Thursday, February 18, 2010

Can Chiropractic Help Tension Headaches?

by Dr. Noel Lloyd

The most common pain in America is headache. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on several dozen over the counter remedies, each one promising quick relief. But do they deliver? What actually causes headache pain and is there a cure for the cause? Let’s see why our heads hurt.

Most headaches are separated into one of several categories. For the purposes of this article we will consider the most common and most expensive: tension headache.

You already have a good idea how this one works: it’s a hectic day with too many things to do, deadlines to meet and what may feel like too many unreasonable demands – before you know it, you have a headache. For some it’s a mild ache at the base of the skull or forehead, but for others it can be blinding and debilitating pain. What’s actually gone wrong?

Let’s start with your head: it weighs 10 to 12 pounds and sits on top of a column spinal bones called vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, discs, blood vessels, nerves and other tissues covered with skin that form the neck. So far so good, but when under pressure we can tense up and tighten the muscles at the base of the skull, neck and shoulders. This causes poor biomechanics, restricted movement, the neck vertebrae are squeezed tighter together and pain ensues.

But why does your co-worker, who’s under twice the pressure you are, never get a headache? Tension alone won’t cause headache: the difference lies in what those tense muscles are attached to and cover. If the neck bones, called vertebrae, are even slightly misaligned, muscle tension can create painful nerve pressure.

Now we have emotional tension from the stress, tight muscles that restrict normal fluid motion of the neck bones, impaired movement and nerve pressure. It’s a perfect recipe for a tension headache.

If the vertebrae in the neck are aligned well, you can experience quite a lot of tension and not have it cause you any pain at all. You may be irritated and stressed out, but not in physical pain. Well that’s good for your pain-free co-worker, but how about you. You would like to quit living on what are for many, dangerous over the counter or prescription medication and take care of the cause of your headache. Then see your chiropractor.

Your chiropractor will take a health history, do an examination of the nerves that most commonly cause tension headache and examine your spine to see if those nerves are impinged by misaligned vertebrae. When indicated, spinal x-rays will be taken to see exactly where the spinal bones are misaligned and how to re-align the spine to correct the problem.

Chiropractic adjustments can correct the cause by re-aligning the vertebrae to their normal position with gentle exercises to strengthen to new and proper positioning. If you would like to leave the pain and the drugs behind, chiropractic offers a promising solution by dealing with the cause of tension headache.


  1. I certainly hope so!

  2. Chiropractic is a wonderful science.