Just how big a problem are headaches?
In 2016 the World Health Organisation wrote:
- Headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system.
- It has been estimated that almost half of the adult population have had a headache at least once within the last year.
- Headaches are associated with personal and societal burdens of pain, disability, damaged quality of life and financial cost.
- Worldwide, only a minority of people with headache disorders are diagnosed appropriately by a healthcare provider.
Headaches have been underestimated, under-recognized and under-treated throughout the world…
Headaches are often a result of an imbalance in the structure of the neck, the cranial and dental systems, or a combination of these.
Biochemical and emotional triggers can also initiate a headache and make it more severe. Muscular spasm and impingement of nerves and blood vessels result in pounding headaches or constant, dull pain and neurological symptoms.
More rarely, pathology or pressure inside the head from dural tension or damage cause a severe “inside-out” burning headache with a more precise location.
Diagnosing the problem
The location and nature of the pain will give us an insight into its cause – we’ll ask the patient if it’s at the front or the back of the head, and whether it’s just on one side, or encompasses the whole head.
We’ll also ask if the pain seems to originate from inside the head and spread outwards, or go from the outside inward. And finally, we’ll ask if it’s pounding and diffuse or burning and at a very specific location.
The answers to these questions will identify the likely cause and give us a guide to the best way to approach treatment.
Some of the different causes of headaches
- A high percentage of headaches are of muscular and structural origin – normally seeming to originate from the outside and moving in – often described as “hat band” pain, which is constant and dull or sometimes pounding.
- The origin for these headaches is either misalignment of the neck vertebrae and irritation of the vertebral artery, or from the dental and cranial structures with the carotid artery often being affected and causing the pounding.
- Localised, burning pain may be from the lower neck vertebrae, referring pain to the back of the head or from tension, or damage in the dural tissues surrounding the brain.
- Inside-out headaches are most likely toxic headaches (such as a hangover), caused by decreased fluid in the brain, or from pressure inside the head.
- The more radiation of the pain and other neurological symptoms, the more likely there is also inflammation of the nerves.
Dental and Structural Aetiology
The teeth and jaws are often a major factor in causing headaches, and this may be missed by medical practitioners.
The neck vertebrae are impacted when there is a malocclusion (bad ‘bite’) and uneven contact while chewing. This causes the neck vertebrae to rotate in opposite directions, which sets up pain referral to the head.
When the upper jaw is canted up on one side the lower jaw is forced to move upwards more on that side to get the teeth together, and the head tilts to one side – the muscles and blood vessels can become constricted, causing pounding head pain to the front of the head. This can cause migraine headaches.
Grinding and clenching the teeth excessively can over stress the muscles, creating muscle spasm and trigger points. These trigger points can then refer pain to other parts of the head, and to the teeth and jaws.
This can be more severe when the bite doesn’t meet harmoniously, the jaw is in the wrong alignment or there are missing teeth.
Triggers for headaches
In addition to the structural or mechanical issues with the teeth, jaws and spine, other stresses on the biochemical or electromagnetic and emotional systems can also act as triggers for head pain.
Triggers and exacerbating factors can be:
- Trauma (causing inflammation)
- Toxins, including heavy metals
- Pesticides and petrochemicals, which over-tax the liver’s ability to detoxify
- Allergies and digestive problems
- An interference with energy production in the cells, causing fatigue and an increased sensitivity to a stimulus, creating a pain response at lower levels.
Some holistic approaches for headaches
We identify the cause of inflammation: mechanical (such as a bad bite), or infections (especially in the mouth) or trauma The body can be strengthened with good quality minerals and liver support.
We also aim to eliminate toxins such as mercury-containing amalgam dental fillings which can interfere with normal mitochondrial function and energy production.
Headaches are sometimes provoked by changes in hormones, such as before menstruation, or headaches that disappear completely during pregnancy, only to return afterwards. In these instances, hormone levels need to be measured, and if they are imbalanced they can be corrected using bioidentical hormones.
Dealing with stress and its effects
Stress can increase cortisol production which can adversely affect other hormone levels, increase tooth grinding and muscle tension, and trigger more severe headaches.
Energetically, emotions stored in the body (especially repressed anger around the jaw) may need to be released.
Correcting structural imbalances
“Treating structural imbalances is a step often missed in the mainstream medical system that tries to balance the biochemistry against a compromised structure, with limited long-term success.”
It is very important to correct the structural imbalances first – the teeth and jaw position, as well as aligning the neck and vertebrae correctly, as this often brings instant relief and is the only way of ensuring long-term relief.
Once the structure has been balanced there is less inflammation and tension in the body and we often find that the triggering factors are less of an issue and easier to treat. The system can then be supported with nutritional supplements and herbs to treat the inflammation, toxins or energy production and techniques introduced to manage stress and emotions.