Are Headaches Under Treated?



With all the different types of pain relievers available at the corner drug store, you'd think headache sufferers would have a solution to their problem. But, such is not the case, and headaches continue to be a great burden on society, afflicting millions of people and causing economic and social losses, in addition to personal pain. What's more, it seems general medical physicians may under-diagnose this common problem.

A recent study from England (Br J Gen Pract 2008; 58(547):102) has highlighted this widespread issue. The researchers studied over 91,000 adult patients who had recently reported a headache. Amazingly, seventy percent of these patients were not given a diagnosis. It was suggested by the authors that general medical physicians have difficulty in diagnosing headache presentations.

It's important to diagnose the cause of a headache. The spine is often overlooked as having the potential for causing a headache. Too often, headaches are thought to have their cause in the head. While this is where the pain is most prominent (as opposed to the neck), neck symptoms such as muscle tension, knots and painful tissues also contribute to the pain picture. If your neck mobility is also reduced, this can also be a indicator that the neck could be the source of the head pain.

When bad neck posture is present, this can manifest as a forward head posture. Patients who have had previous whiplash injuries can often show this type of posture. Sprains of the small vertebral joints can be enough to produce head pain and need to be addressed. When the headache is thought to originate in the neck, it is called "cervicogenic."

Neck problems have also been implicated in certain cases of tension-type, as well as migraine headaches, but how this occurs exactly is still being investigated.

Whatever their cause, headaches have a devastating impact on our quality of life and need to be effectively treated. Chiropractic care has been shown in several studies to reduce headache pain and is an important non-drug option for patients. While drug treatments can be quite effective for some patients, one also has to consider long-term side effects when considering this management approach.