“I have headaches…here, here, and here. That’s not a migraine is it, Doc?”
Probably not. But if it’s a chronic condition, it can be just as painful, just as unbearable and just as serious to a patient’s well being. These headaches affect your ability to enjoy living.
A patient who can “put his finger on the headache pain” is very possibly suffering from a cervical headache. Frequently, these cervical headaches become chronic conditions and can sometimes affect a person as regularly as the sun rises and sets.
The general pattern of cervical headache pain is:
- present in the morning
- subsides during the day
- recurs a few hours in later afternoon or evening
- is accompanied by tender ‘spots’ in the scalp and neck
Cervical headache pain is often located in the upper neck and back of the head and radiates forward to the temples, usually on both sides. Occasionally, the pain is referred to the eyes or forehead. Less frequently, burning pain is experienced across the shoulder and upper back.
What causes a cervical headache?
Most are due to irritation and cramping of the spine muscles and dysfunction of the joints of the upper part of the neck. The pain to the head is a referral pattern of pain in the same way a heart attack often hurts in the left arm.
The irritation to these upper spinal muscles and joints can be caused by a fall or jolt to the head, neck or back (and commonly caused in auto accidents), through hereditary spinal defects, from constant muscular tension, due to stress brought on by the fast pace of modern day living, or from sitting for long periods while working at computers and playing video games.
By the very nature of the conditions that cause cervical headaches, they virtually always become chronic problems, if left untreated.
The difficulties generally do not stop with the daily headache. Recurring headaches cause nervous tension that in turn can develop into chronic nervousness, irritability, depression or insomnia.
Individuals with headaches and tender ‘spots’ in the scalp and neck should seek immediate treatment and care. And headache pills and drugs are not the answer.
You must remember that pain pills offer at best, “temporary relief” and can frequently upset the stomach and colon, as well as your budget due to the cost over a long period of time.
Headaches due to irritation of the upper spinal muscles and joints are more likely to respond to the care offered by the doctor of chiropractic.
Quite honestly, our goal is the correction of a headache problem. It’s a joyous day for both the doctor and the patient, who no longer has a headache he can “put his finger on”.
Dr. Richard Cole is the medical director of Cole Pain Therapy Group, a group of chiropractic physicians here in Bartlett specializing in the relief of acute and chronic pain problems.