Where Do Headaches and Migraines Come From?

Headaches and migraines are so common, it seems like half of all commercials address some over-the-counter pain medication or even new pharmaceuticals for migraines. But what if you could help diminish the pain and severity of your headaches or migraines by going to a chiropractor?
Before we get into how chiropractic can help your headaches and migraines, we’ll go more in depth about headaches (where they come from, why they happen, and the most typical causes of headaches and migraines). The more you know, the better you’ll be able to address the problem, whether that means scheduling an appointment with us, or drinking more water daily.

What is a headache?

Most headaches and migraines stem from problems with the nervous system. Essentially, nerves are activated, affecting muscles and blood vessels, and those nerves send pain signals to the brain. There are primary headaches and secondary headaches.


Primary headaches: These are caused by nerve or chemical overactivity in your head. Common types of primary headaches are: migraine (with or without aura), cluster headache, tension headache, or TAC (trigeminal autonomic cephalasia).


Secondary headaches: A secondary headache is caused by another condition altogether. Common causes of secondary headaches include sinus or ear infections, a concussion, dehydration, or influenza.


Common causes of headaches:
Chronic daily headaches or headaches from coughing or exercise are also considered primary headaches, but may be indicative of an underlying condition. Lifestyle is also a big factor when it comes to headaches. Pay attention to your alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol consumption can lead to headaches. Some patients find red wine is a big “offender.” Pay attention to your diet. Don’t skip meals; when your blood sugar drops, your body is flooded with hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to help readjust your blood sugar levels, and your head may feel like it’s in a vise grip. It may also help to avoid certain foods such as processed meats with nitrates. Additionally, poor posture, poor sleep, and stress can aggravate the portion of your nervous system that creates pain signals.


What is a migraine?

A migraine is a primary headache. It’s mysterious in that the causes aren’t fully understood, but data suggests that they stem from triggered, over-reactive nerve cells. When the nerve cells are triggered by something, they send out impulses to blood vessels, and the brain experiences chemical changes that lead to pain that can be completely debilitating. When a person has a migraine, they can have the following symptoms:

  • Moderate to severe pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach upset
  • pounding/throbbing in the head
  • Long-lasting pain (half day-3 full days)
  • Light, sound, or smell sensitivity


Common causes of migraines:
Some scientists believe migraines can be hereditary. There are some triggers that migraine sufferers may avoid, which include:

  • Certain foods containing sugar or caffeine
  • Fermented foods or drink (especially red wine)
  • Cheese or chocolate
  • Scents
  • Secondhand smoke


Some (often) unavoidable migraine triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Noise
  • Weather changes (especially atmospheric/barometric pressure changes)
  • Lighting


One of the patients at Shephard Chiropractic Clinic experienced debilitating migraines, especially as the world switched to remote work. She sought us out and our providers were able to alleviate her pain—her up-to-2x weekly visits were the only times she was able to get some relief from the pain while she investigated the (ultimately internal) root cause.


Why do headaches happen?

Primary types of headaches typically happen because there is a nerve blockage or interference caused by a misalignment of the vertebra. This can trigger a headache as a response. This is particularly true of tension headaches, which are related to neck pain. When your vertebrae are realigned (including your cervical, or neck, vertebrae) headaches may be mitigated or minimized.


A very common cause of headaches is stress—something we’ve all experienced. This stress can lead to tightness in the upper trapezius, which tightens the neck tendons, which ends up causing temporal tension headaches. Start working on your stress management—we can help with that too.


When should I see a chiropractor for a headache?

Make sure you’re addressing your body’s basic needs. If you have noted some of the common causes listed above, and you’re drinking plenty of water daily and you are clear of illnesses that can cause headaches, we are more than happy to see you for this problem, and we can definitely help. Our chiropractic providers at Shephard Chiropractic Clinic are prepared to help with both realignment through gentle adjustments to alleviate nerve pressure, and will help advise on dealing with stress regulation, a common cause for the headaches discussed above.


Stop living with constant headaches or living in fear of your next migraine. Make an appointment with us so we can determine the cause and get you realigned and back to enjoying the life you want to lead.


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