Many types, many approaches and most people think pill, straight away and generally get relief this way – it is when the headache becomes chronic and regularly cost’s you in pain, stress and expense that the constant headache starts to affect ones life quality. The cost for a chronic headache sufferer over a year can be extremely costly (appxUS$780.00 per year, according to a World Headache Association newsletter.)
Headache is largely misunderstood, and gets put in 2 or 3 different categories;
1) You over indulged in “something” (food or Alcohol) and it is your fault.
2) It is a migraine if it is quite severe and forces you to take a day off and medication.
3) Most people treat themselves with over the counter pain killers and wait for it to pass off. If it does it is a Tension headache and if not and you are forced to the Doctor – it is a Migraine.
It is not quite as simple as that unfortunately, headache can be the first sign of serious illness and if it does NOT settle with in a short time and with non prescription medication – seek medical advice. To differentiate between a tension headache and a Migraine can be confusing as well…..Many think that a migraine is accompanied by a visual “aura” around things seen by the sufferer, or that if you vomit that is a migraine. This is also not quite or always the case…..when a person thinks they suffer from Migraine attack, they immediately get told that it is incurable and put on serious pain killers (most of which you can not use more than once or twice as you develop a tolerance to these Drugs very quickly). It depresses most of these patients immediately as well, so what can be done as there is no cure? How do we tell the difference between the Tension and Migraine attack?
The Tension headache is known more by a tightening of the back of the neck and facial muscles, non specific pain, sometimes described as a “band ” around the head tightening it. The Migraine tends have gone through definition changes as it was first thought to be mainly a circulatory headache but is now thought to be from a neurological cause. Migraine tends to be put into smaller groups like – Abdominal migraine, basilar migraine and menstrual migraine “pictures”. Generally however the migraine sufferer has pain in a distinct region of the head usually on one side and behind or to the side of the eye, better for a sleep in a dark room, may or may not see an aura around things like lights etc and a day or two duration and even a day or two more to recover. The Migraine is often present on waking getting worse during day and the Tension headache comes on during the day being worse at night.
An Osteopath (or Chiropractor or Physiotherapist) looks for structural reasons to cause the headache and invariably finds them present in the headache patient (tension and migrainous) The general structural form of a person can cause all types of pains if it is strained beyond its compensatory abilities (its ability to adapt to the effects of Gravity and life…) All of us are a set of mechanical compensations that are either inherited and or, traumatically influenced by falls and accidents and these days – industrially enforced through occupation. Most of us when we think “structural” think bone and muscle – BUT there is the ligaments (that are poor in blood supply, heal badly and wear out quickly) and there is a tissue system that has come to light in the last 20 years – the Fascia – a thin membranous material that envelopes muscles and allows them to work as groups, it also helps “shape” us into the inherited shapes that we are – our familial resemblance to Mother and Father. The Fascia forms the muscle groups on and around the skeleton in our individual ways.
It is only recently that Osteopaths and Medical people have researched and found that fascia is HEAVILY infested with nerve supply, has memory, and is a lot more to do with structure that ever before thought. The fascial system is also intimately connected to muscle, bone, ligament and nerves – highly intelligent and if you are to fully treat someone structurally has to be taken into consideration in the treatment approach. It requires long sustained stretches as in a Yoga exercise, not the vigorous rubbing approach of a massage, an “inhibitory” approach.
The fascia is intimately connected to the upper neck vertebrae where at the level of C2 and C3 there is boney connection INSIDE the vertebral column to the “Meningies” or Dural tube as it becomes known below this point. The headache and pain associated with Meningitis is infamous for its intensity, so the meningies are very pain sensitive – when a vertebra at this level is held in restriction of movement by muscle spasm or facet joint locking (going “out”) it sets up a pulling or dragging force into these tissue systems and gives rise to the pain of headache (particularly the one sided pain of a Migraine and Cluster Headache). This can be taken as far as the low back as the dural tube is free floating in the spinal canal until the level of the Sacrum (the triangular shaped bone in the middle of the pelvis) Where it connects to the inside of that bone and sets up how your low back being “out” can give rise to tension headaches – but you will not know that unless you visit your local Osteopath.