(708) 922-1400
(708) 922-1400

Are Headaches Normal?

Many people believe that it is okay to have headaches. Some even think that headaches are normal. This can be a dangerous misconception as headaches can be an important warning sign that something else may be wrong.

According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, headaches are the 9th most common reason patients see a doctor. The World Health Organization estimates that 50-75% of adults have had a headache in the last year and 30% or more have reported a migraine. In the Global Burden of Disease Study, updated in 2013, headache disorders were the 3rd highest cause of years lost due to disability.

Many people who regularly have headaches reach for medication to relieve the pain. They often develop dependencies on these medications, which have harmful side effects over time such as stomach, liver or kidney problems.

  • Relying upon pain numbing medications on a regular basis for headaches is not justified if you know about the latest research and treatments that are available to you. Over 70% of patients who use alternative therapies never informed their medical providers that they used such therapies? Over 70% of patients who use alternative therapies never informed their medical providers that they used such therapies?

Common headache types include: Migraine, Tension Type, Cervicogenic

Migraine: Contrary to popular belief, migraine is not just a bad headache. It’s an extremely incapacitating collection of neurological symptoms that usually includes a severe throbbing recurring pain on one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

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What Happens During a Migraine?


22% of the participants reported more than a 90% reduction of their migraines.

50% more participants reported significant improvement in the intensity of the migraines.

After one week of treatment 75% of the subjects reported complete relief of headache.They also noted a significant increase in cervical ROM and a reduction of dizziness.

“Spinal manipulation was as effective as a well established and efficacious treatment (amitriptyline), and on the basis of a benign side effects profile, it should be considered a treatment option for patients with frequent migraine headaches.

Tension-type headaches are the most common form of headache, occurring in about three-quarters of the general population.  Tension-type headache is usually described as a pain that feels like a tight band round your head or a weight on top of it.  Your neck or shoulder muscles may also hurt along with the headache.

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  • Female:Male – 60:40
  • Lateralization – diffuse bilateral
  • Location – diffuse
  • Frequency – 1-30 per month
  • Severity – mild/moderate
  • Duration – days to weeks
  • Pain Character – dull
  • Triggers – multiple, neck movement not typical
  • Associated Symptoms – occasionally decreased appetite, phonophobia or photophobia


 Spinal manipulation is an effective treatment for Tension Headaches. Amitriptyline was slightly more effective in reducing pain at the end of the treatment period but was associated with more side effects.

In addition…Four weeks after the cessation of treatment, the patients who received spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in all major outcomes in contrast to patients that received amitriptyline, who reverted to baseline values.  And the sustained therapeutic benefit with SMT seemed to result in a decreased need for over the counter medication.

Almost without exception, chiropractic manipulation of the neck was found to be superior in terms of reducing tension headache frequency, intensity, and improving functional status of patients when compared to other standard medical treatments.


A cervicogenic headache starts in the cervical spine—your neck.  Sometimes these headaches mimic migraine headache symptoms. Initially, pain may begin intermittently, spread to one side of the head, and become almost continuous. Pain can be exacerbated by neck movement or a particular neck position (e.g., eyes focused on a computer monitor).


  • Lateralization – unilateral without sideshift
  • Location – occipital to frontoparietal and orbital
  • Frequency – chronic, episodic
  • Severity – chronic, episodic
  • Duration – 1 hour to weeks
  • Pain Character – non-throbbing, and non-lancinating pain, usually starts in neck
  • Triggers – neck movement and posture, limited ROM, pressure over C0-C3
  • Associated Symptoms – usually absent or similar to migraine but milder, decreased ROM

110 participants with cervicogenic headache were randomized to receive both cervical and thoracic spinal manipulation, or combined mobilization and exercise.  The findings indicated that manipulation was more effective at reducing headache intensity and disability.  Additionally, the manipulation group experienced significantly reduced duration and frequency of headaches.

Evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.




Spinal manipulation has been proven effective for many types of headaches and it does not involve medication to cover up the pain.  Doctors of chiropractic are well educated in this field and can also diagnose the condition to recommend the most effective treatment, which typically includes exercise and nutrition.



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If you have headaches, be sure to check with a health professional for a thorough evaluation.

The best approach is to not develop the problem in the first place.

Take preventive steps:

  • Maintain proper body weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Each nutritious food
  • Reduce stress
  • Practice healthy ergonomics
  • Maintain proper posture and spinal function


Neck pain, although felt in the neck, can be caused by numerous other spinal problems. Neck pain may arise due to muscular tightness in both the neck and upper back, or pinching of the nerves emanating from the cervical vertebrae. Joint disruption in the neck creates pain, as does joint disruption in the upper back. Two thirds of the population will suffer from neck pain at some point in their lives.

The application of ice is an excellent way to reduce inflammation and temporary pain. Ice causes constriction in the veins of the affected tissue, limiting blood flow and acting as an anesthetic. Once the ice is removed, blood will rush back to the affected area providing nutrients that will help with the healing process. 

iceIce therapy is often used in the treatment of back and neck pain. It lessens the severity of muscle spasms, reduces pain by causing numbness, and aids in lessening soft tissue damage. 

Ice or ice packs should be wrapped in a towel while being used for treatment. Ice therapy should be used on the affected area for 24 to 48 hours from the initial ache or injury. It is recommended to reapply it every 10 minutes for maximum affect and to not leave it on for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud's Syndrome, colds or allergic conditions, paralysis, or areas of impaired sensation should not use ice therapy. 

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and one of the most common causes of leg pain. The term sciatica is used to describe the symptoms of pain occurring in the leg and lower back. Some use the term specifically to mean a nerve dysfunction caused by compression of one or more lumbar or sacral nerve roots from a spinal disc herniation. 

When the liquid center of a disc bulges outwards, herniation occurs. The bulged disc can then tear against external ring fibers, contact the spinal canal, and compress a nerve root against the lamina or pedicle of a vertebra. This causes sciatica. The liquid extruded when this happens can cause inflammation and swelling of the surrounding tissue which can further compress the nerve root into the confined space of the spinal canal.

Sciatic pain typically runs through the lower back and down the sciatic nerve through the leg and can even run all the way down to the foot. Numbness, tingling, burning, and pricking sensations are all symptoms that may occur in cases of sciatic injury.

Sciatica is caused by compression of lumbar nerves, sacral nerves, and/or the sciatic nerve. Sciatic damage can be permanent, thus it is important that you seek medical attention if you are suffering from these symptoms. 

Most commonly used for rehabilitation purposes, heat therapy is the application of heat to the body for pain relief and health. It can be performed using something as simple as a heat to cloth to as advanced as ultrasound.

The therapeutic effects of heat include increasing the extensibility of collagen tissues; decreasing joint stiffness; reducing pain; relieving muscle spasms; reducing inflammation, edema, and aids in the post acute phase of healing; and increasing blood flow. The increased blood flow to the affected area provides proteins, nutrients, and oxygen for better healing.

Heat creates higher tissue temperatures, which produces vasodilation that increases the supply of oxygen, and nutrients and the elimination of carbon dioxide and metabolic waste. It is useful for muscle spasms, myalgia, fibromyalgia, contracture, and bursitis.Heat therapy can also be used for the treatment of headaches and migraines.

Heat therapy is only part of the therapeutic procedure that is chiropractic, and rarely provides a full extent of recovery without it. 

Heat therapy should not be used on swollen or bruised tissues. It is advised that patients who have dermatitis, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, open wounds, and cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension not use heat therapy. 

Contact Information

Phone: (708) 922-1400
email: BartonChiro@att.net

18665 Dixie Hwy, 
Homewood, IL 60430

Barton Chiropractic Clinic

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