We often see patients suffering from headache after auto injury in our Aloha clinic. Headache can have a number of possible causes tied to the car accident, including neck injuries, disc herniation, pinched nerves, muscle tension, stress, and more. Cervicogenic headache (referring to headache deriving from the cervical spine) is especially common after whiplash injury, as the damaged neck ligaments can release inflammatory chemicals causing pain. Headaches may also be a sign of more serious conditions, such as brain injuries or vertebral artery injury, so it's important to have your headache checked by your Aloha chiropractor or another qualified physician.
Many patients with persistent headache fall victim to what's called medication overuse headache or rebound headache. This occurs when taking pain medications too frequently actually causes you to have more headaches as a side effect of the drugs, which then encourages you to take more medication in a vicious cycle of pain. Recent government estimates from the UK suggested that millions of people suffer from "completely preventable" headaches as result of medication overuse.
So how you can relieve headache after auto injury without reaching for the pain bottle? While seeing your Aloha chiropractor is the first step to headache relief, there are several steps you can take to minimize your reliance on pain medications.
1. Take a break. Often headache symptoms are worsened when we're under significant stress. Especially if you are coping with the pain of auto injuries and the stress of coordinating with insurance companies or attorneys, stress may trigger a headache attack. Try taking a moment to breathe, sit in a low-lit room, rest, go for a walk, or take a warm bath. This will help to relieve some of the stress and muscular tension that could be exacerbating your symptoms.
2. Give yourself a massage. Rubbing your upper back and neck will ease muscle tension and promote blood flow to any affected areas in the neck. This is one reason why our Aloha chiropractors regularly incorporate massage into their treatments.
3. Ice. Apply ice packs to neck, your temples, or the painful region in your head. Our Beaverton/Aloha chiropractors can advise you in using cryotherapy for pain relief.
4. Perform neck exercises. If you're experiencing neck stiffness or muscle spasms, you could benefit from doing daily neck exercises. Our Aloha chiropractors can teach you how to perform effective physical therapy exercises to prevent headache.
5. Get a neck adjustment. Gentle chiropractic adjustments can ease pressure on any irritated nerves in the neck which may be causing your headache. Chiropractic adjustments can also prevent the buildup of harmful scar tissue and fibrous adhesions (trigger points) in the neck. This will help to restore mobility in the neck to prevent and relieve headache.
Remember you shouldn't rely on pain medications to get you through the day.
Our Aloha/Beaverton chiropractors will perform a full physical, neurological, and orthopedic evaluation to diagnose the source of your headache after an auto accident. We'll then establish a comprehensive treatment plan to provide lasting headache relief. Give our Oregon Medical Centers a call today.
Abrams B. Medication overuse headaches. Medical Clinics North America 2013: 97: 337-352. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2012.12.007.
Gallagher, James. Painkillers ‘are the cause’ of millions of headaches. BBC News. September 18, 2012. Accessed October 15, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19622016.
Haas M, Spegman A, Peterson D, Aickin M, Vavrek D. Dose response and efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic cervicogenic headache: a pilot randomized controlled trial. The Spine Journal 2010; 10: 117-128.
Headache Home Remedies. WebMD. Access October 17, 2013. http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/treating-headaches-yourself.
Jull G, Trott P, Potter H, et al. A randomized controlled trail of exercise and manipulative therapy for cervicogenic headache. Spine 2002; 27(17):1835-1843.