To Your Health
February, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 02)
Headaches: Drugless Solutions
By Julie Engebretson
Looking for an effective solution to those nagging headaches without all the side effects associated with medications? Try chiropractic care.
Blame it on stress, poor sleep or genes, headaches are a painful part of life for many Americans. Severe, chronic headache is one of the most common sources of pain, interfering with the ability to enjoy social activities and lessening quality of life.
It is estimated that 15 percent of adults in the United States suffer from chronic migraines or severe headache pain. Better illustrated, in a room of six people, it is likely that at least one person is popping aspirin, acetaminophen or something stronger. But are drugs really the best way to treat headache pain?
Headache sufferers spend billions each year on over-the-counter and prescription pain medication for relief. But these drugs have the potential to cause even more pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a class of medications that includes commonly used pain relievers such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve and Excedrin, have been associated with side effects ranging from stomach bleeding and ulcers to decreased kidney and liver function or failure. In fact, headaches are a potential side effect of several NSAIDs! And yet so many Americans remain trapped inside capsule after tiny capsule of temporary relief, at best, masking the problem and ignoring the risk. Isn't it time for a little more cure and a lot less risk?
A Nervous Condition?
Over the years, a number of theories have emerged as to the origin of headaches. We know there are many triggers. Toxic fumes, cigarette smoke and ingesting certain foods probably top the list of headache triggers. But the exact cause or causes are still unknown. Until a few years ago, researchers believed headache pain to be caused by muscle contraction in the face, neck and scalp, as the result of heightened emotions, tension or stress. However, more recent studies negate this theory. It is now more commonly believed that headache may result from changes among certain brain chemicals - serotonin, endorphins and many other chemicals, including nitric oxide, that help the nervous system to "communicate" properly. These chemical changes and the subsequent interference of nerve transmission are thought to ignite pain pathways to the brain and to disrupt the brain's ability to dull the pain.