Durban - Many people suffer daily “normal” headaches that they learn to live with. The Durban Headache Clinic says on its website that it is common to come across people who complain of repeated headaches. These patients have CAT scans and MRI scans – and yet all the doctors find is that “nothing is wrong”.
This is because most of the scans focus on the brain and other structures inside the skull, and it has been proved that most headaches are caused by structures outside the skull.
If the neurological examination indicates the need, brain scanning must be carried out.
However, most headache sufferers don’t need scans to identify and treat their headaches.
Durban chiropractor Kanwal Sood says most people don’t realise that a large percentage of headaches originate in the cervical (neck) spine.
“A lot of what we perceive as tension headaches are, in fact, cervicogenic headaches,” says Sood.
“These headaches are often accompanied by neck pain, stiffness, shoulder pain and muscle spasms. In some cases there may well be arm pain and difficulty using the arm/s (or what we call pinched nerve).
“These (and even most tension headaches) arise as a result of sensory input received from the cervical spinal facet joints, upper cervical muscles, the C2-C3 intervertebral disc and the dura mater of the upper spinal cord.
“They are a result of pressure build-up, malalignment (spinal joints), dysfunction and nerve interference related to these structures.”
We all know that nagging headache that is literally “a pain in the neck”.
“As the cliché suggests, the headaches are often caused by poor posture over time,” says Sood, “as well as previous trauma, whiplash, smoking, strain, arthritis, mental stress or even improper gym/weight training technique.
“It goes without saying that recognising the type of headache you are experiencing will take you one step closer to treating it.”
Dr Aadil Docrat, head of the chiropractic programme at the Durban University of Technology, says it is worth noting that a headache caused by the spine is different from other headaches such as migraines.
“Different types of headaches occur with different patterns. A migraine, for example, includes symptoms such as seeing spots and is extremely severe to the point that the patient may throw up.
“Migraines are often triggered by certain food and drink, such as wine, chocolate or cheese.
“A cervical headache, on the other hand, is the type of headache you wake up with in the morning and go to sleep with at night.
“It is often the complaint of those who work in front of a computer all day.
“It’s so common that some of the literature suggests that up to 60 percent of headaches are cervicogenic in nature. Manipulation of the neck has been proved to be effective in relieving these types of headaches.”
Dry needling (similar to acupuncture) of the relevant muscular trigger points and soft tissue therapy are among the therapies available.
Sood adds that for long-term outcomes with cervical headaches postural correction is crucial as anterior head carriage (slouching) over time is a “silent killer” when it comes to headaches, arthritis, pinched nerves, neck and shoulder pain.
Resistance band exercises, exercises on stability balls or wobble boards, and neck and shoulder stretches normally make a big difference, as does swimming.
Light exercises that activate the “global” muscles that have anatomical connections to the cervical spine (connecting the arms, chest, shoulders and neck) have also been shown to be beneficial. These muscles are the biceps, deltoids, pectorals, trapezius, lattismus dorsi and rhomboids.
Relaxation techniques and stress management are imperative, and breathing exercises can be effective.
So if you have a headache it just might help to sit up straight, chuck away that cigarette, stop filling your body up with painkillers and get some exercise.
A good night’s sleep, proper nutrition and a relaxed mind won’t hurt either.
When you take proper care of your spine and nervous system you will automatically enhance your healing, achieve optimal function and decelerate ageing. - The Mercury