Spinal Column - The “Why” of Headaches

When you have a headache, your eyes hurt, your forehead pounds, your neck is sore and tight and your jaw is clenched with determination to get through the day! Light bothers you and noise sets your teeth on edge. You try and try to do your work. Then there are your children, the house, dinner, your spouse and all the daily demands of life. You would like to stop the world and get off for a while.

Headaches have been presented as a disease that needs to be “treated”. Millions of dollars in advertising are spent annually parading the benefits of drugs for headaches. We have bought into this thinking. It’s hard to resist. One pill can be the “quick fix” you need.

As always with The Spinal Column…. let’s look at this from a different perspective.

The word headache simply means “ache in the head”. It’s not a disease. It’s a pain – a symptom! I am not making light of the symptom: it can be severe and debilitating, for sure.


There are different types of headaches - migraines, cluster, tension, occipital (concentrated in the back of the head) and sinus headaches. Each seems to have it’s own pain pattern, location, severity and of course a drug to deal with it.

Where did we get the idea that we need to treat the headache? Why would we want to mask the symptom? Wouldn’t you rather find out what the headache is a symptom for?

What is really going on inside your body that it now has a need to scream out at you to pay attention to it through the debilitating pain of a headache? Isn’t it better to find out what is causing the pain rather than use drugs that always have a side effect on your body, especially if your are using them on a recurring basis.

And yes, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are drugs with side effects. The side effects are said to be “rare, except when these pain relievers are taken inappropriately”. The most serious side effect is liver damage due to over use. You could also suffer from ulcers or bleeding in the digestive tract.

My daughter’s roommate had an unfortunate experience that magnified the issue of side effects from Aleve. She was away for a 3 day camping trip. The day she was leaving she had an awful headache. She took some Aleve to help her get through. Unfortunately the headache did not want to go away. So throughout the weekend she took more. Keeping in mind that she is a young woman, 22, away with her friends for the weekend she was also drinking beer and Monster…neither to excess but enough that in combination with the Aleve she ended up in the hospital for 2 days with severe ulcers in her digestive tract that started at the top of her esophagus all the way to her belly. She could not even swallow her own saliva with out exasperating pain. Suffice to say there were many tests and prodding before the determination was made that the cause of this anguish was the consumption of the Aleve paired with the other carbonated drinks. She had no idea these were lethal.

Honestly…..how many of you knew???

So if you have regular headaches and you are taking a couple of pain relievers a day regularly, this is considered both “chronic use” and “taking inappropriately”.

I’d rather find the cause of the headache and fix it than risk any side effects for my family and myself.

We are all so busy these days that we get in the cycle of just treating the pain so we can get to work or not loose our patience with our children. We start to forget that pain has a reason for being. A headache is your body talking to you and you need to interpret the language. It’s a signal to let you know your body is having a difficult time handling something.

The vast majority of headaches are found at the base of the head or in the regions of the temples or over the eyes.

Chiropractors have found that many headaches signify a distortion of some of the vertebrae of the neck affecting the function of the Nervous System. In other words, some of the movable bones in the neck have been moved, twisted, distorted from their correct position and have not been able to return on their own. We call this a subluxation.

These subluxations affect the manner in which the Nervous System transmits information.

This can happen because the spinal bones are out of place and putting pressure on the nerves of the Nervous System that run through the spine.

The pressure on the nerves will cause a disruption in the communication that is trying to transmit through that space/nerve.

Imagine that you are enjoying a smoothie and you are happily drinking from the straw and your child reaches over and squeezed the straw. What happens? Well yes, you quickly swipe their hand away and threaten to ground them for the whole weekend, but before that…. The smoothie was not able to travel through the straw and deliver the same amount of delicious, delightful treats to your mouth.

The same thing happens along the lines of the nervous system. The nerves that come out between the bones of your spine are like the straws. A bone out of position is like your child squeezing the straw! Though in the case of the nervous system, it is vitally important that the whole message be able to travel to it’s recipient with in the body.

When there is a cervical (neck) subluxation, one of the symptoms is tightness in the neck muscles, lack of blood circulation and headaches.

Chiropractors works to correct the position of the bones so that 1) the Nervous System can its job correctly and 2) to relieve the nasty headaches!

Of course, some headaches are not caused by subluxations. Poor diet, poor nutrition, hypoglycemia as well as other culprits can cause them. But more common than not, a recurring headache is the cause of those little bones in your neck not being where they were designed to be.

No headaches should be taken lightly. Something is not right. Find that something!

A trip to the chiropractor will provide a comprehensive examination to help determine the reason.

I hope that helps shed some light on why we have recurring headaches and plants the seed to fix the problem, don’t just cover it up!

That’s it for this week, folks

Yours in Health,

Dr Jim