Treatment for headaches and migraines

At the Bristol Back Pain Clinic, our chiropractors and osteopaths are experts in assessing and diagnosing headaches and migraines and run Bristol’s first weekly Headache Clinic to help the increasing numbers of patients affected by headaches.

The word headache is a term used to describe the symptom of pain anywhere in the region of the head or the neck. Headaches have many different causes and can be very troubling. A clear diagnosis is needed, followed by an appropriate management plan.

Expert diagnosis

There are many different types of headaches often comprised of many components that act as triggers to initiate the pain. Chiropractors and osteopaths approach headaches by first diagnosing the type of headache or migraine, then assessing the different triggers that cause them to see how we can help.

For example, a common component of cervicogenic headaches (headaches arising from the neck) is neck and shoulder stiffness and pain. Tension like this is often as a result of poor alignment in the spine, so addressing this underlying problem with gentle chiropractic or osteopathic treatment can help reduce headache frequency.

Types of headache

There are many different types of headaches often comprised of many components that act as triggers to initiate the pain. Headaches can be grouped according to type, however they often have overlapping features. Click on the headings below to find out more.

Tension type headaches
This is the most common form of headache and is often found in people with stressful and sedentary life styles (office workers, students, high mileage car users etc).

Features: headaches that arise from the back of the head and can also be felt in the temples and over the eyes. Dizziness, nausea and sensitivity to light and sounds are sometimes felt.

Tension type headaches
This is the most common form of headache and is often found in people with stressful and sedentary life styles (office workers, students, high mileage car users etc).

Features: headaches that arise from the back of the head and can also be felt in the temples and over the eyes. Dizziness, nausea and sensitivity to light and sounds are sometimes felt.

Cervicogenic headaches
This translates as ‘a headache arising from the neck’, and is usually associated with tight, stiff and sore neck and shoulder muscles. Cervicogenic headaches are a very common and often overlooked type of headache and respond fantastically well to chiropractic treatments.

Features: headaches that arise from the back of the head and can also be felt in the temples and over the eyes. Dizziness, nausea and sensitivity to light and sounds are sometimes felt.


Migraines
Migraines are debilitating for the sufferer. There are two types; classic with aura (visual disturbances) and common without aura, however they share many of the same triggers: stress, types of food or drink, hormonal changes, sleep disturbance and neck and shoulder tension. Chiropractic treatment is effective at helping with migraine prevention.

Features: There are four parts:

• A prodrome, or preheadache feelings that can include mood changes, neck stiffness, food cravings and fatigue.

• The aura - this usually last less than an hour but can be frightening with symptoms including visual disturbances (spots, lines or lightening effects in the visual field), buzzing in the ears or partial loss of hearing, sensation loss and even partial paralysis. Some people experience this without progressing to a headache, which is known as a silent migraine.

• The headache itself can be severe and very debilitating. Symptoms are usually felt on one side of the head but can shift to the other. Common features include sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, nausea and vomiting.

• The postdrome or postheadache hangover is a period (hours to days) after the headache where the sufferer can feel exhausted, confused and low in mood/depressed.

Cluster headaches
These are rare but excruciatingly painful. They occur in cluster periods, as the name suggests, where the sufferer can experience daily headaches often at the same time each day for many weeks.

Features: excruciating pain over the eye (usually one side only) often with tearing of the eye, and a runny nose. These headaches can last for 45 to 90 minutes.


Other types of headaches
There are an extremely large number of possible causes of headache or headache like pains. These include:

• Painkiller headaches - headaches caused by medication, or the withdrawal of it – NHS Choices advise up to 1 in 10 people who have frequent headaches do so because they take painkillers too often
• Headaches following trauma - these are common but seek medical advice immediately if they start to worsen or are accompanied by other symptoms.
• Sinus pain headaches - these are usually associated with a recent or ongoing cold.
• Eye strain headaches - these are usually self-evident to the sufferer.
• Temporal arteritis – a headache around the temples that develops suddenly due to inflammation of the arteries in the region. Other symptoms include jaw pain and vision problems.

Drug free treatment for headaches and migraines
More often than not, people just put up with headaches or think painkillers are the only solution. However, while painkillers can provide a short term solution, NHS Choices advise that if you take them more than two or three times a week, they could start to become the cause of your headaches. At the Bristol Back Pain Clinic, we offer a drug free approach, instead using a range of the most proven and effective treatments for headaches including acupuncture, joint mobilisations or adjustments, stretching and massage techniques, nutritional advice, relaxation techniques, home stretches and exercises.

Call us on 0117 9723 518 to book an appointment at our Headache Clinic or for a free, no obligation chat to find out how we can help you.


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