Headaches (cephalalgia) and back pain account for most doctor visits. Headaches are common among the general population and are rarely life threatening. A number of headache cases may be due to a misalignment of the upper cervical segment of the spine, as will be explained later.
Headaches are classified by the International Headache Society as “primary”, “secondary”, and “cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches”.
Primary headaches account for 90% of all headaches, they are not a symptom of an underlying disease, yet the exact mechanism is still unknown. They are multifactorial and depend on an interplay of genetics and environmental factors. Because there is not an underlying disease that causes primary headaches, the diagnosis is made from the patient’s history of the headache and by examination. Sometimes, additional testing (e.g., CT scan, MRI, blood tests) may be required to rule out an underlying disease.
The most common types of primary headaches are tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches.
Tension Headaches: Most people experience tension headaches at some point in their life. They are the most common type of headaches and are usually bilateral with mild to moderate intensity. They are commonly described as a pressure or tightness (like having a tight band around the head) and may spread from or to the neck. Poor posture is often observable in the patient, and this abnormality can be a major factor in triggering tension headaches. These headaches can last a few hours to several days; however, if they last longer than 15 days, they become chronic tension headaches. Tension headaches are usually not aggravated by exertion.
Migraines: The second most common type of headaches are migraines, which are as common as arthritis and diabetes combined. Migraines are sometimes associated with vertigo (occurring before or after the migraine attack). The migrainous vertigo has a higher incidence when the migraine is preceded by an “aura”—that is, a subjective sensation that precedes an attack. The vertigo can happen for a few seconds up to a few days.
Before puberty, boys and girls are affected the same way. However, after puberty, women experience migraines more often than men do.
Migraines without an aura:
–Attacks last 4 to 72 hours
-Have a pounding, pulsating quality of moderate to severe intensity
-Are usually unilateral but may change sides from one attack to the other
-Are aggravated by activity
-Associated with nausea and vomiting
-Sometimes associated with a prodromal phase (set of symptoms occurring 1 to 2 days before the migraine attack and consisting of a change in appetite, food cravings, hyperactivity, fatigue or depression, or changes in mood or personality)
Migraines with an aura:
-Have the same characteristics as migraines without an aura but are preceded by an aura that occurs minutes before or during the migraine attack
-Aura may consist of visual symptoms (e.g., flickering lights, spots or lines, or loss of vision), speech disturbances, sensory symptoms (e.g., “pins and needles” or numbness), or abnormal sense of smell or taste
Cluster Headaches: Cluster headaches are rare, affecting less than 0.1% of the population. They are unilateral, and the attacks are extremely severe, characterized by pain around the eyes with tearing of
the eyes, rhinorrhea (runny nose), and sweating on one side of the face. The attacks last 15 minutes to 3 hours but can recur several times during the day. Cluster headaches can last a single day up to a few weeks.
Secondary headaches are caused by a number of underlying diseases or traumas, including the following: meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain, accompanied by stiff neck and fever), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), hypertension, brain tumor, HIV, AIDS, cerebral aneurism (bulge in an artery of the brain), giant cell arteritis (inflammation of the linings of the arteries that, if untreated, may lead to blindness), stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack), whiplash, traumatic brain injury and cerebral concussion, cervicogenic headache (whose frequency is comparable to that of migraines and is characterized by pain perceived from a source in the neck with unilateral occipital/temporal pain), fasting, sinus problems, and overuse of medication (rebound headache).
Diagnosis of a secondary headache is made by the doctor according to his or her evaluation and examination.
WHEN TO SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION (tests may include blood test, CT scan, MRI, lumbar puncture)
-When the headache is unusual, sudden, or very severe (“worst headache of your life”)
-When the headache is accompanied by fever or stiff neck
-When you experience difficulties in speaking or walking or have double vision
-When the headache follows trauma or head injury
Most people affected by headaches may feel that their headache is caused by a serious disease or pathology (e.g., tumor, meningitis, giant cell arteritis), but this actually happens only in a very small percentage of the population (0.5%).
CRANIAL NEURALGIAS, FACIAL PAIN, AND OTHER HEADACHES
Compression, tension, or irritation of cranial nerves may give rise to headaches or pain in the area being innervated.
The most common type of cranial neuralgia is trigeminal neuralgia (or “tic douloureux”), usually experienced as an electric-shock type of pain. Trigeminal neuralgia is experienced as short, excruciating attacks that may progress as more frequent attacks, causing more pain.
Pain may be triggered by everyday activities such as shaving, brushing teeth, or putting on makeup.
Different types of headaches may overlap. For example, a person may experience a migraine and a cervicogenic headache at the same time.
A NEW, PAINLESS, NONINVASIVE HEADACHE TREATMENT: “ATLAS ORTHOGONAL CHIROPRACTIC TECHNIQUE”
As mentioned earlier, one of the causes of headaches is a misalignment of the skull, the first cervical vertebra and the cervical segment leading to an aberrant spinal curvature.
When the first cervical vertebra deviates from its position, the head tilts. As a result, the cervical spine shifts, trying to counterbalance and support the head’s weight. This will put pressure on the cervical and occipital nerves and may compromise the vertebral blood supply to the brain, giving rise to a variety of symptoms such as headache, neck pain (cervicalgia), vertigo or dizziness, and back pain.
The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, and spinal nerves. The nervous system controls, regulates, and affects all body functions.
There are spaces between each vertebra allowing nerves, which are extensions of the spinal cord, to supply and connect every part of the human body.
When the spinal column is misaligned, the nervous system is unable to function as it should, thereby leading to a variety of symptoms and diseases.
Years of clinical research have shown that many of the problems associated with spinal misalignment and their consequences can be associated with the atlas vertebra, the top cervical bone in the neck.
For over half a century, this technique has been successfully used in North America for the treatment of vertigo and dizziness
With the repositioning of the cervical segment of the spine in its proper alignment, the skull is put back in its proper position in relation to the atlas and the other cervical vertebrae. This will reduce the pressure on the nerves and improve the blood circulation to the brain, thereby alleviating the headache.This is done after an accurate analysis with mathematical calculation. With the help of a special instrument the cervical spine is corrected in a painless and non-invasive manner.
This unique treatment, specifically tailored for each patient, has major advantages: avoiding all risks associated with surgery and side effects of medication.
Medication can include NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Triptans, opioids, or glucocorticoids also may be used.
All medications can have major adverse effects such as ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney problems. Special caution should be given to aspirin when prescribed to children, for it may cause Reye’s syndrome and lead to coma or death.
Medication overuse (i.e., exceeding dosage or frequency) may lead to rebound headaches characterized by more frequent attacks and increased severity.
To reduce migraine frequency, people may take preventive medication such as beta blockers or antidepressants. To reduce migraine attacks, people should avoid triggers such as stress, alcohol, aged cheeses, fasting, lack of sleep, and so on.
Cluster headaches may also be helped by inhaling oxygen through a mask (although this is not very practical because people would have to carry an oxygen cylinder with them).
ACUPUNCTURE, BIOFEEDBACK, RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Nassim Saba Sayah
Via Madonnina 10 - Milano
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