An increasing number of Australians are turning to pain medication to treat their headache, but chiropractors are warning people to look deeper into the cause as they notice a rise in the number of patients presenting with tension headaches caused by misalignment of the neck and spine.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with international studies showing the average prevalence is 36 per cent for men and 42 per cent for women, meaning that about 7 million Australians are likely to experience this at some point.
President of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (NSW), Chiropractor Dr Joseph Ierano said several clinical trials, including a recent study at Macquarie University, indicate that chiropractic care can be very effective in treating headaches and migraines.
“Researchers who performed a clinical trial over a 6 month period to examine the link between chiropractic care and the treatment of headaches and migraines found that 22 per cent of participants reported a 90 per cent reduction in migraines and 50 per cent experienced a noticeable improvement.”
Another report , by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in the US, found that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.
Dr Ierano said the majority of the common headaches were associated with muscle tension originating in the neck from spinal problems.
“Australians are more sedentary than ever, sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time, in the same position, with poor posture. This can contribute to tension in the head, neck and shoulders, with headaches occurring due to the nerve and tissue pressure.”
Dr Ierano said problems with the spine often go unnoticed and don’t receive the proper treatment.
“Most people will take pain killers and get on with their day. This will serve to mask the symptoms but ultimately can lead to unwanted side effects and in some cases permanent nerve damage in the long term.”
“Pain relief medicine shouldn’t be the first reaction. Headaches have many triggers and it’s important to ask yourself if you are experiencing a pattern of triggers such as physical tension, emotional stress, changes in diet, problems with vision, sinus pain and hormone changes.”
Dr Ierano said more people need to be aware of alternative treatment methods and ways to deal with the root cause of the headaches, rather than just looking for a quick fix.
“We are noticing more patients visiting chiropractors to treat headache symptoms – this is one of the top three reasons a patient will consult a chiropractor.”
A chiropractor can help alleviate headaches in many cases by improving spinal alignment, reducing nerve irritation, reducing muscle tension and improving circulation.
The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (NSW) has the following tips to avoid headaches-
- Stretch every hour if you are sitting in front of a computer. Sitting in a fixed position stresses your body and can contribute to tension headaches.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to avoid dehydration.
- Exercise regularly and try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga.
- Keep a headache diary to help you identify the main cause of your headaches and consult your health professional for advice.
- Visit a chiropractor for a spinal exam, if neck and spine dysfunction is the cause of your headaches. A chiropractor can improve spinal function and help alleviate stress on your nervous system.
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