MARCH 21, 2016 – THE UNEXPECTED CAUSES AND TREATMENTS FOR HEADACHES
ART® providers are experts in soft tissue care, but some of the ailments they treat are not what you would expect. Headaches are one such example of a malady that many people may not realize is connected to the health and function of their soft tissues. Headache treatment, in fact, tops the list of conditions where patients experience dissatisfaction with their care. Like with issues that are more apparently connected to the soft tissue, ART® is able to resolve headache injuries more effectively because we find the root of the problem and fix what is causing it.
When we start looking at the underlying cause of headaches, we are examining the muscles, joints and nerves in the neck, also known as the cervical spine. There is a high demand on the muscles and joints of the cervical spine to support the head protect the spine. Headache symptoms are often caused when these muscles are not as strong, flexible, or coordinated as they need to be. This process is called “referred pain,” a complex neurological process, wherein pain is felt in a different place than where it is occurring. Scientific studies have shown that disorders of the neck muscles and joints cause referred pain in the head.
Neck injuries can be caused by anything from poor posture, to repetitive use when participating in certain sports, or a previous injury. These causes often lead to microtrauma, which are small scale damages that can occur in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules. This microtrauma does not create pain, but over time can cause scar tissue to build up into something we call “adhesions.” Adhesions can lead to pain, tightness, stiffness, restricted joint motion, and diminished blood flow, which places more strain on the neck muscles, causes more microtrauma, and creates a repetitive strain cycle. These adhesions can also cause nerves to get stuck to surrounding muscles and structures, which irritates the nerves and can create headaches as well.
Headaches are often treated with anti-inflammatory medications. When they occur frequently, doctors often prescribe stronger medications, and occasionally suggest invasive procedures such as a joint block. These methods often do not resolve headaches long term because they only address the symptoms, and don’t treat the underlying causes: muscle tightness, scar tissue adhesions, or nerve entrapment. These underlying causes can be hard to detect using diagnosis methods like x-rays or other forms of medical imagery, but fortunately, can be felt manually by a skilled ART® practitioner. A.R.T providers can feel where the underlying causes of headaches are occurring and release the scar tissue adhesions to create a long-term solution to headache relief.