Headaches: Root Causes and Holistic Treatments

Posted on 7/17/2014 by Dr. Adrian den Boer
Categories: chiropractic care, detoxification, environment, neurological health, stress, water distribution

Have you had a headache in the last year? If not, you’re one of the minority (WHO, 2012). This all-too-common complaint in our doctor’s office is not due to a Tylenol deficiency, and practicing headache management with short-term treatments like Tylenol is neither healthy nor effective in preventing recurring headaches. Rather, uncovering the root causes and addressing treatment from both a proactive and holistic approach is far healthier, and it’s more effective in reducing pain and the likelihood of recurring headaches.
Western medicine usually approaches recurring headaches with a brain scan. However, only a small fraction of headaches are caused by brain tumors. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one cause; typically, it’s multifactorial and the result of some kind of stressor. If the stressor is left undiscovered, it may cause other areas of ill health to develop over time. 
One of the most common stressors is upper back and neck dysfunction, often exacerbated by our sit-down society. For every two centimeters the head is forward from the neutral position, pressure doubles in the upper neck.  Abnormal muscle tension often results, as well as irritation of the suboccipital nerve, which exits the spinal cord between the skull and first cervical vertebra.
Other common causes of headaches include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- Chronic sinusitis triggered by environmental allergens
Gut dysfunction 
- Food sensitivities  (nuts and chocolate are common headache instigators)
- Misalignment (including upper back and neck dysfunction discussed above)
Inadequate liver function: When the liver is unable to detoxify properly due to excessive environmental toxin exposure, processed food, pharmaceuticals, etc., there’s no room for extra detoxification. Thus, certain things like fresh paint or perfume can induce a headache.
- Sleep deprivation
- Chronic dehydration 
- Chronic stress
- Magnesium deficiency (often from chronic stress)
You can see that the causes are multiple, but it’s so important to uncover them with each patient to prevent systemic inflammation from cascading in the body.  
In our office, we do a full evaluation and a good physical to identify the causes and corresponding treatment recommendations. With most patients, we recommend a detoxification plan specific to their biochemistry and overseen by a DBC physician, as well as an appropriate food plan and nutraceuticals to address any imbalances.
We usually recommend magnesium glycinate, too, because magnesium is a key component of over 300 reactions in the body and often deficient in patients with headaches. Finally, we focus on proper alignment with chiropractic adjustments and rehabilitative exercises, and recommend acoustic compression when needed.  
Headache Disorders. October 2012. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs277/en/ 
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