By Dr. Mark Bodnar, B.Sc., D.C, FCCRS (C)

Chances are you, or someone close to you suffers from headaches.  Research suggests that close to 1/3 of women, plus about half as many men, suffer from regular headaches.  Even children experience headaches in today’s busy society, with 55% of children under 15 reporting minor headaches.

The most common type is the tension headache.  It is estimated over two thirds of people have experienced tension headaches.  Usually felt on both sides of the head, the tension headache is often described as a dull “tightness” around the forehead.

Affecting one in eight people, twice as many women as men, migraine headaches are well known for their severity.  Occasionally including “aura” symptoms, such as tunnel vision or other symptoms that precede the headache, migraines are usually on one side of the head, but are occasionally bilateral.  The pain is typically described as a pounding or throbbing in the temples.

Another common type of headache is called a cervicogenic headache.  “Cervico” referring to the cervical spine, “genic” referring to the origin – it means a headache that originates in the neck.  Mimicking a tension or sinus headaches, the pain typically refers into the temples, forehead or base of the skull.  In addition, pain or dysfunction in the neck can trigger migraine or tension headaches.

Other headache classifications include cluster headaches - typically in men, with brief episodes of sharp pain behind one eye, sinus headaches - secondary to sinus infection and rebound headaches - related to overuse of pain medication.

95% of the time headaches do not pose a serious health risk, but they can be a warning sign of a serious underlying health problem.  If you experience a sudden change in your headaches such as an increased intensity, frequency, neurological changes such as visual, smell, taste changes, etc., a “worst ever” headache or if you get a headache following a head trauma you should consult your Medical Doctor or Chiropractor.

Anyone suffering with chronic headaches is well aware of the different medication options available, but often not aware of the alternatives.  Because headaches are often a result of muscle tension in the neck many people find massage therapy very helpful in both relieving headache pain but also in reducing the frequency/intensity of future headaches.

Spinal manipulation is another popular alternative, one that is increasingly supported by research.  In one study of cervicogenic headaches participants reported an almost 70% reduction in headache periods following treatment.  In another study manipulation was considered as effective in relieving migraine headaches as a commonly prescribed medication.

Effective headache management requires a multi-pronged approach.  Lifestyle changes to reduce stress, improved eating habits, increased exercise and avoiding trigger factors can be very effective.  Consult your Medical Coctor about appropriate medications and consider Chiropractic treatment to address problems in the joints and muscles of the neck.

Bedford Chiropractic, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia, offers full-service consultations, diagnosis and treatment plans for a variety of workplace, repetitive strain 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.