How to Relieve a Headache in Seconds on One Patient after Another!

How to Relieve a Headache in Seconds on One Patient after Another!

by Dr. Stephen Kaufman, D.C.


I HAD A CONSTANT HEADACHE FROM BIRTH UNTIL THE AGE OF TWENTY-THREE, SO I’VE HAD A LIFElong interest in this topic. My mother was also frequently incapacitated with migraines, and died at a young age, possibly of a stroke. (Female migraine sufferers with aura are seven times more likely to have a stroke than women who don’t get migraines.17)


Headaches Are Extremely Common and
May Be Difficult to Treat

Forty-five million Americans get chronic headaches.15 The procedure described in this paper may be effective in a wide range of headaches, including migraines. (According to a Mayo clinic study, the incidence of migraines may be increasing14—migraines in women increased 56 percent during the 1980’s, while the occurrence in men increased 34 percent during the same time.) In rare cases, severe acute headache can be an indication of serious disease, so that must be ruled out—obviously these procedures would not be appropriate in those cases.

It’s common to take pain medication but, in severe or chronic cases, medication may make the problem worse (rebound headache),1,15 leading to an increase in the number of attacks or addiction and other serious effects from the medication.


No Side Effects

The occipital lift was developed about fifteen years ago as a gentle but effective treatment for many types of headache and neck pain. I’d seen various cranial techniques which supposedly affected drainage of the jugular venous sinuses. I felt that the present procedure would be a much simpler, faster, and more direct way to accomplish this. The occipital lift turned out to be much more effective than any previous procedure.

There’s no thrusting involved in the procedure described here. Resetting the muscle tone with an extremely light touch can relieve much of the muscular dysfunction of the suboccipital triangle and allow normal realignment of the bony structures.2-8 Muscular tension around the greater occipital nerve is relieved. Injections of this nerve have been reported in the medical literature to relieve severe headache in many cases.9

An internist with a severe migraine was treated with this occipital lift procedure at an American College for Advancement of Medicine conference. She reported her migraine disappearing in several minutes, to the astonishment of about 20 physicians observing. Many patients with both acute and chronic headache, neck pain and related symptoms have been treated with rapid improvement. In many chronic cases, a series of treatments may cause a reduction or elimination of recurring or constant headache.


Many Patients Have Unrelenting
Sub Occipital Tension

Many patients have chronic, constant tension of the suboccipital muscles.2-8 Simply palpate the areas just below the occiput from the mastoid process toward the midline on both sides. These areas tend to remain tender in spite of various treatments. In addition to neck pain and headaches, these points may give rise to sinus involvement, sleep disturbance, vertigo, etc.


How to Do an Occipital Lift

With the patient supine, the doctor contacts the base of the occiput with his fingertips and gently lifts the entire skull anterior, toward the ceiling, about three-quarters of an inch. This disengages the skull from the atlas and the cervical column and allows the entire cranium to float free in space.

Important: DON’T add any form of traction! Many doctors mistakenly traction the skull towards themselves. This causes the neck muscles to resist the traction, and neutralizes the benefits of this procedure!

The doctor then holds this position for 1-3 minutes. After 45 seconds, ask the patient, “Does your neck (or head) feel better, worse or the same in this position?” If it feels worse (10 percent will say this), the technique is probably not being done right, and should be discontinued.

In our experience, 90 percent of patients will say, “It feels better.” If that’s the case, then hold the procedure for 1-3 more minutes. In patients with severe headache or neck pain, I may hold it a little longer.

The hardest part for most doctors to get is the simplicity of the technique. Basically, we’re lifting the head toward the ceiling about three-quarters of an inch and just supporting it there, allowing the musculature to relax. No further pressure or traction is introduced. Introducing this extremely gentle reduction in tension allows the muscles to reset themselves to a new physiological position, and may increase venous and lymphatic drainage from the skull, improve circulation, and cause parasympathetic stimulation via the vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves. This is reflected in profound relaxation and, sometimes, significant reduction in blood pressure.

Slight variations in the vector of this procedure may be introduced to immediately eliminate trigger points in the cervical and upper trapezius muscles. Several doctors at seminars have reported the resolution of decades-long upper trapezius pain with these additions.

1. Bigal ME, Lipton RB. Excessive acute migraine medication use and migraine progression. Neurology. 2008 Nov 25;71(22):1821-8.

2. Couppé C, Torelli P, Fuglsang-Frederiksen A, et al. Myofascial trigger points are very prevalent in patients with chronic tension-type headache: a double-blinded controlled study. Clin J Pain. 2007 Jan;23(1):23-7.

3. Davidoff, RA. Trigger points and myofascial pain: toward understanding how they affect headaches. Cephalalgia. 1998 Sep;18(7):436-48.

4. Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Alonso-Blanco C, Cuadrado ML, Gerwin RD, et al. Myofascial trigger points and their relationship to headache clinical parameters in chronic tension-type headache. Headache. 2006 Sep;46(8):1264-72.

5. Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Alonso-Blanco C, et al. Myofascial trigger points in the suboccipital muscles in episodic tension-type headache. Man Ther. 2006 Aug;11(3):225-30. Epub 2006 Jul 25.

6. Fernández-de-las-Peñas C, Alonso-Blanco C, et al. Trigger points in the suboccipital muscles and forward head posture in tension-type headache. Headache. 2006 Mar;46(3):454-60.

7. Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Simons D, et al. The role of myofascial trigger points in musculoskeletal pain syndromes of the head and neck. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2007 Oct;11(5):365-72.

8. Fricton JR, Kroening R, Haley D, et al. Myofascial pain syndrome of the head and neck: a review of clinical characteristics of 164 patients. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1985 Dec;60(6):615-23.

9. Gawel, MJ, Rothbart P. Occipital nerve block in the management of headache and cervical pain. Cephalalgia 1992;12:9-13.

10. Giamberardino MA, Tafuri E, Savini A, Fabrizio A, et al. Contribution of myofascial trigger points to migraine symptoms. J Pain. 2007 Nov;8(11):869-78.

11. Jaeger B. Are “cervicogenic” headaches due to myofascial pain and cervical spine dysfunction? Cephalalgia. 1989 Sep;9(3):157-64.

12. Kaufman, Stephen, D.C. “Can Pain Be Turned Off Instantly By Using Neuromuscular Reflexes?” The American Chiropractor, 7/07.

13. Mackley RJ. Role of trigger points in the management of head, neck, and face pain. Funct Orthod. 1990 Sep-Oct;7(5):4-14.

14. Roca, Walter, Swanson, Jerry. “Increased Incidence Of Migraine Headaches.” Neurology, 10/22/99.

15. Schwartz BS, Stewart, WF, Simon D, et al. Epidemiology of tension type headache. JAMA. 1997;39:381–383.

16. Ward T.N. Drug-induced refractory headache. Headache. 2008 May; 48 (5): 728

17. Woodward M. Migraine and the risk of coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke in women. Womens Health (Lond Engl). 2009 Jan;5(1):69-77.

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