What Can You Do?

The ACA suggests the following:
• If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on a sewing machine, typing or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.

• Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.

• Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.

• Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.

In addition, the ACA and its Council on Nutrition suggest you avoid the following food “triggers”:
• Avoid caffeine. Foods such as chocolate, coffee, sodas and cocoa contain high levels of the stimulant.

• Avoid foods with a high salt or sugar content. These foods may cause migraines, resulting in sensitivity to light, noise, or abrupt movements.

• Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. These drinks can dehydrate you and cause headache pain.

• Other headache sufferers may want to avoid not only caffeine, but also high-protein foods, dairy products, red meat and salty foods.

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Headache Triggers

But to get to the bottom of the problem, you first need to find out what is causing your pain. Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems.

Ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern.

“The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck,” says Dr. George B. McClelland, a doctor of chiropractic from Christiansburg, VA, and member of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Board of Governors. “Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.”

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Have a Splitting Headache? Chiropractic Care Can Help

by The American Chiropractic Association

If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.

What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.

New research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.

A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.

Also, a 1995 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches and that those who ceased chiropractic treatment after four weeks experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in contrast with those patients who received a commonly prescribed medication.

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Drink 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to help keep the kidneys active, dilute and remove toxins from the body, and replace lost fluids. (Coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol are diuretics/dehydrators. Don’t substitute them for water.) If you perspire during walking, you may need to drink even more.

Some walking surfaces are better than others on your musculoskeletal system.

Walking on a cushioned or rubberized track is ideal, because the cushioning of this type of track absorbs most of the impact of your walking. Many recreation centers offer this type of track free of charge.

Grass is another good surface, but watch out for hidden dips or holes in the ground. Walking on a surface with no give, such as concrete or a mall floor, is not your best choice, because this type of surface will not absorb much of the impact your body will experience. If you do choose to walk on such a surface, be extra careful to select highly cushioned shoes

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The first item of business when beginning your walking program is to select the right pair of shoes. Dr. McAndrews recommends the following tips:

Make sure the shoes you purchase fit properly. The balls of your feet should rest exactly at the point where the toe end of the shoe bends during walking. Avoid high-top shoes, that, often cover the entire ankle, limiting your foot’s ability to move freely and naturally. Opt instead for shoes that offer your ankle a fuller range of motion.

Select shoes with plenty of cushioning in the soles to absorb the impact of your walking.


Walking just 12 minutes every other day can offer important health benefits. Walking 20 minutes every other day is even better. But in order to increase your longevity, try to eventually work up to 30 minutes, five days per week. The following tips should help you get started safely and smoothly:
• Move your arms freely, in coordination with the opposite leg.
• Don’t stoop your head or look down as you walk. This will challenge the normal forward curve of your neck, which, in turn, will cause you to carry your weight improperly.
• Don’t carry weights or dumbbells while walking.
They’re better used as a separate part of your exercise regimen. If you do carry weights while walking, be sure that they are light enough that they do not interfere with the “rhythm” of your arms and legs; in order to counterbalance the body, when your right arm moves forward, the left leg should be moving forward, etc.
• Expect a little soreness in the thighs and calves for the first week or two. If you experience more than soreness, check with your doctor of chiropractic.
• Walk briskly, with “purpose.” Simply “sauntering,” while relaxing and enjoyable, is not an effective form of cardiovascular exercise.

Keep in mind that, if you have not previously been physically active, you should consult your doctor before. Begin slowly with a walk of perhaps half of a mile at a pace that does not cause discomfort. Continue this for about two weeks, then start to increase the pace and length of time walking. Eventually – depending on your age – you can build your “target” heart rate/pulse to either 120 beats per minute or, if younger, as many as 140 beats per minute. For the average adult, a heart rate of 120 beats per minute would require walking at about 2 miles per hour, while a heart rate of 140 beats per minute would require a pace of 4 1/2 miles per hour.

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