By Dr. Steve Hansen
With the warmer weather, we have plenty of opportunities to be outdoors to garden, take a walk, entertain, travel, or just relax. In my line of work I see a different side of things. Warm weather seems to trigger and increase in the frequency and severity of headaches in many people. Changes in humidity or temperature, exposure to bright sunlight, and extremely dry weather can cause pounding headaches, or be a trigger for migraines.
I may have some solutions for you!
The great majority of headaches are influenced greatly by blood flow issues in the brain. Nerves that emit from the top part of the neck travel back up into the head and control the small blood vessels in the brain. I’ve had great success in helping people get rid of their headaches by correcting misalignments in the upper neck region. When the spinal bones lose their normal positioning or their ability to move properly, it can irritate the nerves that travel into the head. This may cause the blood vessels to constrict or dilate improperly, and the result is blood flow changes and headaches.
Forward head posture, which is a very common postural abnormality can be a cause of headaches as well. I see this problem in a large percentage of my patients. Think of your head as a bowling ball sitting on a stick, that stick is your neck. From a side view, the head should be directly above the shoulders, which should sit over the hips, which should sit over the ankles.
If the head starts to translate forward, it puts excessive strain on the shoulders and back, as well as where the neck muscles connect to the base of the skull. This can cause headaches, as well as neck pain, shoulder pain, and upper back issues, due to the head feeling heavier than it did when it sat over the body. Think of how heavy a bowling ball would feel if you had to hold it out in front of you with your arms extended. That ball would feel heavy in no time! The perceived extra weight of the head projecting forward causes many issues and contributes to an accelerated degenerative condition.
My job is to adjust the misaligned vertebra, take the pressure off the nerve, and with this, the body usually responds very favorably. Through certain exercises we can get the head to take on a more efficient position above the shoulders to decrease the postural stresses. So if you are having headaches (three to four mild headaches per year is normal), try getting into a chiropractor to have your spine evaluated. There may be a natural solution that has no side effects waiting for you.
There are other causes of headaches. Heat exhaustion, which occurs when you overdo it in the heat and humidity, can cause headaches. Heat stroke, which is more serious than heat exhaustion, causes a dramatic increase in the temperature of the body, and is often associated with headache, nausea, vomiting, and even loss of consciousness. Dehydration or abrupt temperature changes, such as walking from an air-conditioned building into 100+ degree temperatures of the car can also be contributing factors.
Cooling down and drinking lots of water may certainly help to ease the headaches. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as they tend to change the way the body utilizes water.
So go out and enjoy the summer weather. Take some proactive steps to keep yourself hydrated properly, and keep your neck and spine free of misalignments that will cause headaches and other health issues. Get your spine checked before the headaches and back pain start!
I’m here for you when you need me. ν