Many people ask me why I became a chiropractor. Apologies to those that have heard my story, however, as we discuss the role of chiropractic on headaches, I can attest to the effects that happened with my treatment and ultimately led me down this career path.
As an undergraduate student at Western University, I studied in the Faculty of Science in a program called combined Physiology and Psychology. Currently, this program is within the Faculty of Medical Science as an Honors specialization in Neuroscience. I knew when I first started Western that I wanted to go into a healthcare job, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would be. For those patients or readers that are also students looking to go into healthcare, this is definitely an undergraduate option for you. I basically took all the courses in the Psychology department that involved the nervous system and then courses in the Science department on animal and human physiology.
In the summer leading up to my 4th year at Western, I worked in a Neuroscience laboratory as a Junior lab technician. I helped in the lab obtaining samples, preparing those samples for viewing under the microscope, researching relevant journal articles and did a lot of photocopying. I also got to sit in during lab meetings and presentations from the PhD students in the lab. By the end of the summer, I had decided that this would be the lab where I would do my 4th year research project and I was able to get started on it early..
Part of my research experiments involved 10-14 hrs of monitoring in a lab, standing and looking into a microscope. By the end of the summer, I started getting headaches that just wouldn’t go away. Headaches were not new to me. I had suffered for many years with intermittent headaches that would come on with humidity and migraines that came on it seemed, for no apparent reason. One day, while complaining about neck pain and headaches, another student in the lab that was back from her first year at chiropractic college to write up her PhD thesis, suggested I see a chiropractor. Curious, I drilled her with loads of questions. From what she had said, it sounded like chiropractic could help me and it didn’t involve taking any medications. And it just so happened that I knew someone whose father was a chiropractor in London. So I booked an appointment.
I presented for my initial assessment and xrays and the chiropractor then discussed a little bit about how things were connected and then he treated me. There were more noises coming from my spine than I had ever heard before. Two minutes to treat the entire spine and off to the next patient. He handed me a pamphlet on how I should sleep at night because of the curve (very minimal curve) in my spine and I was out the door. That night, I was so scared to move because that pamphlet said I should sleep on my back ONLY or I would really mess things up in my spine. I was so sore the next morning, mainly because I was so scared to move all night. Lots of scare tactics were used in healthcare at that time!
At this particular chiropractic clinic, they make every new patient come into the office for a “Patient Education” seminar. They went through the anatomy, which I was very familiar with, how the body works or the physiology, again, very familiar to me. And then, they connected how the anatomy, neurology and physiology can be treated with chiropractic treatment to help people feel better. The explanation seemed to cause a spark in me, and I now could see a use to everything that I loved to learn about and a way to use my hands to help people feel better.
After having a few treatments, I was starting to feel a break in my constant headaches. And despite my shock and awe at my first treatment, chiropractic was starting to make sense to me. So I kept going, at what I would consider to be a very high frequency clinic. My headaches diminished in frequency for longer periods of time. In fact, I had gone from taking a large bottle of Advil (200 capsule bottle) in a month, to almost nothing. Eventually, I got to the point where I was taking nothing, and still take nothing even to this day! I was so impressed with chiropractic care and how it could help the body and the joints of the spine and extremities to feel better. This led me to apply to chiropractic college.
During my education, especially during courses learning about diagnosing headaches, I was easily able to support the chiropractic approach to treating this condition. Because I lived through the debilitating, constant symptoms of headaches for a large portion of my life. There are numerous muscles in the neck area that are connecting the 16 joints of the neck to the skull. This amounts to several sources of potential pain generators. We don’t always know the source of the pain if there was never a specific episode or trauma. But we know that there are several structures that when irritated, can refer pain to areas of the face, posterior skull, neck and shoulders which can be interpreted as a headache.
Chiropractic care can make a big change in someone’s life who is suffering from headaches, but keep in mind, there are over 50 diagnostic codes relating to headaches and sources of headaches, so not everyone will be able to have the same relief that I had. This is why a thorough musculoskeletal assessment as well as a neurological exam, is important prior to any treatment. The most important part of my job is to make sure it is safe to treat.
If you are suffering from headaches, I invite you to discuss this further with me at your next visit. Or maybe it is not you that is suffering, but a friend or family member. I will gladly have a telephone consult at no fee to determine if a chiropractic assessment is the next course of action.