Headaches, regardless if they are tension, migraine, cluster or biochemical in origin, are a significant problem for over 45 million Americans. Duke University in 2004 conducted a study to guide headache sufferers to find the best practices for the treatment of headache: read on for the findings.

To begin with, the World Health Organization recognizes “headache disorders among the most common disorders of the nervous system” and further indicates ‘headache has been underestimated, under-recognized and under-treated throughout the world.”

Headaches arise from many causes and generally grouped broadly as tension, migraine (vascular), cluster, and biochemical (hormonal, medications, diet). A comprehensive approach to the treatment of headaches needs to address each of these components individually and begins with a thorough history and examination to find the “weakest link in the headache chain.” This needs to include evaluation of lifestyle habits such as diet, rest, exercise as well as examination of the nerves, muscles and brain.

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Tension headaches occur when muscular tension builds up in the upper back, shoulders, neck and even the TMJ ( jaw). This increased muscle tension irritates the nerves in and around the head, creating pain. Whiplash injuries, muscle “trigger points,” prolonged texting, emotional stress, computer work and poor posture are common causes of tension headaches.


Migraine headaches are more complex in their cause and can last several days. An imbalance in the nerve flow or chemical irritants to the blood vessels in the head creates these headaches that often present with nausea even vision changes. Treating migraines requires an in depth assessment for diet, lifestyle, and environmental triggers. For example, dehydration or a drop in blood sugar can create a migraine.

Biochemical related headaches can also be related to many factors such hormonal changes, food sensitivities, medication side effects, and environmental irritants. Once again an in depth consultation and lifestyle questionnaire are important to find a hidden trigger – even if it is a call to your pharmacist! The functional medicine approach in treating migraines often includes advanced testing for adrenal hormones, food sensitivities and metabolic imbalances.

Cluster headaches are often behind the eyes, recur for several weeks at a time. They can also be similar to sinus headaches in location. Again, be sure to get a thorough evaluation of your headaches to find the underlying cause.

Headaches, especially recurring, are not normal and need to be properly evaluated.  As for treatment, the Duke 2004 Study referenced above found 83.7% of headaches respond to Chiropractic Care. Furthermore, the Duke Study found evidence that Chiropractic outperformed medications in the long term management of headache.

For headache suffers looking for an effective, natural and comprehensive approach to reducing your headaches and long term changes, consider Chiropractic. Especially a doctor who will listen, examine the lifestyle, diet, and order the appropriate traditional and functional medicine testing. Chiropractic, it may be just what the doctor ordered.

Dr. Donald DeFabio is a dual board certified Chiropractic Physician in Berkeley Heights, NJ and  the Director of DeFabio Spine and Sports Rehab, LLC where Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Functional Medicine, Nutrition, and Physical Rehabilitation are integrated for a comprehensive approach to your health management. The office may be reached at DeFabioChiropractic@gmail.com  or  www.DeFabioChiropractic.com.  #TheDeFabioDifference