Headaches: A Complex Health Problem

Headaches, as too many people unfortunately know, can be incredibly frustrating to diagnose and treat.

There are vascular headaches (migraine, toxic, and cluster headaches) and tension headaches (tension, chronic muscle contraction, inflammatory, and traction headaches).

There are headaches related to specific health conditions that include trauma (concussion), cardiovascular disease, tumors, and conditions of the thyroid, liver, kidney, eyes, ears, neck, teeth, sinuses, temporomandibular (jaw) joint, and cranial bones.

There are headaches from medications and chemical stressors including air pollution, food additives, and both food and environmental allergies or intolerances.

A complicated picture, indeed!

And, for most people their chronic headaches don’t get resolved because they don’t get diagnosed. Diagnosis is the key to resolution. Treating symptoms may manage symptoms, but rarely resolves their cause.

There is always cause be it physical, chemical, or emotional. Asking the right questions as to why is the path to understanding cause and solving the puzzle.

Physical Stress and Headaches

Physical/biomechanical causes for headaches include poor posture, muscle imbalances, and old, unresolved injuries (most often whiplash-type) injuries.

Research suggests function of deep neck flexor muscles has greater diagnostic value for physical cause for headache than any other finding. And, neck flexor weakness is most commonly caused by biomechanical problems responsive to chiropractic care and cranial osteopathy.

Chemical Stress and Headaches

Biochemical causes for headaches include impaired production of cellular energy, imbalances of pH and electrolytes, chronic dehydration (true!), liver/gall bladder dysfunction, digestive dysfunction, and neurotransmitter and hormonal imbalances (the complexity of female hormone regulation accounts, at least in part, for the increased frequency of headaches in women).

Air pollution and environmental exposure to toxic chemicals must always be considered as a possible cause. Always suspect mold, air fresheners, and fabric softeners.

Food additives (artificial sweeteners, flavorings, colorings, and preservatives) and processed foods have been shown to trigger headaches.

Food and environmental allergies are possible culprits. Food allergies are often subtle triggers for chronic inflammation in the intestines that can result in headaches.

Systemic inflammation can be a trigger for headaches. Low grade, chronic, and essentially hidden infections, commonly of the sinuses, gums, teeth, and intestinal tract can be triggers for headaches, as well.

Emotional Stress and Headaches

Emotional stress increases metabolic rate in the limbic system of the brain promoting inflammation that results in headaches. Relaxation methods such as meditation, mindfulness, and biofeedback have been shown to decreases headache incidence and intensity.

The complexity and the often multi-causal nature of headaches can make them difficult to solve. But, there is always cause and there is a logical and measurable method for finding and resolving the cause in nearly every case.