Headaches are not normal. It is common, but it is NOT normal. If you have a headache it means that something is going on. Your body’s nervous system serves as an alarm system to alert you to problems. If the nerves that come out of the upper part of your spine (near the base of your head) are pressured, stressed or strained, you will feel pain either at the place where the nerve is pressured or where that nerve runs to. That pressure can be relieved and that is what we will cover today in this article.
First, to get an understanding of just how prevalent headaches are let’s look at some statistics:
-Headaches disorders are the most common disorders of the nervous system.
-Conservative estimates show that between 50 and 75% of the adult population has had a headache at least once within the last year.
-30% or more have reported migraine and headache on 15 or more days every month affects 1.7–4% of the world’s adult population.
– Shockingly, a minority of people with headache disorders are diagnosed appropriately by a health-care provider. (that is why we see some many patients who have suffered for years without any relief.)
-Headache can also be caused by or occur secondarily to a long list of other conditions, the most common of which is a medication-overuse headache.
-Headache has been underestimated, under-recognized and under-treated throughout the world.
4 Types of Headache Disorders
Migraine, tension-type, cluster and medication-overuse headache are the four major classifications of headaches. Each has a different symptom and causes.
Migraines, which are more severe than typical headaches, most often begins at puberty and are more common in women, usually by a factor of about 2:1, because of hormonal influences. They are caused by the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.
Migraines often have a pattern that occurs around the same time each month due to hormone cycles. Not all migraines are hormonally based and can last a few hours up to a few days. Most migraine suffers will experience sensitivity to light, sound and other stimuli. Nausea and loss of appetite are also common.
This is the most common primary headache disorder affecting 70% of the population, three women to every two men and typically occur less than 15 days in the month. It is described as tightness or pressure, often like a band around the head, sometimes spreading into or from the neck.
The mechanism that causes this type of headache is stress-related or associated with musculoskeletal problems in the neck. Overuse of electronics especially personal cell phones, desk jobs or poor sleeping habits is common reasons for tension-type headaches.
These headaches are relatively uncommon affecting fewer than 1 in 1000 adults, affecting six men to each woman. It is characterized by frequently recurring (up to several times a day), brief but extremely severe headache, usually focused in or around one eye, with tearing and redness of the eye, the nose runs or is blocked on the affected side and the eyelid may droop.
This is a secondary type of headache that is caused by rebounding in pain and sensitivity after a medication wears off. It usually occurs in individuals that chronically use over the counter and prescription medication to treat a headache. They affect up to 5% of some populations, women more than men and occur upon awakening characterized by an oppressive persistent pain.
What is the Burden Due to Headache Disorders?
Headache disorders collectively were the third-highest reason for disability. The long-term effort of coping with a chronic headache disorder may also predispose the individual to other illnesses. For example, anxiety and depression are significantly more common in people with migraine than in healthy individuals.
Headache is high among causes of consulting medical practitioners: one-third of all neurological consultations were for headache. Yet, many of those troubled by headache do not receive effective care. Only half of those identified with migraine had seen a doctor for headache-related reasons in the previous 12 months, and only two-thirds had been correctly diagnosed. Most were solely reliant on over-the-counter medications.
Now, what is the process that has been followed most commonly in the past when people have gone to their medical doctor with headache complaints? Examination, painkillers, muscle relaxants, expensive testing and referrals to expensive specialists. The problem with this approach is that most of the headaches are not a chemical problem that can be cured with medication. This is a major reason why we have such a crisis with opioids in this country. Many people develop an addiction from a prescription they received for pain. Lives have been ruined for the simple mistake of trying to resolve a structural, hormonal and stress problem with a medical solution.
We see too many headache patients that have suffered for years without any true explanation or a commonsense approach to get their life back from this disabling condition. What makes our treatment so effective is we do not treat every case the same. We conduct a thorough exam looking for stress, structural imbalances, hormonal problems, digestive distress, and vitamin and mineral imbalances. With this information, we can match the right course of care with the true underlying condition.