Headaches are a common complaint in patients presenting for chiropractic care. They seek chiropractic care because they find adjustments applied to the cervical spine and upper back region are highly effective in reducing the intensity, frequency and duration of headache pain. This is because the cervical spine/neck is often the origin of the
headache, as the three nerves in the upper neck (C1, 2 and 3) pass through neck muscles in route to the scalp/head.
When the muscles of the neck are in spasm, the nerves get “pinched” or squeezed by the overlying tight muscles, resulting in headache pain. Each nerve runs to a different part of the head and therefore, pain may radiate over the top of the head into the forehead and eyes, over the ear reaching the temple, or to the back and side of the head. When more than one of the C1-3 nerves is pinched, the whole side to the top of the head may be involved.
It is well known that there are many side effects to medications frequently utilized in the treatment of headaches. Many patients prefer not taking medications for this reason and spinal manipulations offer a great remedy for these patients.
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Many patients have entered my office after unsuccessful medical treatment for back pain. In the great majority of these cases the diagnosis given by the medical doctor was muscle spasm and the treatment was prescription muscle relaxers. I agreed that muscle spasm was present, but not that it was the problem.
Muscle spasm is not a condition or a disease. It is a symptom. Muscle spasm is a reaction by the body to an underlying problem. What is the problem? The most common situation creating spasm of muscle is abnormal movement and alignment of joints near the spasm. The study of basic anatomy tells us the nerves that communicate with a joint also communicate with the muscles that move that joint. When the joint begins to function abnormally, the nerve system responds by relaying messages to the muscles. The result is an increase in muscle tone to provide extra support and protection. This serves the same purpose as a splint on an injured arm or leg. The support stabilizes the area to allow the body to begin healing and prevent further injury. Spasm is a protective mechanism.
Treatment for the spasm without treating the cause seems pointless and possibly dangerous. Blocking the body’s alarm system (pain) and relaxing the protective mechanism may give a false sense of well-being and allow for further injury. Logical treatment of this situation would appear to be correcting joint function and spasm simultaneously. However, even if the medical profession were to realize the underlying cause of spasm, they do not have a pill for realigning or restoring normal function to a joint.
Chiropractic care of back pain with accompanying muscle spasm is focused on determining the abnormalities of the joint, nerves and muscles involved. Applying gentle, specific chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy has proven to be a logical, effective approach to care. If you or your loved ones experience this problem, try chiropractic first!
Please consult your doctor of Chiropractic if you have further questions.