Dr Drew Hall

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Cluster headaches and Your Neck

Posted in Headaches on Mar 04, 2019

Almost everyone has suffered from a headache at least once in their life, but cluster headaches are another animal. There are different types and causes of headaches.

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Cluster headaches are one of the most debilitating types of headaches that exist.  Hopefully, you have never experienced a cluster headache, however, if you have and you are researching the cause and its correction then this article is for you!

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Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are not common, affecting only 1 percent of the United States population. Cluster headaches affect males disproportionately to females by about 4 to 1. The onset of a cluster headache is immediate (unlike migraines that are generally gradual) and strike with excruciating levels of pain.

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They are called cluster headaches because they come in “clusters” that usually last from 15 minutes to three hours. They typically occur, remit, occur, remit, and then often go silent for weeks or months.

Cluster headache sufferers describe the pain associated with this type of headache like a hot red iron bar is being poked behind their eye. The pain can also extend into the forehead, cheek area, head, and neck. The affected eye can also have associated drooping, redness, sweating and/or tearing.

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Oftentimes people who suffer from cluster headaches also experience a stuffy nose on the same side as the affected eye. Nausea and vomiting may or may not be present. Cluster headaches can be cyclical and often associated with certain times of the day and seasons. Mainstream medical care has no known cause or cure and only treats them with painkilling medications.



Can Cluster Headaches be Caused by Neck Injury?

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In our Los Angeles based Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic offices we have seen over 10,000 patients and about every condition imaginable. We have found that many chronic pain conditions have their roots in a prior upper cervical spine injury. Why can the upper cervical spine be the root cause of many pain conditions including cluster headaches?

The central nervous system controls and coordinates all body functions. We often tell patients that health is a function. If everything in your body is functioning optimally then you have health. However, if you have interference with the function in the body it will express itself as symptom somewhere in the body. Symptoms are effects, not causes. Our job in our office is to locate structural interferences with the central nervous system and then correct them. Let us explain:

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The average head weighs 10-12 lbs. and sits on a doughnut-shaped bone called the atlas which weighs 2 ounces. This biomechanical relationship is vulnerable to injury. To make this region more precarious your head rests on the top of a “stick” your neck. 

To add insult to injury the upper cervical spine has the greatest range of motion of any area of the spine. The combination of these four factors makes the upper cervical spine vulnerable to spinal misalignment.

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The atlas (c-1) and axis (c-2) house the brainstem. This is the seat of control for muscle tone regulation, blood pressure regulation, cardiac function, Thermoregulation, and many other automatic control systems in the body. 

Structural injury to the upper cervical spine can have devastating effects on human physiology.(1) Upper cervical spinal misalignment increases muscle spasm at the head-neck junction, decreases cerebral blood flow, and can be one underlying cause of cluster headaches and other headache conditions.



Below is an abstract from a research article showing how upper cervical spine injury can be a precipitating factor in the onset of cluster headache:

Posttraumatic headaches usually have tension-type or migraine-like characteristics. A correlation between head trauma and cluster headaches (CH) has been previously reported. CH in children are rare and require a thorough differential diagnosis.

We present an original case of a 15-year-old boy with cluster headaches associated with allodynia probably evoked by neck trauma. Severe headache attacks started one month after neck trauma. In the beginning, the clinical presentation of our patient's headaches was very misleading.

Headaches were bilateral and associated with infection. An initial diagnosis of sinusitis was made. During further observation headaches have become unilateral with typical for CH associated symptoms and additionally with allodynia. Other causes of secondary CH like cervicogenic headaches, brain tumors, and vascular malformation have been excluded.

The boy has undergone prophylactic treatment based on flunarizine and gabapentin with good results. Possible pathogenesis of our patient's headaches has been proposed and diagnostic traps discussed. (2)



What exactly Does a Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor Do? Unleashing Proper Nervous System Function 

Blair Upper Cervical doctors are specially trained to find spinal misalignments in the upper cervical spine. This is determined by running the prospective patient through a battery of neurological tests that locate the spinal segments that have been injured and misaligned by a prior neck injury. 

Once located, precision imaging in the form of digital x-ray or cone beam computed tomography (Cbct) is used to precisely determine which joint has misaligned and the angulation of the offending joint.

Each person’s anatomy is different and therefore imaging is used to uncover the blueprint to be used to correct each patient's individual misalignment pattern. Once this information is gleaned, a gentle, light correction is made without twisting, popping, or pulling.

The patient is then monitored overtime to ensure that the correction is holding. If the testing indicates the need for another correction, then it is performed. However, the goal of Blair Upper Cervical Care is for the patient to stay in “adjustment”.

It isn’t the correction that produces healing. It is the removal of nerve irritation and the adjustment “holding” in its normal position that allows the body to function better and proceed through a healing process.

If you or a loved one is looking for natural cluster headache relief our offices offer a FREE consultation. 

If you are outside of the LOS ANGELES area and looking for a Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor you can call our office and we would be happy to help find you a qualified doctor in your area.

References

The Role of the Craniocervical Junction in Craniospinal Hydrodynamics and Neurodegenerative Conditions

A case report of an adolescent with cluster headaches following neck trauma: Coincidence or trigger?