Most of us have experienced a headache at least once in our lives. But for tens of millions of Americans, headache and migraine pain is a part of their daily lives. It is such a widespread problem that billions of dollars each year are spent in research and prescription drug sales (all in an attempt to try to help people get out of pain and get their lives back).
But despite all of the work and money being thrown at the problem, the bottom line is that pharmaceuticals (be it over the counter or prescription strength medications) do not cure the root cause of headaches & migraines. They merely mask symptoms offering temporary relief.
Current biomechanical research has found a common thread with most headache sufferers. This commonality is that those people who experience ongoing headaches and/or migraines have problems in the cervical (neck) part of their spine. The cervical spine has seven vertebrae (the bones which surround and provide some protection to the spinal cord). The vertebrae are moveable and can twist, bend, flex and extend. This motion allows us to move our necks with a considerable amount of freedom.
The mobility of the cervical vertebrae comes with a price. Sometimes the vertebrae can get suck out of alignment (in relation to the other bones). When this happens, it is called a “subluxation”. “Sub” means less than. “Luxation” means dislocation. So a subluxation is an abnormal position of a bone, but not so much so that it’s dislocated. Vertebral subluxations can occur with as little as one degree of misalignment. They can also occur when the vertebrae is suck, and isn’t able to move correctly. Instead of the joints gliding on each other freely, they feel like a rusty old hinge that needs a squirt of WD-40.
When vertebrae become subluxated, it sends off a cascade of abnormal sensory signals to the brain. At first, the problem is at a sub-perception level (meaning you can’t feel it). But after enough time passes, the abnormal sensory signals to the brain grows in intensity, and eventually is perceived as pain.
So how does this have anything to do with headaches an migraines? The nerves which branch up into the head stem from the cervical spine. When you irritate a cervical spinal nerve (which travels to the head), it eventually is perceived as a headache. The source of the problem is a hard bone pressing on a soft nerve – all in the neck area.
When a chiropractor adjusts the cervical spine, he gently re-aligns the cervical vertebrae, taking pressure off the nerves. If those nerves happen to be the ones which travel up into the head, the result is elimination of headaches & migraines. The results can often be fast and surprisingly powerful.