From Bedford Magazine

By Dr. Mark Bodnar Bsc, DC, FCCRS(c)

Headaches have been in the news lately. New studies have turned up some answers to some old questions. Where do headaches come from? and Why do we get headaches?  For headache sufferers this new information is long overdue.

To start, let's examine some statistics concerning headaches. A research study in 1992 found that 14% of Canadians suffer from migraine headaches, 36% suffer from chronic tension headaches and 14% suffer from both types of headaches. The same study estimated that in Canada alone roughly 7 million working days are lost due to headache disability. Current estimates suggest that 27% of women and 14% of men suffer from severe headaches.

Headaches come in several different forms: migraine, tension, cervicogenic, just to name a few major categories.  When dealing with headaches it is important to properly diagnose the root of the problem, 90% of headaches pose no imminent danger other than ongoing pain and disability to the headache sufferer, but a small percentage of headaches are of a more sinister nature with an underlying disease or illness.  

To determine a proper diagnosis your Doctor of Chiropractic will use a battery of neurological, orthopaedic and Chiropractic tests to pinpoint the underlying cause of the condition. Proper diagnosis leads to a more effective treatment plan.

Why do we get headaches?  Usually a headache is our body's response or warning of some form of irritant. Irritants can be enviromental such as noxious fumes, pollen, bright lights, or come from foods, stress and a variety of other causes. While we have determined several headache triggers, the real reason we get headaches has eluded health researchers for many years.  

What is a headache? Traditionally it was thought a migraine headache arose from dilated and inflamed blood vessels within the brain.  Tension headaches where blamed on chronic muscle contractions and tightness in the upper neck. While traditional theories may explain some headaches, recent findings argue that many chronic headaches start in the neck.

New hope for headache suffers comes from recent research, with scientific and anatomical proof that many headaches are actually caused by damaged structures in the neck. The idea that headaches originate in the neck is not truly new, Chiropractors have been voicing that opinion for over 100 years; now there is some solid medical research supporting that view.

Damage, originating even years prior, from whiplash, a fall or sports injuries may cause headaches. 'Pinching' the trigminal nerve as it descends into the upper neck interferes with proper nerve function, sending pain signals to the brain. Called a 'cervicogenic headache' (cervico - spine in the neck and genic  -originating from) the pain signals from the trigminal nerve are interpreted, by the brain, as a headache.  

Physician Peter Rothbart, in Toronto, concedes -"...Chiropractors have been saying headaches originate in the neck for many years".  Dr. Rothbart says that about 80% of the patients coming into his clinic diagnosed with tension headaches are actually having headaches which are coming from the neck.  

This new anatomical information may help explain why Chiropractic care, addressing the structural condition of the neck, has been so effective at treating headaches. As specialists in the structural function of the spine, Chiropractors are fully qualified to diagnose and treat many types of headaches.

Bedford Chiropractic, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia, offers full-service consultations, diagnosis and treatment plans for a variety of workplace, repetitive and other injuries. We treat pain to the head, neck, jaw, arm, shoulders, upper body, chest, lower back, legs and feet.  Contact us today at 902 835-6865. We serve patients in the Halifax Regional Municipality, including Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Sackville and surrounding areas.