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Headaches happen to everyone occasionally, but frequent or severe headaches that interrupt your life require medical care. There are dozens of types of headaches with different causes. The most common headaches are caused by circulatory or neurological dysfunction. Referred pain from neck or upper back injuries may also cause headaches. 

While age, gender, and lifestyle habits such as smoking or alcohol use may put you at a higher risk of frequent headaches, they can happen to anyone. Migraines may have a genetic component and are more common in women and people under fifty. The goal of headache and migraine treatment is to reduce severity and frequency and keep headaches from interfering with the patient’s life. 

Here’s what you should know about three of the most common types of headaches and how chiropractic care can treat them.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches, also called “stress headaches,” are the most common type of headache. As the name implies, physical or emotional strain can bring them on. 

Stress and anxiety cause muscles in the scalp, neck, and shoulders to tense. The tension may constrict blood vessels or trigger inflammation that irritates nerves, causing pain. Tension headaches feel like a tight band around the head and may radiate into the neck and shoulders. Though they don’t cause the same sensory symptoms as migraines, they can be just as debilitating, especially for people who get them frequently. 

Physical triggers such as whiplash, head injuries, and bad posture can also cause tension headaches. In these cases, the physical trauma or holding of an unhealthy position causes muscle tension. 

Your chiropractor can help you determine why you suffer from tension headaches, then treat the underlying causes. 

Spinal adjustment is a go-to treatment for tension headaches because it fixes subluxated vertebrae that may put pressure on nerves or restrict blood flow. If bad posture, such as hunching over your device, contributes to your headaches, physical therapy can help you correct your posture and fix the damage. Physical therapy is also helpful for whiplash injuries. Some areas of the neck become chronically tight after a whiplash injury, while others are weakened. Physical therapy and trigger point therapies can restore normal function to the neck and resolve headaches. 

An integrated pain clinic employing several musculoskeletal specialists is your best bet for receiving well-rounded headache treatment. Besides physical therapists and chiropractors, your healthcare team may include nurses who can give pain and inflammation-relieving injections. 

With the right care, relief from tension headaches is possible.


Migraines are infamous for their debilitating and often frightening symptoms. These include changes in vision, difficulty speaking, numbness, tingling, and, of course, a throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head. 

Sensory changes like spots in the vision are called an aura, and they happen before the headache starts. Nausea is also common with migraine attacks. Researchers now know that changes in the interaction between the brainstem and the trigeminal nerve, as well as chemical imbalances, are involved in migraine headaches. Medications for treating and preventing migraines exist, but often have serious side effects. 

Like tension headaches, migraines may be occasional or chronic and may last hours or days. A variety of things can trigger migraines, and triggers differ from person to person. They include hormonal changes, certain foods, bright lights, sleep changes, and stress. Keeping a journal can help you pinpoint your triggers so you can try to avoid them. 

Spinal adjustment frees the nervous system to work optimally. Regular adjustments have shown promise in helping migraine sufferers experience fewer, less severe attacks. Adjustments also relieve stress and tension, which can trigger attacks.

Providers have used platelet-rich plasma injections to treat migraines for several years. According to the National Headache Institute, PRP users report a reduction in the number of headaches and headache severity and duration. PRP uses platelets and plasma collected from the patient during a simple blood draw. To treat headaches and migraines, the provider injects the platelets with a small amount of plasma into the neck near major nerves. Platelets are chemical messengers that draw healing cells to the area. PRP also brings oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. By placing it near nerves, we can encourage healing and reduce inflammation. 

Safe, holistic treatments like spinal adjustment and PRP can reduce a patient’s dependence on over-the-counter or prescription medication. Overuse of NSAIDs like ibuprofen can cause severe overuse headaches. Patients who can’t find relief without frequent NSAID use can especially benefit from a holistic approach. 

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are less common than the other two, but can be extremely painful and frightening. Symptoms include severe pain focused behind one eye, pain on the same side of your face, swelling of the eye or the forehead near the eye, tearing, and runny or stuffy nose. 

The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but researchers suspect they have to do with brain chemical imbalances and issues with the brain’s biological clock. Cluster headaches are so-called because attacks happen in clusters over days or weeks and then disappear for a while. 

Adjusting the upper part of the neck has shown promise in helping prevent or reduce cluster headache symptoms. PRP injections may also reduce symptom frequency and severity. Besides in-office treatments, your provider will suggest lifestyle changes like keeping a regular sleep schedule and avoiding alcohol. They may also recommend supplementing with magnesium, B2, and melatonin. 

Holistic care for cluster headaches can reduce dependence on side-effect-heavy medications and improve quality of life. 


Holistic Care for Headaches in Houston

At Vanguard Spine and Sport, our integrated pain clinics treat patients suffering from frequent headaches or migraines. Our chiropractors, nurses, and physical therapists provide comprehensive care that addresses the root cause of headache symptoms. If you are searching for freedom from headache attacks and dangerous medications, come see us at one of our two Houston locations.