Chronic Headache Chicago, IL
Everyone is bound to get a headache now and then. But when you are suffering from headaches multiple times a week, the problem can be nearly debilitating. When days with headaches are more common than days without headaches, for at least three months, you are suffering from chronic headaches.
The causes of chronic headaches range from minor and rather common problems that are easily addressed, to incredibly serious medical conditions. Some of the more serious causes of headaches are inflammation of blood vessels (up to and including stroke), infections (e.g. meningitis), brain tumors, or a traumatic brain injury. Because these are serious medical conditions, if you are experiencing chronic headaches, you should seek medical care to rule out these problems.
Once a doctor has ruled out these more serious underlying conditions as the cause of your chronic headaches, they may not be able to pin down any other underlying factor that is causing your headaches. Most physicians at this point will prescribe medication to attempt to prevent your headaches. This could be an antidepressant, a beta blocker, anti-seizure medications, prescriptions strength anti-inflammatories, or injections of botulinum toxin (the same substance used in the popular facial rejuvenating injection, Botox).
However, if you are suffering from chronic headaches, it is well worth attempting to unlock the puzzle of your headaches, rather than simply medicating them away. While over-the-counter pain medications may get rid of your headaches, it isn’t healthy to take most pain medications for more than nine days per month. For other chronic headache sufferers, over-the-counter pain medication may not work at all, or only works when the patient takes more than the recommended amount.
Furthermore, one other common cause of chronic headaches is the overuse of pain medication, either over-the-counter or prescription. If you are taking pain medication (for headaches or other issues) more than nine days a week and experience headaches on days when you do not take the medication, you might be suffering a minor form of withdrawal from the pain medication. This is yet another reason that pain medication should not be treated as a cure-all for regularly occurring headaches.
We strongly encourage patients who are suffering from chronic headaches and who have ruled out more serious underlying conditions to make an appointment with one of our chiropractors and to see if chiropractic intervention can help reduce or eliminate their headaches before turning to prescription medications. Chiropractic treatments for chronic headaches aim to help the body heal itself. They do not involve medication and are completely non-invasive techniques. They are therefore significantly safer and pose fewer risks to the patient’s long-term health.
When is a headache an emergency?
Most headaches, even chronic ones, are not a medical emergency. But there are some exceptions to this. If you answer “yes” to any of the following, please seek immediate medical care:
- Did your headache come on suddenly and is it particularly severe?
- Do you also have a fever, stiff neck, confusion, double vision, weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking or have you suffered a seizure?
- Have you had a recent head injury?
- Has your headache worsened even though you have rested and taken pain medication?
These events signal that your headache might need immediate medical attention. While it may turn out that your headache is run of the mill, don’t take a chance when you experience one or more of these symptoms.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help Treat Chronic Headaches
Chiropractic care offers a number of ways to tackle chronic headaches because chiropractors are aware that a headache is one of the body’s ways to signal that something is amiss. In many cases, chronic headaches are due to a misalignment in the head, neck, and spine, which irritates nerves or constricts blood vessels just enough to create a headache, but not enough to be a medical emergency. Muscle tension can be a product of our cause misalignment and can also restrict nerves and blood vessels.
A chiropractor will ask you about your headache history and do a simple, painless examination of your spine. This may reveal subluxations (a misaligned vertebrae in the spine) that could be impinging nerves. These nerves could be the cause of the headaches, or the nerves might be causing muscle pain and tension, that, in turn, is creating the pressure that is underlying the headaches.
Some chronic headache sufferers are lucky enough to receive instant relief from gentle chiropractic adjustments when they are suffering from headaches. For others, a series of treatments over time may reduce the frequency and/or intensity of headaches. With continued regular chiropractic care, chronic headaches may become a thing of the past, without the use of heavy medications.