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Headaches & Chiropractic

Let’s talk about headaches and chiropractic.

First, let’s redefine “chiropractic”

When I talk about chiropractic, I do so because I’m a “chiropractor”; but, what we’re really talking about is “manual therapy” to the musculoskeletal system to relieve, rehabilitate, and improve the mechanics of the body to facilitate a healthier body.  It doesn’t really matter if you’re a chiropractor, osteopath, or physiotherapist; if you’re good at manual therapy, diagnostics, and have a compassionate bed-side manner, you should be able to help most people with most of their musculoskeletal problems.

Now, back to headaches.

A patient of mine, 36 years old, has been a patient of mine for several of my eleven years in practice.  I’ve treated him for various injuries over the years: rotator cuff injury, ankle sprains, hip pain to name a few.  Yesterday, he visited my office and told me to prioritize his chronic headaches.  At first I was surprised that we hadn’t been talking about his headaches all along.  But, he explained that his other injuries were the priority then, and the headaches have worsened lately and so his priorities have changed, especially since the shoulder, ankle, hip, etc. are all doing well lately.

He wondered aloud if I could even help him with this problem.  “Of course” was my reply.  I explained the various sources of headaches (neck muscles and joints, migraine-type, cluster, tension) so that he understood how and why he was likely suffering.  We connected the dots of his old shoulder injury to his chronic headaches by detailing the relationship between shoulder and neck mechanics.  I then detailed some recent cases of patients with the same complaint.

 Often, patients think they’re the only one suffering;

I assure you, you’re not!  A middle aged man who spends his working life typing on a computer visited me a few months ago with chronic headaches.  He had visited a neurologist who prescribed medication.  He has been taking this medication routinely for years.  He finally got fed up with not doing anything about the cause so he sought out a chiropractor.  A handful of visits and weeks later (8 visits; 2-3 months) this gentleman’s medication was cut in half, and his headaches nearly resolved – something he originally thought to be improbable.  From his very first visit, it was clear to me that the muscles and joints of his neck were “not playing nicely together”.  Chiropractic manipulation and mobilizations, muscle massage techniques, and cold laser therapy combined with at-home prescribed exercises have done the “trick”.  Of course, it’s not a trick; it’s science.

So, back to yesterday’s patient encounter:

He and I are both motivated to cut his frequency and severity of headaches down as far as science (or “trickery”) can manage.  To be thorough, I conducted a cranial nerve examination to rule out any sinister causes of his headaches coming from the brain, as well as reviewing a health history that may involve cardiovascular causes of headaches.  With that out of the way, I quickly discovered a restricted vertebral joint in his neck, associated with some very tight and painful muscles.  Thirty minutes later (that’s my typical appointment length) the joint and muscles were “playing nicely again”.  He’ll come back next week, and likely the week after to get a head start on resolving his headaches. I, in turn, will keep my reading audience notified as to how well he responds to “chiropractic”.

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