Class IV Low Level Laser Treatments for Headaches


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Tension headaches can be a mild annoyance, or they can be severely debilitating. I'm often amazed when people come into the office saying they are getting 4 to 6 headaches a week. The headaches tend to start in the upper neck and move toward the front of the head. The frequency of headaches increase over time, from 1-2 a month to occurring on a daily basis. This is when they finally start seeking out remedies and methods to control the headaches.

Tension headaches can be caused by a variety of factors. One of the most common causes we see in the chiropractic office is pain and irritation of the upper back and neck muscles, tendons, and joints. Poor posture overworks this area, triggering a sequence of events that lead to tension headaches.

Headache sufferers are well aware of the basic patterns and headache triggers. If their work requires significant periods of computer usage, they notice more headaches, especially in the afternoon and evening hours. The headaches are usually worse at the end of the work week or after several long days.

The increased headaches are a result of their head and neck leaning forward, which places a greater workload on the neck and upper back muscles. These muscles eventually become fatigued and overwhelmed. Headache sufferers know they get some relief with over-the-counter pain relievers or NSAIDS, rest, ice, light stretching, and changing positions. During the progression of their headache, there is always a point in time when rest and ice will reduce the headaches intensity. However, there is also a point of no return, where their headaches will be severe and will not improve with rest, ice, or NSAIDs.

Conservative Treatments

Therapeutic treatments for addressing soft tissue injuries involve massage therapy, manual therapy, trigger point therapy, Graston Technique, or Active Release Technique. These treatments increase blood flow, decrease muscle spasms, enhance flexibility, speed healing, and promote proper tissue repair.

Graston Technique neck pain headaches

When these treatments are incorporated into a treatment plan patients heal faster and are less likely to have long-term pain or soft tissue fibrosis or scar tissue in the injured muscle. These soft tissue treatments are incorporated with therapeutic exercise and flexibility programs.

Treatment for headache symptoms may involve many prescription, over the counter, herbal, and homeopathic remedies. The neck muscles need to function appropriately and not remain in spasms, which alters neck spinal movements and postures. For those with arthritic degeneration in the cervical spine, restoring proper muscle function is even more important. This often requires people to change their postures, habits, and activities. Acupuncture has been known to help headache sufferers.

Working any muscles in the front of the neck is not comfortable, but it needs to be done to restore proper cervical and shoulder function. The neck, shoulder, scapula, and arm work as a functional unit to turn your head, raise your shoulder, or reach in front of you. Dysfunction in any of these muscles leads to pain and tendinopathy.

Medical Treatments

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NSAIDs are often prescribed for the initial acute injury stages. In severe cases that involve multiple joint regions, muscle relaxers or oral steroids can be given. Trigger point injections, botox, or steroid injections can be treatment options. Pain management is not usually required unless stronger medications or joint injections are required for treatment.

MRI and X-rays will not usually be ordered to evaluate mild to moderate muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries. Severe cases may utilize advanced imaging to rule out bone fractures, edema, nerve entrapments, tendon or muscle ruptures. NCV testing may be utilized in cases that also involve muscle, sensory, or reflex loss.

Cervical spinal disc bulges and herniations onto the spinal cord or nerve root produce different symptoms and location of symptoms. Your chiropractor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or physician will evaluate your condition and make a proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Ask them any questions you might have about your injury and treatment progression for your neck.

Chiropractic Adjustive Techniques

Chiropractic adjustments attempt to increase the movement of the joint complex. With injury, poor posture, sprains, and strains, muscles tighten up and the joints can become locked up. This lack of movement is felt when you look over your shoulder and feel a pulling, dull pain, or a twinge of pain. Mildly stuck joints can be loosened up in the day with stretching and range of motion exercises. Moderately stuck joints often need a little help to restore their normal motion with chiropractic adjustments. Severely stuck joints cause sharp and severe pain whenever they put pressure upon the joint or try and move the joint complex.

Joint complex injuries are common whenever a patient says they have pain when sitting or standing too long, or the pain always "starts right here." Pressing on an injured joint causes pain, and people noticed reduced range of motion looking over their shoulder.

Healthy joints do not experience pain with orthopedic testing. A healthy joint comfortably moves when light pressure is applied to the spinous process, rocking the joint back-and-forth. A mildly stuck joint feels a little stiff and a little sore to the patient. Whereas moderate and severe joint sprains cause immediate pain when pressure is applied.

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There are multiple ways to get a joint moving again. The most important part is that the joint is moving in its proper range of motion and without pain. Many people think chiropractors only perform manual manipulation. Most likely their first experience with a chiropractic was years ago, and manual manipulation was the most common form of treatment. Over time and with technology, treatments have changed with the same goal of getting neck joints moving.

There are several very gentle ways to adjust an injured neck joint, including Activator Technique and Thompson Drop Technique. Activator utilizes a spring load instrument "bump" the joint and increase joint motion before the muscles tighten up. Thompson Drop Technique utilizes specific tables that drop two inches to increase the motion without turning or rotating the neck. Learn more about types of chiropractic adjustments.

In Conclusion

The neck and upper extremity works as a comprehensive unit performing many of the repetitive tasks at home, work, and recreational sports. Injuries to one area of the musculature often indicate that additional damage has been incurred by other muscles.

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Many therapeutic exercises can help restore proper strength and endurance to the neck, shoulder, upper back, and arm muscles. Isometric exercises are often the initial treatment exercises. Followed by single plane rubber band exercises for elbow flexion, extension, lateral flexion, abduction, and adduction movements. Dynamic exercises involving stability ball push-ups can be performed on the wall or floor. The more unstable of the surface the more effort and stabilization is required of all the upper extremity muscles.

Push-ups on a stability ball enhances neuromuscular learning throughout the neck, scapula, shoulder, upper arm, and lower our muscles. Additional strength exercises can be found on the arm and shoulder strengthening pages.

Our Chandler Chiropractic & Physical Therapy clinic treats patients with a variety of muscle, tendon, joint, and ligament injuries. The clinic provides treatment for runners, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors in addition to common headache, neck, and back patients traditionally seen in Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Massage Therapy clinics. We work with all ages and abilities of the residents in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler AZ.