Is there something else causing my headaches?

The Secret Chalice, Lost Ark & The Mythical Beast.

Resolving back pain, as you have probably gathered by now, is an incredibly difficult challenge for a lot of experts to begin to master. It requires help from an specialist, focus from a patient, and determination to keep persevering even when things are slow.

It is similar to when people sign up to the gym in January with good intentions. They have put on a few pounds and are ready to hit the gym five times a week to get their New Year body shape. What often happens is that even with all the will in the world, it gradually dissipates as the month draws near. There is a lack of progression, no results, and most people will lose interest. Which is why gyms will make up to 70% of their annual revenue in the month of January, due to this new human nature of desiring things instantly, right now, and with one click. We all seem to want everything now and a quick fix.

Very often, when undergoing any sort of back treatment program, whether it be Pilates, physiotherapy, or chiropractic, there tends to be a slow start, particularly with chronic issues that have been going on longer than two years. With more acute issues, for example a disc injury that has happened in the last few days, these will clear up much more quickly, and the patient will experience immediate results. However, it’s important to still get to the root cause of the issue as to why it actually happened to prevent it from coming back in the future.

This is the same for both acute and chronic conditions, we have to find out the reason why something is happening to create long-term results. If we constantly chase symptoms and never isolate the root cause of the issue, then it really won’t get better, or will get better and then come back in the future.

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Looking up for too long causes my headaches

We had a client come to us called Dave who was a decorator. He had spent the last twenty-five years up on ladders, crouching down, and leaning with his head back painting ceilings. He was suffering with severe migraines for the last four years, which would be so debilitating that he couldn’t get out of bed and get to work. The migraine would also come on when he was with his son in the swimming pool, meaning he couldn’t spend time with him.

This all got too much when Dave became self-employed, as many tradesmen do, and he was finding that he was having to take too much time off, and it was starting to affect his business. That’s when he called us, and we scheduled an initial assessment for him.

When Dave was telling us the story, I naively assumed that he had pressure on the top of his neck, which is where 90% of migraines usually come from. This was going to be an easy case and we would be able to get him back up and running in no time at all.

We began treatment two weeks ago, and he said the migraines were worse than ever, if anything. He was taking more time off work, and he couldn’t go on like that. So we sat down and examined him again to analyse why this was happening. I checked his x-rays, and his motion study performed a series muscle tests. We cleared out the issue at the top of his neck where I’d been adjusting more. He was irritating the nerve that was going around his head, causing his headaches to get worse. Often with headaches and migraines, the pain could come from somewhere else in the body or can be due to another issue. What a lot of our patients find difficult to understand is how integral the jaw is to neck pain and migraines. How can something that is completely irrelevant to the neck and head be the source of their pain?

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Can The Jaw Cause Headaches?

The jaw has huge amounts of nervous system activity going down it and up to the brain; any deviation or overactivity can have a knock-on effect to the rest of the body. After testing, it was clear as day he was suffering from something called bruxism where he was clenching his teeth while he was sleeping, causing an overactivity of the muscles around the jaw which refers to pain in the head, causing his migraines.

With this, we had to design a mouth guard for him to wear at night so that he would stop the grinding and clenching of his jaw. We adjusted and treated the jaw to set it in the correct position, and within two weeks his headaches had completely disappeared. Dave was back to working full time on his business and spending time with his son.

I would love to say over the next six to nine months of seeing Dave he didn’t have one headache again but often with healing in the spine it’s just not the case. Dave became complacent and was only wearing his mouth guard three out of seven nights in the week. The jaw became inflamed again. Because of the relationship between the jaw and neck, it’s really important to restore the normal function of the neck and shoulders to allow the jaw to operate normally and not become inflamed again. So, as we remodelled his neck, there was obviously still going to be some stress around the jaw which we explained to Dave that it may flare up from time to time but it’s still moving in the right direction.

Once the normal neck curve started to come back in Dave’s spine, the jaw retracted and set in the joint with no aggravation to the muscles, closing the full resolution of his symptoms. This is so important because if we had kept on treating his neck issue, this problem would have kept coming back and we would never have fully resolved it.

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