After taking a case history and a clinical examination to rule out high blood pressure, metabolic headaches, tumours, aneurysm and other more serious conditions, an Osteopath will first try to establish the type of headache you are experiencing - for example, a headache felt behind the eyes is often due to dysfunction in the cervical vertebrae whilst a 'tension' headache at the temples may be due to tightness in the neck and shoulder muscles. The quality of the muscles are assessed to look for 'trigger points', taut areas of muscle that are painful to the touch and can refer pain elsewhere, often causing headaches. Spinal movement is also assessed and re-aligned if necessary, to prevent nerve impingement. Finally, postural advice and stretching regimes are prescribed to help further rebalance the body and prevent musculo-skeletal headache re-occurrence.
As an Acupuncturist I want lots of information about your headache so that I can make a Chinese Medicine diagnosis and then choose the correct acupuncture points for you. I will ask questions such as “What time of day is it worse? Does it get better when you move around?”. A headache that is worse in the morning but improves when you get up and start moving around is likely to be due to Damp and your digestion will be playing a part. A headache that is better when you lie down is a Deficiency headache and I would be looking to improve the flow of Qi and Blood in your body. The location of your headache and a description of the pain are also important. If it’s at the temples it’s a Liver channel issue; at the top of the head is likely to be a deficiency of some kind. A dull heavy headache will have a different diagnosis to a stabbing/splitting headache. So if you visit an acupuncturist for your headache be prepared to describe it in detail; that gives your practitioner a better chance of working out where the problem is and treating it accordingly.
Like Jackie, I would ask lots of questions about the timing of your headaches, as well as the frequency. There can be many causes of headaches. They could simply be due to dehydration, and easily resolved by taking on more water, and avoiding diuretics such as tea and coffee. They could be due to iron deficiency, and this is particularly common in menstruating women. In this case I would refer the client to their GP to have their serum ferritin levels (iron stores) checked, and once we have the results suggest improvements in their diet to raise iron levels. Headaches are also a symptom of a Thyroid disorder or high blood pressure, so again I would refer them back to their GP for the relevant investigations.
Headaches can also be associated with hormone fluctuations, poor detoxification by the liver, gut toxicity and food intolerance, and I would use careful questioning to determine whether any of these were likely and then develop a health improvement plan accordingly, which could include functional testing as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.
If you suffer with headaches, please feel free to contact one of us by clicking on our names to access our contact details