Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Favorite Symptom

It probably sounds odd that I have a favorite patient complaint.  I see patients with a variety of problems.  Some complaints are new, often due to sports, work-related and motor vehicle accidents.  Other problems are chronic, recurring complaints that patients have tried to manage, unsuccessfully, with many approaches.  No matter what the cause or how long it has persisted, when I am able to help someone overcome or better manage a problem, I am deeply gratified. 

One particular patient complaint, however, remains my favorite.

Persistent or recurring headaches are a complex diagnostic challenging. As a recent research article points out, chiropractic management of headaches can be a successful option for the management headaches.  What are called cervicogenic headaches, headaches that are related to mechanical dysfunction of the joints, muscles and other soft tissues of the neck, are one type of headache that responds favorably to chiropractic treatment.  Migraine headaches are another area where chiropractic care can be beneficial.

While some complaints of headache are truly easy to diagnose and respond rapidly, even dramatically, to chiropractic treatment, others are much more of a puzzle.  Most patients with persistent headaches have been through multiples tests (MRIs, CT scans of the head and sinuses) and exams (neurologists, ear nose and throat, allergists, even dentists looking for temporomandibular [jaw joint] problems).  Regardless of the types of exams and treatment someone has already gone through, I have to consider the many possible causes of head pain before beginning treatment.  There are many causes to consider.

One of the areas I consider that others often ignore is that of body mechanics or faulty ergonomic principles.  People who work in seated jobs or hobbies, especially those who look down to write or type on keyboards,  often need to adjust desks, computers and chairs in order to lessen stress on neck muscles and joints that can refer pain to the head and face. 

Just as chiropractic adjustments work to improve muscle tension and function, (along with treatments such as myofascial release and home exercises), similar treatment can be applied to the jaw joint (TMJ). 

Some head pain is referred from myofascial trigger points . which are taut and tender points in muscles, many of which refer pain to various places in the head and face.  Effective treatment of this problem includes soft tissue treatments, called myofascial release.

An otherwise hidden tendency towards inflammation and pain can be caused by a faulty diet, as described previously.  When other significant causes of pain have been addressed and eliminated, counseling in an anti-inflammatory diet and life style can lead to remarkable results. 

I have not been able to help every person I have seen with headaches. Most are helped, however, and in those situations where chiropractic treatment has failed, a consultation with one of our medical team members can lead to positive results. 

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