There are a lot of different types of headaches out there. Some people get headaches due to sinus pressure. For others, the problem is a tension headache. Migraines are a common source of headaches. There are also headaches that result from the flu and other viruses, concussions, and emergency issues like meningitis.
Is age a factor in getting a diagnosis? It is interesting how one study found very different causes of headaches in those who were 45 and under versus those who were over 45. For example, younger people seemed to suffer more from tension headaches, migraines, and sinus headaches. Let’s explore this phenomenon.
Common Causes of Headaches in Younger People
The prevalence of tension headaches, migraines, and sinus headaches in younger people makes sense for a number of reasons. Tension headaches are often due to stress. The modern workplace puts a lot of pressure on people to perform. Plus, this generation is struggling with raising their children, taking care of aging parents, and paying off massive student loans all at once.
Migraines, while not caused by stress, are triggered by stress (and sometimes even the dramatic reduction in stress hormones when finally getting a chance to relax). And sinus issues seem to be a modern ailment, with fewer from the previous generation having to deal with constant stuffiness.
There is, however, one particular type of headache that is significantly more common for those who are age 45 and older. What is it and what could possibly be the underlying cause?
Cervical Disease and Headaches
A headache in a person over the age of 45 is more than twice as likely to be due to cervical disease as it is for those who are 45 and under. Why is cervical disease so much more common as a person ages? We often accept this simply as a part of growing older. The discs between the vertebrae wear out, and occasionally it really can be due just to normal wear and tear.
However, it is important to note that cervical disease is often progressed by a number of our own habits and behaviors. Here are a few things that can lead to cervical disease, and the resulting headaches, setting in before its time.
- Poor posture – Using bad posture locks the spine in a stressed position. This causes the discs to degenerate at a faster rate.
- Traumatic injury – Whether it is a sports injury, a car accident, or something completely different, cervical disease is often preceded by some sort of head or neck injury. This may be due to the injury causing a misalignment that locks the spine in a stressed position and results in the premature breakdown of the discs.
- Smoking – Did you know that smoking can actually lead to a person having less disc material between the vertebrae? Smoking restricts blood flow in the body and makes it tougher for the body to heal itself naturally. These are just a couple of the reasons it is imperative to quit smoking if you suffer from headaches (or even if you don’t because it may help prevent them from occurring in the future).
- Overexertion – Whether it is training for a competitive sport or just overuse at work, the neck may suffer from a lot more wear and tear simply because we are asking it to do more than the average neck does in a lifetime.
- Technology use – Tech neck and text neck are terms that have developed to refer to the damage people are doing to their neck by the overuse of technology. This was never an issue for previous generations. We, however, seem to find ourselves constantly looking down at a phone, tablet, or monitor. The resulting strain on the neck can be five times the weight that it is used to carrying (the approximately 12 pounds that the human head weighs).
Help for Headaches, Migraines, and Cervical Spine Issues
Regardless of your age or the type of headaches you get, the main issue often goes back to the neck. If you get tension headaches or migraines, you probably notice the pain starts in the neck and works its way up to the head. Even if you don’t experience neck pain, you may be able to recall a particular head or neck injury you experienced in the past. Why is neck pain or trauma such a common part of the various headache types?
It is because a slight misalignment of the atlas (C1 vertebra) is commonly an underlying factor when it comes to headaches. This misalignment can affect blood flow to the brain, proper drainage of cerebrospinal fluid, or even brainstem function. Any one of these factors can play a key role in the onset of a headache condition. What can be done?
Upper cervical chiropractors are subspecialists in the chiropractic field who focus on proper atlas alignment. Precise measurements of the atlas are taken using modern diagnostic techniques in order to see if this may be at the root of a person’s symptoms. Then, gentle adjustments are customized to meet each patient’s needs. Corrections are provided on an as-needed basis making this a cost-effective form of care because alignment of the atlas often holds longer after a low force adjustment.
If you are suffering from headaches, migraines, or even issues with your cervical spine, we encourage you to contact an upper cervical practitioner in your area. You may find that a no-obligation consultation is what sets you on the road to better overall health and well-being.
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