People describe headaches in a myriad of different ways from a feeling of a tight band around their head to a dull ache to sever blinding pain that is only eased by lying down in a dark room. There are just about as many causes of headaches as there are symptoms of headaches. A common cause of tension headaches is spinal misalignments or “subluxations” in the upper back and neck.
Tension type headaches are the most common, affecting upwards of 75% of all headache sufferers. Most people describe a tension headache as a constant dull, achy feeling either on one side or both sides of the head, often described as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. These headaches usually begin slowly and gradually and can last for minutes or days, and tend to begin in the middle or toward the end of the day. Tension headaches are often the result of stress or bad posture, which stresses the spine and muscles in the upper back and neck.
Tension headaches, or stress headaches, can last from 30 minutes to several days. In some cases, chronic tension headaches may persist for many months. Although the pain can at times be severe, tension headaches are usually not associated with other symptoms, such as nausea, throbbing or vomiting.
The most common cause of tension headaches is subluxations in the upper back and neck usually in combination with active trigger points or knots in the related muscles. When vertebrae in the upper neck lose their normal motion or position, a small muscle goes into spasm. The problem is that this small muscle has a tendon which slips between the upper neck and the base of the skull and attaches to a thin pain-sensitive tissue called the dura mater that covers the brain. Although the brain itself has no feeling, the dura mater is very pain-sensitive. Consequently, when this small muscle goes into spasm and its tendon tugs at the dura mater, a headache occurs.
Causes of tension type headaches very often are associated with referred pain from trigger points in the base of the skull, entire neck and upper back. Trigger points or “knots” as they are commonly referred to, are common in people who suffer a whiplash injury, work at computers of desks most of the day or suffer from high levels of stress that forces their necks to pull down into the shoulders.
Many of those who suffer from migraines experience visual symptoms called an “aura” just prior to an attack that is often described as seeing flashing lights. Chiropractic treatment when the aura initially occurs often helps prevent a migraine.