Get your neck looked at if you have chronic headaches.

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Last month a paper was published in The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics where they looked at some of the factors that make chronic migraine sufferers different than everyone else.

They found that, compared to people who don’t have headaches, if you have regular migraine headaches, you will have some sort of neck problem. If you have headaches, you will probably have less motion in your neck, and your neck will give you enough problems that you will score on a standardized Neck Disability Index.

While these guys claim that little is known about the link between migraines and neck problems, they seem to have found further proof that there is some relationship. If you have neck pain, you might also be having some migraines. There’s a correlation.

migraine-brainThese guys claim that there is some commonality between the sensory nerves in the neck converging with the trigeminal nerve nucleus in the brainstem. The trigeminal nerve carries sensations of touch and pain from the face to the brain.

I don’t know if that plays a role in migraines or not, but they did NOT mention my favorite theory on why neck problems can give you headaches. When there  is a disturbance in the neck, this can upset the balance of signals going to another part of the brainstem that has serotonin-producing nerves.

migraine brain

When the serotonin-producing nerves are sending the wrong signals, they can make the blood vessels surrounding the brain contract and relax in a cycle. This can cause the throbbing sensation that you get with a migraine headache, and it will allow inflammatory chemicals to leak to the pain-sensitive parts of the blood vessels, causing pain.

Also, when the brain’s blood vessels are contracting and relaxing, they can cause that cortical spreading depression across the surface of the brain to make you have a prodrome aura. You start seeing things across your field of vision. You might start feeling funny things in your hands or face.

It’s only when the serotonin starts to balance out that the migraine finally ends. The serotonin pathway is also the way that drugs like amitriptyline work as a preventative medication. But why pop more pills when chiropractic care is shown to work just as well and has longer-lasting effects?

Todd Lloyd, DC

Comparison Between Neck Pain Disability and Cervical Range of Motion in Patients With Episodic and Chronic Migraine: A Cross-Sectional Study
Carvalho, Gabriela F. et al.
Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics , Volume 37 , Issue 9 , 641 – 646

What would you do if you suffered from disabling migraine pain 7 days a month for 18 years?

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People who don’t experience headaches really don’t understand the suffering you go through if you have migraines. The brain fog. The pounding sensitivity to light, noises, or smells. The pain. The lack of focus. The feeling of shutting yourself off from the world. The worry that you will lose your livelihood if you miss work. The detachment from your loved ones.

They make drugs for migraines, you know. Drugs to treat the pain. Drugs to prevent the pain, even. The problem with popping pills is that there are side effects. Even dangerous side effects. The pain killers eat away at your stomach lining. They eat away at your liver or kidneys over time. They mess with your hormone balance even more than the migraines do.

As a matter of fact, when researchers look at certain medications and how they compare to the standard treatment of chiropractic adjustments for migraines, they often lose the medication patients in the study due to intolerance to the medications. If you are suffering from migraine headaches, you probably know that reliance on drugs is not for you.

I was curious what the studies published in peer-reviewed medical literature says about migraine headaches and chiropractic care, so I pulled a book off of my shelf that I know has several landmark studies examining the effectiveness (and efficacy) of chiropractic care for certain conditions.

One of the studies that stuck out to me is this one:

“A Randomized Controlled Trial of Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation Therapy for Migraine.” Peter Tuchin, Henry Pollard, and Rod Bonello. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2000;23:91-95

This study took 127 people who, on average, suffered from a migraine that lasts all day, and they got these all day migraines 7 times a month.

Think about that. Being disabled all day. A day full of brain fog where it’s hard to concentrate. A day with pounding pain. A day where you need to cower down in a dark, quiet room so you can suffer in silence.

Then take that day and suffer this way 7 times a month. This is, what, almost twice a week where you can’t do a thing at all! To make it all even more tragic, these people lived this way for 18 years.

Like I said, non-migraine sufferers can’t comprehend this, but if you suffer from migraines, you know what it’s like all too well.

So this study took these people, and had them keep a journal of their headaches for 2 month. No treatment. Then, for two months after that, they got chiropractic care. In the final two months, care stopped, and they continued with their diaries.

What they found with only 2 months of treatment was this: “Migraine patients treated with manipulation had statistically significant reductions in disability hours and duration of migraines.”

Patients having chiropractic care had fewer migraines, and when they actually got them, they didn’t last as long. And in a smaller part, when they got these shorter, rarer headaches, they weren’t as severe.

And here’s something really remarkable. They decreased their medication intake by half. On average before the treatment, each person was taking 21 pills per month. After treatment they were only needing to take 10 pills per month. Many of the patients stopped taking pills altogether during this study.

With today’s concerns about the abuse of prescription pain medications, and our growing population of people who are growing more and more dependent on opioids for pain relief. It’ refreshing to see that the “alternative” to drugs is the safe and effective choice: Chiropractic.

Todd Lloyd, DC

Does chiropractic care change when you are in pain?

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A new study came out this month, published in JMPT, that talks about an experiment that the researchers performed. They hooked up electrodes to the patients, and they measured the response that their back muscles had when they were adjusted.

We know that when you have your low back adjusted, there is a reflex response in your muscles that gets them to relax. It’s like hitting the reset button on your tight and achy muscles. It’s pretty fast, too. Way faster than any effect stretching can have on your muscles. Like, immediate.

It turns out, when you are in pain, you have a slightly slower response. When you are in pain, your muscles are tight. Guarded. When you get adjusted, your muscles take more time to respond. It’s still an effective form of pain relief, though, as we see in the NASS and CCGPP guidelines. It just responds differently when you have more pain.

This is why, when you are hurting, your expectations of how an adjustment should feel is altered. You might have to have different expectations. An adjustment won’t be as crisp as when you are adjusted for athletic optimization, or your routine upper back ache.

Three things you should know about chiropractic for runners

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Humans are made for walking and running. And compared to other animals, we can run long distances through the mid day sun. We have endurance. Our bodies are made to run. Our feet allow it. Our ankles allow it. Our pelvic structure is there for it.

But sometimes the way you function can interfere with the way you run. You might have a hang up in your ankle, or your knee might be twisted a certain direction. You might have noticed recently that your knees have started to hurt when you run. Well, if that’s the case, then here are three things you need to know about how chiropractic care can help you for running.

If you’ve been in the clinic to see me, then you have probably gotten your ankles mobilized at the end of your treatment. One important reason for this is that I want you to have fluid and springy group reaction forces. Every step that you take, your foot and ankle collapses into a flat arch and a pronated and everted ankle. This is a controlled collapse that absorbed the energy of your heal-or mid foot-strike. And as you collapse the structure of your foot, you immediately spring it back into a ridged and springy arch. A strong structure forms that help propel you forward with stored energy.

If there is any hang-up in the way this all works, then you won’t enjoy the proper ground-reaction forces. You’ll compensate. You’ll go lop-sided. Manipulation to your foot and ankles can restore the way the bones and joint in your feet work together.

Chiropractic care helps keep your legs symmetrical from left to right. If you have one ankle that doesn’t dorsiflex very well on one side, you’ll invariably have some asymmetry from one side to the other. You should be able to imagine that this can cause pain and, even worse, arthritis in one knee or hip. Or maybe it will manifest as one TFL being tighter than the other. Usually the knees suffer because of this. Manipulation helps.

And another important part to consider is your pelvis symmetry and motion. Every step you take requires that your sacroiliac joints (SI joints) move very slightly. And the pelvis where the SI joints live is an important attachment point for the muscles in your core and in your legs. If the pelvis and lumbar spine is off a bit, then the muscles that attach to this area will become inhibited. This will completely throw off your running game. Get your low back adjusted, and see how prober biomechanics feels.

Whenever a patient of mine admits that he’s a runner, I always tell him to throw off his shoes so I can check the way his foot and ankle moves on each side. If you are a runner, you need to have good ground reaction forces, good symmetry, and good pelvis structure. If not, you might start to feel it in ways that you shouldn’t.

The hidden cause of knee pain that you may be overlooking.

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I heard you’ve been having knee problems, and you’ve tried everything you can think of to help it out. Painkillers every day. Herbal remedies. Anti-inflammatory diet. Comfort diet. Braces. Exercises. Rest.

Well, there’s another cause of your knee pain that you may be overlooking.

You’re fooling yourself if you think treating your knee in isolation is going to make things better. You’re going to need to look beyond the area where it hurts to protect this vulnerable joint.

Knee-anatomy-anterior-superficial-viewFirst things first, You have to look at the way your foot and ankle is moving, supporting, and absorbing shock. Most of us are going around not moving enough in the foot and ankle, and moving too much in the knee. Your primary shock absorber in your body is your foot and ankle. If your foot and ankle doesn’t move well enough, your knee becomes the body part that absorbs every step you take. Your knees start out remarkably strong, but they aren’t designed to take this kind of abuse over time.
For your feet and ankles, I recommend short foot exercises to strengthen and loosen the intrinsic muscles in your feet. Check back here for in-depth instruction in a future article. In short, you must get the muscles in your feet to contract and move, and it’s not easy. These muscles are use to being passive, and you haven’t used them much in decades.

Second, I recommend that you go to your chiropractor and make sure he adjusts your foot and ankle this time. If he doesn’t know how, maybe find a new one. Getting your feet and ankle moving better after they have been locked up for years is very rewarding, and it’s my opinion that a good specific foot and ankle adjustment is essential as a foundation in your whole-body balance.

The other part of your knee pain is your twisted pelvis. You’re pelvis may be rocked out of place, and you may not even realize it. Sure, you might feel a little bit of stiffness as you rise out of a chair, but your pelvic imbalance could be insidiously causing problems for your low back and your knees.

IMG_3688When your pelvis is torqued out of place, it throws off the way the muscles support your body and control the swing in your steps. When one side of your hip is rolled backward and stuck in that position, it can make your thigh swing wide when you walk, causing all kinds of unnatural forces on your knees. If you are having knee problems, you need to start with a foundation of a balanced pelvis.

Your chiropractor should be evaluating your feet and ankles and your pelvis on every visit if you are having problems with your knees. Tackling this issue from both sides of the knees is important if your body is going to heal with good function. This prevents repetitive strain on your knees and it allows the tensile stretch on your healing ligaments and tendons to be in their proper, anatomically correct alignment.

Todd Lloyd, DC

Why Are My Hamstrings Always Tight? | Run Coaching, Ironman and Triathlon Specialists – Kinetic Revolution

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Introducing The Concept Of Relative Stiffness So many of us speak of tight hamstrings after running. The description has become a bit of a throwaway line. 

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Source: Why Are My Hamstrings Always Tight? | Run Coaching, Ironman and Triathlon Specialists – Kinetic Revolution