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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Banishing Headaches at the Source: Dr. Harlan Sparer discusses the importance of addressing the root cause

Apr 30, 2014 10:10AM ● By By Dr. Harlan Sparer

We often treat a headache with an over-the-counter analgesic or essential oils, but the problem with this approach is that it does nothing to remove the reason for it. While some causes are benign, others can be lethal. A headache can have many causes or come from a combination of them. The general categories are direct pressure on the brain, neurological, vascular, biochemical and infection.

Direct pressure on the brain is the most serious, but least likely cause. Persistent headaches should be evaluated by a health care professional well versed in diagnosis, such as a chiropractor, naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, osteopathic physician, nurse or M.D. The same is true for an infection.

A biochemical cause can sometimes exist due to diet and/or hormonal imbalance, and is often found with other root causes in tandem. Sometimes lack of food, dehydration or blood sugar imbalances are at the bottom of this, providing for a quick fix. Another source is a food intolerance or reaction; sometimes chemical, toxins or pesticides. Other times, there is a glandular or organ dysfunction. This problem is typically ignored or minimized when it is operating in concert with other causes.

The vascular type often responds to chiropractic care, because 50 percent of the blood supply to the brain travels through the vertebra via the vertebral arteries, while the other 50 percent travels in blood vessels with thick, muscular coverings (coats). When this is compromised by subluxation of the vertebra, headaches can result from mechanical compression of the blood supply. The head and neck are also enervated by the upper cervical nerves. When this nerve supply is compromised by an alignment issue that causes interference with nerve function (vertebral subluxation), a vascular headache is often the result. Vascular headaches can be caused on occasion by other factors as well, usually requiring more invasive methods to resolve them.

A common and particularly nasty form of headache is the migraine, characterized by specific symptoms that include nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity that can last for days. There is a series of events which precede the headache, known as the prodromal period. The muscle coat, a covering which controls the diameter of the blood vessels to the brain, goes into spasm with this condition. The muscle coat eventually fatigues and the blood vessel gets flaccid as a result, causing a throbbing of the vessel with each heartbeat, creating severe, debilitating symptoms. This condition often responds dramatically to chiropractic care because the muscle coats of these blood vessels (actually all muscle coats) are controlled by nerve impulses from the cervical spine.

The important fact about a headache is that it is a general symptom that needs to be associated with a cause and treated, rather than merely alleviated. Failure to do so will only complicate the cause and make it more difficult to help when the cause progresses further, saving no money, time and pain.

Dr. Harlan Sparer is a DNFT chiropractor practicing in Tempe. He can be reached at 480-245-7894 or [email protected]. For classes, recipes and videos, visit or

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