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A unique approach for tension headaches

By Staff | Mar 9, 2018

It is estimated that 90 percent of all adults have experienced tension headaches, which are usually described as a band of pain that surrounds the forehead, temples, scalp, face, eyes, jaw and/or neck. Also called “stress headaches,” tension headaches can start gradually and increase in intensity; they can be mild or severe; last for hours or days; and may be classified as episodic (occurring less than 15 days per month) or chronic (occurring more than 15 days per month).

While tension headaches can be triggered by a number of factors, including stress, grinding or clenching of the teeth and jaw, computer work, or poor posture, it is important to understand that these trigger factors are not necessarily the underlying cause of tension headaches.

Instead, one causal factor, which is beginning to appear more frequently in medical research, is head and/or neck trauma. Common sources of trauma include blows to the head, whiplash and/or concussion sustained as a result of motor vehicle accidents, falls and through high-impact sports such as football, surfing, soccer, gymnastics and horseback riding. Any of the above incidences of trauma may cause ligaments supporting the head and neck to be sprained (stretched), which forces the skull and upper cervical (neck) vertebrae out of their normal biomechanical position.

It is thought that the misalignment of the skull and upper cervical bones alters nerve and blood flow in the brainstem, leading to tension headaches. Unless the neck injury is addressed, the symptoms persist.

Fortunately, a rare chiropractic technique that focuses upon the alignment of the head and neck – known as upper cervical care – has shown promise for tension headache patients. In order to determine whether a headache patient may benefit from care, the upper cervical chiropractor will perform two diagnostic tests: thermal imaging and digital X-rays of the spine. These tests accurately assess the alignment of an individual’s head and neck. If an upper cervical misalignment is diagnosed, the patient’s injured neck is corrected by administering a precise adjustment by hand on a specially-designed knee chest table. Many tension headache patients notice improvement in symptoms with just a few treatments.

With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has successfully treated hundreds of patients with chronic headaches, including cluster, migraine, and tension. Her published headache research is available on her website: www.erinelster.com. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or erin@erinelster.com.