top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn K Maltby II, D.C.

Headaches are a pain in the neck.

When someone comes into my office and I am going over their initial paperwork one thing that I see often, is that they have said that they never get headaches. I always ask about headaches again, just to confirm this. This is not because I think everyone is a liar, but I seem to get the same answer over and over again; “Well, only the normal headaches.” To which I respond “What headaches are normal?” Usually, we both laugh at that and then begin to dig deeper into what kind of headaches they are having and what they do when they get them. The most common answer is they take a pill. Well, I hate to break it to you, but headaches are not because your Aspirin or ibuprofen gland are empty. There is a reason why they are happening. There is not such thing as a normal headache, and they need to be taken seriously.

Let us first look at the different kinds of headaches there can be. There are several different types of headaches: Tension headaches, Cluster headaches, Migraines, and Cervicogenic headaches.

Tension headaches or tension type headaches are a steady dull ache. They are sometimes described as a band-like sensation. Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches that people experience. They can last for a few hours up to a few days.

Cluster headaches are less common than tension headaches or migraines. Usually happen more often in women than in men. They are usually very painful and are described as an intense sensation behind one eye, lasting 30 to 90 minutes at a time. They are usually accompanied by one eye tearing up, eye redness, one side of the face flushing, sweating, nasal congestion, and Horner’s syndrome (decreased pupil size, drooping of the eyelid, and decreased sweating on affected side of the face).

Migraines. What causes a migraine is not fully known. Symptoms may be brought on with certain foods, stress, eye strain, the menstrual cycle, changes in sleep pattern, and a variety of other triggers. Migraines are often preceded with an aura or other kinds of warning symptoms, which can be visual blurring, shimmering etc. The migraine is usually only on one side of the head. The pain is often throbbing and may be made worse with light, sound, or sudden head movement. It is sometimes accompanied with nausea and vomiting and the scalp may be tender to the touch. They can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

Cervicogenic Headaches are headaches that you might not show up in the classic internet search for “headaches.” Even though there is a large amount of research going back to the 1980’s on Cervicogenic headaches. Chiropractors have known of them and dealt with them for over 100 years. There is an abundance of research that point to a connection between cervical biomechanics (how the neck moves) and headaches of all kinds.

Here at White Pine Chiropractic alone I have seen an all of the different kind of headaches respond extremely well to the chiropractic adjustment. Migraines specifically seem to respond well to the specific upper cervical care that I am trained in.

Why would you choose to see a Chiropractor for any kind of headaches over just taking a Tylenol, Aspirin, of ibuprofen every once and awhile? First and foremost, headaches are usually a symptom of some other underlying issue. In other words, something is causing the headache, it is not there of its’ own will. Headaches do not have free will. A common response that someone gives when being advised not to take anything for headaches, is that they take Tylenol. Tylenol is supposed to be the safe pain pill to take, but what does the research say?

In 2014 the Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics release a massive article show the increased risk of taking Acetaminophen (active ingredient in Tylenol) while pregnant. Here are some of key points from the article:

- Acetaminophen is a hormone disrupter, and abnormal hormonal exposures in pregnancy may influence fetal brain development.

- Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with higher risk of hyperkinetic disorders and ADHD. The more acetaminophen taken the stronger the risk.

- Acetaminophen can cross the placental barrier and recent studies suggest that maternal use of acetaminophen increases the risk for cryptorchidism in boys due to its endocrine-disrupting properties.

An article from 1994 in the New England journal of Medicine states that taking 1,000 capsules of Acetaminophen in a lifetime doubles the risk of end stage renal disease.

This only an extremely small example of the research showing how unsafe taking Tylenol is. Tylenol is also considered to be the safest choice in pain medication as well. So, if you should stay away from pain pills for headaches, then what should you do?

See a Chiropractor and get adjusted.

This image is a great example of how just a slight misalignment can put pressure on the brainstem
Upper Cervical and Brain Stem Anatomy

One of the discoveries about how headaches happen is the involvement of improper blood flow to the head, neurological impingements, and the alignment of the cervical spine. Many studies have pointed to the upper cervical spine (C1/C2/C3) complex as playing a key role in headaches of all kinds. A subluxation (misalignment) of these three bones in the upper neck can put significant strain on the brainstem, which can eventually lead to all kinds of headaches. One of the nerves that has been linked directly to headaches is the greater occipital nerve that exits from the upper cervical spine and extends up the back of the head. We also know that the only structures capable of causing headaches are innervated by the nerves that exit the spine from the area of C1/C2/C3. If these vertebrae are out of alignment and putting pressure on those nerves, there can be a number of issues that arise, the most common being a headache.

This shows how the nerves to the head come from the upper cervical spine.
Occipital Nerve

The Specific Chiropractic Upper cervical adjustments have been very successful at relieving headaches and keeping them from reoccurring over and over again. Even if that pill takes the headache away when you take it, the fact that it keeps returning is a sure sign that something else is going on. Give us a call or schedule online to see how we can help you stay headache free.

Jirout J. Comments Regarding the Diagnosis and Treatment of Dysfunctions in the C2-C3 Segment. Manual Medicine, 1985; 2:16-7

Bogduk N. The Cervical-Cranial Connection, J of Manipulative Physiol Ther, 1992; 15(1):67-70

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page