Headaches and a Short Leg

If you've received this newsletter in the past, you know I like to make a point that the cause for many headaches is sometimes not in the head at all, sometimes they originate in the neck. This is because delicate tissues between the vertebrae in the neck can cause tension, or pulling on nerve structures, or even the spinal cord, resulting in pain. Also, the posture of the neck is important. There is normally a forward curve of the neck, which keeps the head back over the shoulders. With a slouched posture, the head is in a more forward position. The body reacts to this position by contracting the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders. This constant pull of the muscles can cause pain at the base of the skull and give someone headaches.

But spinal problems away from the neck can also cause shifts in posture that can provoke a headache. We take a full spine approach to chiropractic care and consider that even shifts in posture at the hips can have profound effects above. This is why we carefully examine your entire spine, not just your neck.

In some patients, there may be an asymmetry of the leg lengths. This can cause a shift of the pelvis and tilting, which will then need to be compensated from above. This can occur at the upper neck, because the body will usually try to keep your head on straight and your eyes level.

If the compensation occurs at the upper vertebrae, adjusting them into position will not hold, the body will constantly try to keep the eyes level. Sometimes, the foundation for these vertebrae needs to be leveled. A patient may need a vertebra tilt corrected in the lower spine, and in some patients with a short leg, a heel lift in the shoe is enough to give the added stability to the spine.

Whatever the location of a pain, it's important to identify the cause of the dysfunction, not just the effects. Headaches, more than many other types of pain, can have their cause far removed from the painful area. Although headaches can rarely be a sign of a serious problem, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, more often the spine is a cause that is too commonly overlooked.