Chiropractor Chandler AZ

Carson Robertson
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How to Treat Headaches

Headaches are caused by a variety of physical, emotional, hormonal, and metabolic stressors. Every headache sufferer has different symptoms and triggers that produce their tension or migraine headaches. Likewise, their headaches are relieved with different combinations of ice, exercise, stretching, light movement, over-the-counter medication, or rest.

headache triggerpoint

The best treatments for tension and migraine headaches depend on the causing factors that lead to their headache symptoms. For example ,some people develop more suboccipital headaches. Suboccipital muscles are at the base of the skull and help hold the head upright. Any activity that requires the head to look down places excessive stress on these muscles. When people describe pain and soreness that begins at the base of their head and then radiates forward, these muscles are sore to the touch and are contributing to their headaches. Suboccipital headaches are worse with head down and forward activities, such as slouching at computer, reading, childcare, or working at a desk.

Treatment is then focused on decreasing muscle spasms, tension, and stress on the suboccipital muscles. Treatments that remove the stress and strain to the suboccipital muscles improve their tension and migraine symptoms.

Likewise, if the headaches are caused by allergies or reactions to specific food allergens, then treatment would need to focus on removing the causing factors. Treatment to the suboccipital muscles would provide limited benefit to patients with caffeine withdrawal headaches.

Tension and Migraine Headaches are on a Threshold

headache pc

One theory describes headaches as on a threshold system. On a threshold ,when you go above the threshold line you develop a headache, and when you go below the threshold the headache disappears. Several different factors can contribute to reaching threshold. The headache threshold theory describes all levels adding up including metabolic, hormonal, emotional stress, physical stress, and diet all contributing to reaching threshold. With people who develop headaches from a variety of symptoms and causes, this theory make the most sense to them. It is not always the same cause or trigger for all their headaches. Often it is a variety of symptoms and causes producing the pain.

Controlling or minimizing hormonal, metabolic, and allergy factors are often difficult, especially when a headache has developed. Postural strain, muscle pain, joint injuries, and poor postures are often the easiest factors to control and improve to eliminate headaches.

Home Remedies for Tension and Migraine Headaches

Home remedies address the factors that contribute to headaches on a daily basis and can be easily managed with routine. Aromatherapy such as lavender, peppermint, and basil does help reduce headache symptoms and intensity for some people. These home treatments help limit and reduce some of the physical and emotional stressors that are contributing to reaching the headache threshold. Aromatherapy is a simple home treatment that many people find successful in reducing their headaches symptoms.

Diet Modification

Other headache sufferers report improvement in their tension and migraine symptoms by altering their diet. Certain foods trigger or increase the likelihood of their headache pain, many common causes include dairy, chocolate, peanut butter, or fruits. Other people have negative reaction to meats with nitrates, such as bacon or hot dogs. Meanwhile others develop headaches after drinking red wine or other fermented foods or beverages. Eliminating food allergies or triggers is a very effective way to reduce the likelihood of developing tension or migraine headaches. Likewise, increasing foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oils or flaxseed, reduce the likelihood of headaches by improving the metabolic system and reducing inflammation.

Ice therapy chandler

Ice and Heat

Ice and heat are simple and very cost effective home treatments. Applying heat to the back of the head or neck increases blood flow to the muscles and can help relieve symptoms or eliminate the progression of headaches. Other people respond to icing the back the head or neck.Ice decreases muscle spasms and inflammation, which are factors that often trigger headaches.

Just as everybody is different, other headache sufferers respond to alternating heat and ice. Apply heat to an area for 15 minutes and then immediately following with ice for 15 minutes. These treatments can be alternated throughout the day. Heat, ice, or the alternating therapy effectively reduces the muscular stress and strain to the head and back of the neck, which is often a trigger for tension and migraine headaches.

Self massage

When the suboccipital or neck muscles are contributing to headaches, massage is an excellent treatment for reducing headache symptoms. Self massage makes the muscles loosen up to reduce their strain and contribution to the headache threshold. Light trigger point or muscle compression along the suboccipital muscles and trapezius are simple to perform at home. Trigger points refer pain to other areas of the body. Light compression on the trigger point for 30 seconds often reduces its intensity of radiating symptoms. Slightly compress the area for 30 seconds and then release. Repeat the light compression on the area for 3 to 5 repetitions. Often people with trigger point pain respond to self massage followed by ice for 15 minutes. Repeat several times throughout the day.

Home treatments can be very successful at decreasing headaches symptoms and reducing the frequency of headaches. When home treatments are not enough to eliminate tension and migraine headaches, it is beneficial to seek treatment from a provider who addresses the muscle and joint component of headaches.

Headache Treatments and Providers

anatomy model muscles head

One of the biggest and most common contributors to headache thresholds are pain signals from muscles and joints. People who describe increased tension and migraine headaches with poor postures or prolonged head down activities often have muscles or joints that are contributing to their headaches symptoms. These same people often respond to rest, ice, heat, stretching, cold laser, or changes in activity.

Chiropractic, massage therapy, and physical therapy all address muscle and joint components that cause tension and migraine headaches.

Chiropractic therapy increases joint motion and decreases muscle spasms in the neck and upper back. Massage therapy works to address muscle spasms and scar tissue in the muscles that contribute to headaches. Physical therapy strengthens the neck muscles and increases flexibility. Graston technique and ASTYM are specific techniques that break up scar tissue and fascial adhesions in muscles. Often people describe knots in their trapezius muscle or suboccipital muscles that become aggravated with head down and poor postures. These knots eventually become irritated and pain develops from the knots that helps trigger headache symptoms.



These knots are often sources of scar tissue that have developed over time with poor postures. Breaking up the scar tissue within the knots helps reduce the likelihood of muscle pain and triggers for headaches.

physical therapist neck

As previously mentioned, the headaches are often the result of several factors adding up to reach threshold. By reducing or minimizing each of the components that contribute to the threshold, people develop less headaches. Specific home treatments can be applied to reduce some of the allergy, hormonal, metabolic, emotional, and physical stresses in the life that contribute to the threshold. Likewise many people require in-office treatments to help break up muscle spasms, joint pain, and scar tissue that contribute to headaches.


Every headache sufferer is different because of their unique factors to reaching their headache threshold. Combinations of treatment are often required to help minimize each of these components. Seeking providers who specialize in specific treatments to reduce muscle and joint pain provide some of the best short-term and long-term treatments for eliminating or minimizing future headaches.