi-factorial, meaning they usually have many causes. Many females will claim there’s nothing to be done because it is due to their hormonal cycle. Others will say it’s due to stress. For some, it’s due to certain foods that they eat. That all may be true, but another cause in addition to all of those reasons is tight neck muscles and joints. If this is an issue, it may cause those other things to trigger a headaches. The goal should be to remove as many aggravating factors as possible, with the expectation that it will help prevent headaches. For instance, in many of my female patients we do not change their hormonal issues, but by taking away the neck issues, it prevents the headaches from occurring (or at least reduces the severity and frequency).

Going back to that early patient of mine, she had frequent severe headaches for 15 years. She would at least have a mild constant headache, with full blown migraines 3-5 days out of the week. She had various testing done like blood work and brain MRIs and CT scans. All testing was negative, but in a case like this, it was good they ruled out tumors, infection, etc. They then tried her on a variety of medications. No improvement was seen. She even tried a very strict diet to rule out food sensitivities. That was a smart thing to try, but that didn’t help either.

So, she ends up in my office and explains all this to me, Dr. Newbie. I wasn’t very confident that I could help, but since she did not yet try chiropractic care, I feel she deserved to have the chance to see if it would work. So, we set her up with 6 visits as a trial of care. Each visit consisted of gentle muscle work to the back of the neck and head and chiropractic adjustments. I’m happy to say that since that very first visit, her headaches have gone away. I think in the 5 years since I first saw her, she may have had 2-3 flare ups, once while she was pregnant.

So, what did we work on? What did the other doctors (family doctor, neurologist, pain management) miss? Well, they only tried to address her headaches chemically, not physically. In her case, there was a physical problem. When I examined her neck, it was very tight and the muscles were very tender. This tightness can affect the way things work in this area, and can also affect circulation and may lead to ‘pinched’ nerves. Let’s take a look at the muscles, nerves, and blood supply in the photos below.

As you can see, there’s quite a bit of going on in this area. That is why this region should be examined in anyone having frequent headaches and treated if appropriate. You can even check this on your own right now. Use your fingers to find the base of your skull. To find it, touch the bottom of your ear lobe and then go straight back around your head. About an inch or two from the center on each side, you’ll feel a bony bump with a softer area just underneath it. The bony bump is your skull and the softer area is the muscle. Apply pressure of “poke” this muscle. Is it tender? If you suffer from frequent headaches, chances are this area is very tender, along with many other muscles along the base of the skull and back of the neck.

I didn’t get a chance to get into the specific details about the muscles and nerves involved, trigger points, referral patterns, etc., but hopefully you’re at least aware of some other causes of headaches so you understand that medications are not always going to be the best treatment strategy. In cases where the muscles and joints are tight, a different solution is required.

If you’re experiencing frequent chronic headaches and nothing else seems to be working, or if even if you haven’t been checked out for this problem, give our office a call to set up an appointment for an examination to see if we can help this through hands on care.

(Dr. Touchinsky is a chiropractor in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County at Blue Mountain Family Chiropractic. The office is located along Route 61 and is easily accessible from Hamburg, Pottsville, Schuylkill Haven, and the surrounding areas. The phone number is 570-366-2613 and the website can be found by clicking here.)

5 thoughts on “Possible (or probable) solution for headaches

  1. Hey Buddy – I enjoyed reading your article about the headaches. I, as you know, also suffer from headaches and have learned to live with them. I never know what will set them off. I do agree that the muscle tightness along my neck can keep a headache lingering for days. May be I should schedule more visits and really take care of these horrible things called “head aches”. Talk to you soon!

  2. Massage therapy is also a great alternative. Especially Crianial Sacral therapy which is centered around releasing the facial layers that encase the brain and spinal chord, as well as encouraging the flow of Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF). More often than not this technique, combined with treatment of surrounding muscle groups of the neck and back, will help reduce headache issues as well as several other benefits


  3. You are 100% correct muscles are the primary cause of all pain that we experience in the body.
    So pain in the head is due to muscles in the neck, face, head and shoulders
    Lower back pain is due to all the few hundred muscle in the lower back.
    Leg pain is the same.
    Foot pain is due to the muscles in the lower leg.

    After 32 years of practicing board-certified Family Medicine with additional training in Physical Medicine and Rehab, various styles of Acupuncture, Dry Needling, Travell/Simons Trigger Point Remedies, Rachlin, Hackett of Prolotherapy, and GunnIMS,

    I am 100% certain of these next statements:

    “All pain problems must have a reasonable cause, a location within the body, a single organ tissue location, a tissue pathology a match solution which will benefit the pathology and thus eradicates the original pain pathology.” -SSR

    “The treatments for pain should be directed at the exact pathology of the pain. The most common primary location is within the Muscular System. The exact pathology of this pain is intramuscular microscars. The only treatments for IntraMuscular MicroScars are in the disciplines and modalities of Physical Therapy. Physical therapy is the only treatment which can benefit the intramuscular pathology which drives the pain signals.” -SSR

    Lower back pain treatment is with physical therapy.
    Pain in the leg treatment is with physical therapy.
    Pain in the head, face, jaw, scalp, cheeks, mouth, neck, shoulders is all treated with physical therapy.
    Pain in any part of the body is treated with physical therapy until it is proven, beyond doubt, that the pain source is from another pathology which will only respond to medications or surgery.
    Pain in any part of the body is not confirmed with any form of technology without first concluding that it is not in the muscular system.
    Pain should NEVER first be treated with spinal fusion, amputations of body parts, rearrangement, reconstruction, shaving, glue, cement, grafting, nipping or the like.
    Did I say, “amputations of body parts” for the treatment of pain??!! Today this scheme is bizarre to consider.
    Chronic, subacute or long-term pain cannot go automatically heal without some form of physical therapy. Based on the laws of human muscle pathophysiology of pain, complete, independent and automatic healing is impossible without help.
    IM pain is easily denied ignored as all in the “head” because this pain is 100% invisible to the human eye and technology. What is seen on MRI or X-Rays are skeletal images. Skeletal images are not primary evidence and thus cannot be the exact location of this pain.

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