Category Archives: Headaches

What Can I Do To Stop Migraines?


Migraine Headaches

Migraine Headaches

Migraines can be life-altering! They can stop us from being able to enjoy a child’s piano recital, participate in family events, go to work, or simply do household chores! Wouldn’t it be nice to have ways to self-manage these miserable, often disabling headaches? Here are some options!

1. RELAXATION THERAPY: Search for a calm environment, turn off the lights (photophobia, or light sensitivity, is a common migraine complaint), minimize sound/noise (due to “hyperacusis”), and sleep if possible. Monitor the room temperature and/or use hot/cold compresses to the head and/or neck regions to relax tight muscles (heat) and reduce pain and swelling (cold). Similarly, a warm shower or bath can have similar beneficial effects.

2. SLEEP WELL: Migraines can interfere with falling asleep, they can wake you up during the night, and they are often triggered by NOT getting a good night’s sleep. To improve your sleep quality: a) Establish regular sleeping hours. Wake up and go to bed at consistent times every day, including weekends. b) Keep daytime naps short (20-30 min. max). c) “Unwind” at the end of the day – try soothing music, a warm bath, or reading a favorite book (avoid suspenseful movies). d) Don’t eat/drink too much before bedtime as heavy meals, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can interfere with sleep. e) Don’t exercise intensely before bedtime (stretching is fine). f) Eliminate distractions in the bedroom, including TV and bringing work to bed. Close the bedroom door and use a fan to muffle out distracting noises. g) If you take any medications, check for known side effects, as many contain caffeine or other stimulants that can interfere with sleep – including some meds that treat migraines! Talk to your doctor and pharmacist!

3. EAT WELL: Be consistent about when you eat and don’t skip meals (fasting increases the risk for migraine). Keep a food journal to figure out your migraine triggers and avoid foods that commonly trigger migraines like chocolate, aged cheeses, caffeine, and alcohol. Try eliminating these and see how you feel!

4. EXERCISE REGULARLY: This is MOST IMPORTANT for migraine management as it facilitates sleep cycles and stimulates the release of endorphins and enkephlins that help block pain. It also helps fight obesity, which is another risk factor for headaches.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs. If you, a friend, or family member requires care for neck pain or headaches, we would be honored to render our services.  Visit for more information.

Chiropractic and Sinus Headaches | Yankton Chiropractor | Brian Olson DC

Sinus headaches refer to pain in the head typically in and around the face. Most of us are knowledgeable about two of our four sinuses: the frontal (forehead) and maxillary (our “cheek bones”). The other two sinuses (called ethmoid and sphenoid) are much less understood. As chiropractors, many patients ask us about sinus problems, as all of us have had a stuffy nose due to a cold and have felt this pain in our face and head. Those of us who have suffered from sinus infections REALLY know how painful sinusitis can get! This month, let’s take a look at our sinuses and what we can do to self-manage the problem.

First, an anatomy lesson… As stated above, there are four paired, or sets, of sinuses in our head: Maxillary: Pain/pressure in the cheekbones, sometimes referring pain to the teeth. These drain sideways (if you lay on your side, the side “up” drains down into the downside maxillary sinus and into the nose). Frontal: Pain/pressure in the forehead. These drain downward (when we’re upright, looking straight ahead). Ethmoidal: Pain/pressure between and/or behind the eyes. These drain when we lean forwards. Sphenoidal: Cause pain/pressure behind the eyes, top of the head and/or back of the head (which can be extreme). These drain best when lying face pointing down towards the floor, but they can be stubborn to drain!

Sinusitis, or rhinosinusitis, by definition is an inflammation of the sinus lining (mucous membrane) and is classified as follows: Acute – a new infection which can last up to four weeks and are divided into two types: severe and non-severe; Recurrent acute – four or more separate acute episodes within one year; Subacute – an infection lasting 4-12 weeks; Chronic infections lasting >12 weeks; and Acute exacerbation of chronic sinusitis – recurring bouts of chronic sinusitis.

One cause of sinusitis can include an “URI” (upper respiratory tract infections) most often in the form of a virus (such as rhinovirus—there are over 99 types have been identified, or better known as “the common cold”). Bacteria can also cause a sinus infection. These infections tend to last longer and can follow a viral infection. A third cause is a fungal infection. These are more common in diabetic and other immune deficient patients. Chemical irritants such as cigarette smoke and chlorine fumes can also trigger sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis can be caused by anything that irritates the sinuses for >12 weeks (viruses, bacteria, environmental irritants, tooth infections, and more). Allergies are also a common cause of sinusitis whether they are environmental and/or food/chemical induced.

Chiropractic care for sinusitis includes primarily symptomatic care with sinus drainage techniques such as facial and cranial bone manipulation/mobilization, lymphatic pump and drainage techniques, instruction in self-stretch of the sinuses (such as an outward pull of the cheek bones in different positions of the head), nutritional counseling (such as 1000mg of vitamin C every 2-4 hours) and anti-inflammatory herbs and vitamins (see prior Health Updates), cervical and mid-back manipulation, training in nasal saline rinsing (Nasaline, Nettie Pot), moist heat (towels, steam), and of course, chicken soup! Co-management with your primary care doc may be needed at times, if medications are warranted.   We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for headaches, we would be honored to render our services.  Visit for more information.

What Kind of Headache Do I Have? | Yankton Chiropractor | Brian Olson DC

Headaches come in MANY different sizes, shapes, and colors. In fact, if you
search “headache classification,” you will find the IHS (International Headache
Society) 152 page manual (PDF) lists MANY different types of headaches! Last
month, we discussed migraine headaches. This month, we’ll talk about the other
headache types. So WHY is this important? Very simply, if we know the type of
headache you have, we will be able to provide you with the proper treatment.
Headaches are classified into two main groups: “primary” and “secondary”
headaches. The “Primary” headache list includes: 1) Migraine; 2) Tension-type;
3) Cluster; 4) “Other primary headaches,” of which eight are listed. One might
think that with this simple breakdown of the different types of headaches it
should be easy to diagnose a type of headache. Unfortunately, that’s NOT true!
In fact, a 2004 study published that 80% of people with a recent history of
either self or doctor diagnosed sinus headache had NO signs of sinus infection
and actually met the criteria for migraine headaches! So, the more we can learn
about the different types of headaches, the more likely that we will arrive at
an accurate diagnosis.
Tension-Type Headaches: This is the most common type affecting between 30-78% of
the general population. It is usually described as a constant ache or pressure
either around the head, in the temples, or the back of the head and/or neck.
There is typically NO nausea/vomiting, and tension-type headaches rarely stop
you from performing normal activities. These headaches usually respond well to
chiropractic adjustments and to over-the-counter medications like Advil,
aspirin, Aleve, and/or Tylenol, though we’d prefer you first reach for an
anti-inflammatory herb like ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoid, and the like as
these have less stomach, liver, and/or kidney related side-effects. These
headaches are typically caused by contraction of the neck and scalp muscles,
which can be result of stress, trauma, lack of sleep, eyestrain, and more.
Cluster Headaches: These are less common, typically affect men more than women,
and occur in groups or cycles. These are VERY DISABLING and usually arise
suddenly and create severe, debilitating pain usually on only one side of the
head. Other characteristics include: a watery eye, sinus congestion, or runny
nose on the same side of the face as the headache. An “attack” often includes
restlessness and difficulty finding a pain-reducing, comfortable position. There
is no known cause of cluster headaches, though a genetic or hereditary link has
been proposed. The good news is that chiropractic adjustments can reduce the
intensity, frequency, and duration of cluster headaches!
Sinus Headaches: Sinusitis (inflamed sinuses) can be due to allergies or an
infection that results in a headache. This may or may not include a fever, but
the main distinguishing feature here is pain over the infected sinus. There are
four sets of sinuses. Many people know about the frontal (above the eyes on the
forehead) and maxillary (under the eyes in our cheeks) but the two sinuses deep
in head (ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses) are much less known or talked about.
These two deep sinuses refer pain to the back of the head, and when infected, it
feels like the back of the head could explode. Lying flat is too painful so
sitting up is necessary. Chiropractic adjustments applied to the sinuses, upper
neck, and lymphatic drainage techniques work GREAT in these cases!
We will continue next month with the remaining types of headaches!
We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision
and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.
If you, a friend, or family member requires care for headaches, we would be
honored to render our services.  Visit for more information.


Cervicogenic Headache – Results of Electrical Nerve Stimulation vs. Manipulation


A recent study (Li C, Xiu-ling Z, Hong D, Yue-qiang T, Hong-sheng Z. Comparative study on effects of manipulation treatment and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation [TENS] on patients with cervicogenic headache J Chin Integrat Med 2007;5(4)DOI:10.3736/jcm20070408)  compared alternative treatments for patients suffering from cervicogenic headaches, headaches related to/caused by your neck. Patients will typically have pain with neck motion and also limited mobility. There may also be a history of a neck injury such as a whiplash or head trauma. The study of seventy patients was randomized to minimize bias. Patients either had TENS (nerve stimulation) or manipulations. They were given treatments every other day for forty days (about 20 visits).

After treatments, patients’ pain scores were compared. The group receiving manipulations had significant reductions in the headache pain score, the frequency (how often) of headaches, and the duration of the headaches. There was a 94.5% response in the manipulation group compared to 64.5% in those patients getting nerve stimulation.

If you get headaches after your neck begins to give you trouble (pain, stiffness), then this could indicate you have a cervicogenic headache. Also, many patients do not fit neatly into categories that scientists and doctors conjure up. Many patients with migraines and tension-type headaches will complain of neck pains and problems. These types of headaches also respond favorably to chiropractic care applied to mechanical problems/subluxations in the neck when studied in randomized clinical trials. There are also fewer side effects when compared to drug treatments.

In Chiropractic, we direct treatment to the cause-the mechanical problem/subluxation in your neck. Drugs and surgery are ineffective options for these mechanical-types of problems. Chiropractic care has a low-risk safety profile, especially when compared to long-term drug use or surgery. As seen in the study above, electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to block pain is relatively safe, but it also appears less effective than manipulations in combating headache pain from the neck.

After a thorough diagnosis, including x-rays, we can determine if it is indeed a neck problem that may be causing your headaches. We study small changes in the alignment of the vertebrae, as well the posture of the neck curve. Mobility tests are used to see if the joints are moving fully and symmetrically.  Visit for more information.

The Headache Epidemic

Over the past few decades, chronic migraine headaches have increased dramatically among the U.S population. There has been an approximately 60% increase in rates over the years. Most of this increase has occurred in adults younger than 45 years, and women are slightly more affected than men.

One study showed that 80% of women and 70% of men reporting chronic migraine headaches had at least one physician contact per year because of migraine headaches; 8% and 7% of women and men, respectively, were hospitalized at least once a year because of the condition. In addition, chronic migraine headaches had a substantial impact on functional capacity: 4% of men and 3% of women reported a chronic limitation in normal activity because of migraine headaches and associated symptoms.

Clearly headaches are having a big impact on society today, with major dollars spent on disability payments, hospitalizations, doctor visits, and medication prescriptions. Most patients also self medicate with over-the-counter drugs. The use of these drugs has increased exponentially over the past ten years. All of this “treatment” has had little effect on the occurrence of headaches, or shown a healthy way to any sort of lasting cure.

The chiropractic approach to headaches is much different. The chiropractor looks at injuries to the spine (e.g. sprain/subluxation), which are affecting the nervous system. Headaches are just one of many symptoms than can occur when the spine is injured.

Rather than masking the symptom with ineffective and potentially unsafe medications, the chiropractor treats the cause of the problem. Scientific studies have shown this approach to have merit. The chiropractor will use specific adjustments and postural exercises to improve how your spine functions, which may in turn reduce your need for medications, lower the intensity of the pain, or even eliminate the headaches all together. Depending on how badly your spine is injured or how long you have suffered, will both affect how you may progress during care.

Only a comprehensive examination will determine if you are a good candidate for chiropractic care. The examination should include a detailed history of how the pain has affected your life, tests of your nervous system, and x-ray examination, to see how the vertebrae are positioned in your neck.

If you are a part of the headache epidemic, it can be a sign that you have a spinal condition the chiropractor may be able to help. Taking medications to cover-up the problem rarely makes the actual problem go away.  Visit for more information.

Tension – Type Headaches


At some point, everyone will have a headache, whether it’s from stress, lack of sleep, hormonal related or even self-induced after having way too much fun the night before! In fact, 9 out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches.  For the most part, headaches are not indicative of a dangerous underlying condition, but they can be (…a topic for a future “Health Update”).  The focus of this Health Update is to discuss the most common form of headache – the tension-type headache or, TTHA.


Tension-type headaches (TTHA) are defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a diffuse, mild to moderate pain that’s often described as feeling like a tight band around your head.” Ironically, even though this is the most common form of headache, the causes of TTHA are not well understood. These are sometimes described as muscle contraction headaches but many experts no longer think muscle contractions are the cause.  They now feel that “mixed signals” coming from nerve pathways to the brain are the cause and may be the result of “overactive pain receptors.”


Regardless of the cause, the triggers of tension headaches are well known and include stress, depression/anxiety, poor posture, faulty awkward work station set-ups, jaw clenching and many others. Risk factors for TTHA include being a woman (studies show that almost 90% of woman experience tension headaches at some point in life) and being middle aged (TTHA’s appear to peak in our 40s, though TTHA’s are not limited to any one age group). Complications associated with TTHA’s may include job productivity loss, family and social interaction disruption, and relationship strain.  The diagnosis is typically made by excluding other dangerous causes of headaches and when all the test results return “normal,” the diagnosis of TTHA is made.


Treatment utilizing over the counter medications are often effective so long as side effects of stomach irritation and/or liver and kidney issues don’t arise. The use of heat and/or cold is often helpful as some prefer one over the other. Alternating between ice and heat is sometimes most effective. Controlling stress by trimming out less important duties or “…taking on less” can help.  Yoga, meditation, biofeedback and relaxation therapy are also great! An “ergonomic” assessment of a workstation and how it “fits” the headache patient can also yield great results.  Other highly effective therapies include acupuncture, massage therapy, behavior and/or cognitive therapy as well as of course, chiropractic! Chiropractic is a GREAT choice compared to standard medical care, especially when side effects to medications exist.  This is because manipulation of the cervical spine addresses the cause of the headache and doesn’t just try to “cover up” the pain.  In 2001, Duke University reported compelling evidence that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those with headaches that originate in the neck with significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief compared to commonly prescribed medication. Chiropractic treatment approaches include (partial list): spinal manipulation, trigger point therapy, mobilization techniques, exercise training, physical therapy modality use, dietary and supplementation education / advice, lifestyle coaching and ergonomic assessments.


We realize you have a choice in where you choose your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for headaches, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

Side Effects of Chiropractic vs. Medications for Headaches

Have you ever stopped and wondered, “…which type of doctor should I go to for treatment of my headaches?” In order to make an informed decision, it is appropriate to look at the side effects each treatment option carries and then consider the pros and cons of each treatment.

It has been reported that 45 million Americans suffer from headaches, many on a daily basis. Though some just put up with the pain, others become totally disabled during the headache. Most people initially turn to an over the counter drug such as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) of which there are 3 types: 1) salicylates, such as aspirin; 2) traditional NSAIDS, such as Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen); and, 3) COX –2 inhibitors, such as Celebrex.

According to the medical review board of, complications of NSAID drugs include stomach irritation (gastritis, ulcer), bleeding tendencies, kidney failure, and liver dysfunction. Some NSAIDs (particularly indomethacin) can interfere with other medications used to control high blood pressure and cardiac failure and long term use of NSAIDs may actually hasten joint cartilage loss, leading to premature arthritis. Another over the counter commonly used drug is Tylenol (Aceteaminophen) in which liver toxicity can be a potential side effect (particularly with long term use).

Here’s the kicker – only about 60% of patients respond to a 3 week trial of an NSAID, NSAIDs can mask signs and symptoms of infection, it cannot be predicted which NSAID will work best, and no single NSAID has been proven to be superior over others for pain relief. Moreover, estimates of death associated with NSAID (mostly gastrointestinal causes) range between 3200 on the low side to higher than 16,500 deaths per year in the United States. Another BIG concern is that low daily doses of aspirin, “…clearly have the potential to cause GI injury as 10mg of aspirin daily causes gastric ulcers.

Others may turn to prescription medication for hopeful pain relief. One of the more frequently prescribed medication for headaches is amitriptyline (commonly known as Elavil, Endep, or Amitrol). This is actually an antidepressant but was found to work quite well for some headache sufferers. The potential side effects include blurred vision, change in sexual desire or ability, constipation or diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, headache (ironically), appetite loss, nausea, tiredness, trouble sleeping, tremors and weakness. Allergic reactions such as rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue, chest pain, rapid and/or irregular heart rate, confusion, delusions, suicidal thoughts or actions AND MORE are reported.

The pros and cons of chiropractic include a report on children under 3 years of age, where only one reaction for every 749 adjustments (manipulations) occurred (it was crying, NO serious side effects were reported). In adults, transient soreness may occur. Though stroke has been reported as a cause of headache, it was concluded that stroke “…is a very rare event…”, and that, “…we found no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke associated chiropractic care compared to primary care.” Another convincing study reported that chiropractic was 57% more effective than drug therapy in reducing headache and migraine pain! They concluded – chiropractic first, drugs second and surgery last.

We realize that you have a choice in where you choose your healthcare services. If you, a friend or family member requires care for headaches, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing your services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future. For more information visit


Headaches and Chiropractic Care | Chiropractor Yankton | Brian Olson, DC

Did you know that 9 out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches?  There are many different types of headaches with a multitude of symptoms including achy, throbbing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, numbness, blinding, moise, light and/or odor sensitivity, and more.  The causes of headaches can include genetics (familial traits like migraine headaches,) stress or tension (probably on of the most common), environmental (allergies, seasonal, bright sunlight, loud noises, certain foods), behavioral (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar problems, depression), and many more.

Environmental factors can “trigger” the onset of a headache.  About 95% of headache suffers have “primary headaches” such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches.  The other 5% may be caused by other physical conditions or problems and the headache serves as a “warning sign” that something is wrong.  The “key” in the 5% of potentially dangerous types of headaches is to pay attention to when there is a rapid onset (“…it came out of nowhere fast!”), if they are very intense, and are “different” from other headaches previously suffered.  When nervous system symptoms occur that are unusual for that person, such as lapses in memory, the person is not responding, rapid onset of dizziness, balance disturbance, and/or a “blinding sharp pain,” these should trigger a warning sign that something specific and potentially dangerous my be causing the headache.

For the main 95% of headache sufferers, neck tension is a common complaint with the headache.  Research supports that spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), the primary from of care utilized by chiropractors, is an effective option for tension headaches.  A 2001 Duke University study reported that SMT resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches originating in the neck, had fewer side effects, AND longer-lasting relief of tension-type headaches compared to those receiving commonly prescribed medication.  Another study found that SMT was effective, not only for relieving the headache, but had a sustained benefit AFTER it was discontinued after a 4-week treatment period.  This was NOT seen in a similar tension-type group receiving prescribed medication treatment only.

Here is how to help yourself:

1.  Improve your posture:  Most of us are “chin pokers” and “slouchers.”  The weight of the head pulls on the neck and upper back muscles and when held in that fixed position while driving, typing, watching TV, the static muscle tension can create a headache.

2.  Take “mini-breaks” every 30-45 minutes from static fixed positions and perform some exercises.  A good stretch is to reach over to the opposite side of the head and gently pull to stretch the sides of the neck.  Repetitively, poke and tuck your chin in & out to stretch different muscle fibers.  Then, add flexion, extension, and/or rotation to the same movement for about 10 sec./side.  Try it now!

3.  Avoid clenching your teeth and shrugging your shoulders.  We do these things without being conscious that we’re even doing it.  Those static loads play havoc with our neck muscles.

4.  Drink plenty of water – at least 8 oz., 8X/day (more when exercising or pregnant).  If you want to be more accurate, take your current weight and divide by 2. (Eg., 130# person = 65oz./day; 190# = 95oz./day).

5.  If you have chronic headaches, COME SEE US!  This is what we do, and it helps A LOT!

We realize that you have a choice in where you choose your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for headaches, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.