Tension headaches, sometimes called stress headaches, can affect the entire head area, from the neck to the forehead. While in general considered the most common type of headache in adults, more women suffer from tension-type headaches than men. Besides the physical discomfort, chronic headaches also cause loss of productivity and reduce the quality of life.
Research by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association
Some chiropractors believe a technique developed by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA) is especially well suited to treat headaches. In 1966 two doctors of chiropractic John F. Grostic and Ralph Gregory developed the Grostic technique, described as a precise, gentle method for adjusting the top bone of the spine called the Atlas. The current upper cervical technique practiced by NUCCA is a refinement of the Grostic technique.
Specifically, NUCCA practitioners concentrate on gently adjusting the Atlas vertebra, bringing it back to its correct position. The Atlas, located just below the brain stem, is the first vertebrae of the cervical spine, called C-1.
The Atlas supports the weight of the head and is the only vertebra that does not have a disc above or below, making it the only freely movable vertebra. The upside is that its physiology allows the skull to rotate; the downside is its flexibility also makes it prone to injury and misalignment. It is this area NUCCA practitioners concentrate on to treat stress headaches. It requires no cracking or popping of the neck but is still very effective in reducing both the frequency and severity of tension headaches.
Study Performed by Duke University
Researchers at Duke University found that spinal manipulation resulted in fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a common prescription. Those findings were backed up by a study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that reported patients who stopped chiropractic treatments after four weeks enjoyed lasting benefit compared to patients who took medication.
Chiropractors will also advocate wellness to fight stress headaches. That’s because headaches tend to have various triggers, including food, stress, insomnia, and in rare cases, underlying physical problems.
Chiropractor Dr. George B. McClelland
Chiropractor Dr. George B. McClelland notes, “The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck. Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back, and scalp, causing your head to ache.”
For those who suffer from chronic headaches, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) suggests avoiding spending a long time in a fixed position. So if you have to sit in front of a computer all day. Stand up and stretch or walk around for a minute or two every hour or half-hour. Also, stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day because dehydration can lead to headaches.