80% of Headaches Start Here

80% of Headaches Start Here

By: Dr. Craig Anderson

Published 1/15/2018 – Original Article

Dr. Anderson

In my article last week I described the suboccipital area, a vitally important part of the neck. This week we will take a deeper look at this area and why when it’s not working properly it’s the most common culprit in causing headaches.

Headaches will affect everyone at some point. About 18% of adults have severe headaches and 90% of people will experience a headache at some time in life. The headache we are looking at is the classic tension headache.

The tension headache typically starts at the base of the neck and moves to the forehead. This headache usually happens after a bout of stress, either emotional or physical.

As you recall, a ligament is designed to keep things in place. It’s like a wrap holding bones together. If you stretch a ligament too much the joint will become loose. This looseness requires the muscles to work harder. When these muscles work harder it can create inflammation in the area, and this makes nerve endings fire more easily. This information to the brain is usually interpreted by the brain as pain – the headache.

The series of small joints in the suboccipital area all need to do their part. If one or two get subluxated then the others will need to work harder than they are designed to. This will, over time, cause ligaments to loosen and the headache cycle begins.

There are many ways ligaments can loosen:

  • prolonged flexion of the neck
  • looking at your device too long
  • sleeping with a bad pillow
  • doing excessive overhead work

Ok, now the good news:  this problem is preventable! Simply, don’t rest on your ligaments. Don’t move your head to its end range of motion and stay there. Don’t sleep on the couch with your neck bent as far as it will go. Don’t spend hours staring at your device (or book) without changing your position.

So what do you do if you have subluxation in the upper neck? First you need to have it evaluated by your doctor of chiropractic. It’s important to understand which joints are dysfunctional. Second, follow the comprehensive plan designed by your chiropractor to get proper movement restored to the neck. Once this happens the headaches will be greatly reduced or eliminated.

Chiropractic care has been shown repeatedly to lower the cost of healthcare. It’s the best first stop to solve your headaches.

To learn more, join us in person for our seminar later this month. You can grab your ticket here.

Critical Junction: The Head and Neck

Critical Junction: The Head and Neck
Dr. Anderson

By: Dr. Craig Anderson

Published 1/8/2018 – Original Article

Have you ever just felt off?

Something is not right, but you can’t put your finger on it. Maybe you feel tired, or mentally foggy. You know you’re not on your game but your doctors says you are in perfect health.

Let me introduce to you a critically important part of your body; it’s not part of most regular physicals, yet it’s an important component to healthy living. It’s a part of the neck just below your skull called the suboccipital area.

Aside from the obvious functions, like attaching your skull to your spine and allowing your head to move, your upper neck sends vital neurological information to the brain to;

  • Regulate blood pressure and blood flow
  • Work as a gyroscope for your nervous system
  • Maintain thinking pathways and alertness
  • Coordinate head movement and eye movement
  • And much more.

If the upper cervical spine is not working properly you simply aren’t going to be at your best.

The skull sits on the highest vertebra, a ring-like bone called the atlas, named after the Greek god who holds up the globe. This bone has 5 attachment sites for other bones, creating joints that send mission-critical information to the cerebellum (a part of the brain behind the ear that controls movement, among other things.)  This collection of joints and muscles is called the suboccipital area.

The second bone is called the axis.  This ring-like bone acts as a pivot point for the head to rotate.  Ligaments are strategically placed to prevent too much movement. These ligaments are stretched when we look down too long, like when staring at a phone or iPad for an extended period.  These ligaments are essential keep your head on straight and are capable of holding a tremendous amount of weight.

This entire area is hardwired into the eyes, synchronizing the movement of your skull with your eyes. It’s quite an amazing orchestration of design and functionality. All this amazingness comes at a cost.  When we abuse this area we can end up with regular headaches, foggy thinking, TMJ problems and dizziness.

This month in my office we are celebrating Cervical Spine Awareness month.  Each week you will find an article from me as well as supporting podcasts.  To top it off I’ll be hosting a seminar in my office on the cervical spine.  The topic is specifically on dizziness but the entire neck will to reviewed and it will be informative for anyone to attend.  

If you have any questions comment on this Facebook post.

Listen to my podcast on this very topic here.

-Dr. A

Instrument Adjusting

Instrument Adjusting

By: Craig Anderson, D.C.


We offer a low force adjusting option that sometime is exactly what is needed.  The Activator uses the least amount of force to get fantastic movement improvement into the spine.

To learn more visit: activator.com

Dr. Anderson

An Introduction to Wind-Up

An Introduction to Wind-Up

By: Craig Anderson, D.C.

Every once in a while I like to lift the veil of health sciences and talk about something you probably have never heard of.  In this post, we’ll look at a neurological phenomenon that occurs in the spinal cord and Brain called wind-up.

Wind-up is a state of our nervous system where small stimulus (or no stimulus at all) can cause effects like irritability, anxiety and pain.

Without enough inhibition signals to the nerves, things can get out of control.  My work as a doctor of chiropractic involves daily helping patients that have this heightened response to stimuli.  Bad chemistry, eating a lot of garbage, taking strong medications and excessive worry are all causes of wind-up.

You can reduce wind-up with deep breathing, meditation, exercise and (of particular interest to me) a chiropractic adjustment.  An adjustment causes a blast of inhibition into the spinal cord.  This is one of the reason patients can feel an immediate reduction of pain after an adjustment.

If you would like to dig deeper and learn more about wind-up, review our archives.

Stay cool. – Dr. Anderson

Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation

AbstractFive days of integrative body–mind training (IBMT) improves attention and self-regulation in comparison with the same amount of relaxation training. This paper explores the underlying mechanisms of this finding. We measured the physiological and brain changes at rest before, during, and after 5 days of IBMT and relaxation training. During and after training, the IBMT group showed significantly better physiological reactions in heart rate, respiratory amplitude and rate, and skin conductance response (SCR) than the relaxation control. Differences in heart rate variability (HRV) and EEG power suggested greater involvement of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in the IBMT group during and after training. Imaging data demonstrated stronger subgenual and adjacent ventral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activity in the IBMT group. Frontal midline ACC theta was correlated with high-frequency HRV, suggesting control by the ACC over parasympathetic activity. These results indicate that after 5 days of training, the IBMT group shows better regulation of the ANS by a ventral midfrontal brain system than does the relaxation group. This changed state probably reflects training in the coordination of body and mind given in the IBMT but not in the control group. These results could be useful in the design of further specific interventions.

Source: Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation

Wind-up of spinal cord neurones and pain sensation: much ado about something? – PubMed – NCBI

Wind-up is a frequency-dependent increase in the excitability of spinal cord neurones, evoked by electrical stimulation of afferent C-fibres. Although it has been studied over the past thirty years, there are still uncertainties about its physiological meaning. Glutamate (NMDA) and tachykinin NK1 receptors are required to generate wind-up and therefore a positive modulation between these two receptor types has been suggested by some authors. However, most drugs capable of reducing the excitability of spinal

Source: Wind-up of spinal cord neurones and pain sensation: much ado about something? – PubMed – NCBI

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Dramatically Reduces Inflammation | Psychology Today

Inflammatory responses play a central role in the development and persistence of many diseases and can lead to debilitating chronic pain. In many cases, inflammation is your body’s response to stress. Therefore, reducing “fight-or-flight” responses in the nervous system and lowering biological markers for stress can also reduce inflammation. Typically, doctors prescribe medications to combat inflammation. However, there’s growing evidence that another way to combat inflammation is by engaging the vagus ner

Source: Vagus Nerve Stimulation Dramatically Reduces Inflammation | Psychology Today

Reduction in stress can be a migraine trigger

The weekend headache can happen the day after a stressful week. That is truly a slap in the face.

The day you plan to relax can become a day of suffering. Managing things that cause stress is one key. The biggest chiropractic connection is the reversed cervical curve. Make sure to get your neck check if you ever experience a headache. Don’t cover up with medications. –Dr. A

Objective: To test whether level of perceived stress and reductions in levels of perceived stress (i.e., “let-down”) are associated with the onset of migraine attacks in persons with migraine.

Methods: Patients with migraine from a tertiary headache center were invited to participate in a 3-month electronic diary study. Participants entered data daily regarding migraine attack experience, subjective stress ratings, and other data. Stress was assessed using 2 measures: the Perceived Stress Scale and the Self-Reported Stress Scale. Logit-normal, random-effects models were used to estimate the odds ratio for migraine occurrence as a function of level of stress over several time frames.

Results: Of 22 enrolled participants, 17 (median age 43.8 years) completed >30 days of diaries, yielding 2,011 diary entries including 110 eligible migraine attacks (median 5 attacks per person). Level of stress was not generally associated with migraine occurrence. However, decline in stress from one evening diary to the next was associated with increased migraine onset over the subsequent 6, 12, and 18 hours, with odds ratios ranging from 1.5 to 1.9 (all p values < 0.05) for the Perceived Stress Scale. Decline in stress was associated with migraine onset after controlling for level of stress for all time points. Findings were similar using the Self-Reported Stress Scale.

Conclusions: Reduction in stress from one day to the next is associated with migraine onset the next day. Decline in stress may be a marker for an impending migraine attack and may create opportunities for preemptive pharmacologic or behavioral interventions.

Source: Reduction in perceived stress as a migraine trigger

Backwards Thinking

I just read this great blogpost about cognitive skills and walking. This one takes a different direction, literally. Wray Herbert talks about brain function and the difference between walking forward as compared to walking backwards.

Researchers had a few volunteers walk some steps forward then they took a cognitive test. They walked left and took the test. This was repeated to the right, then backwards. The researchers concluded the following:

Those who had walked just a few steps backward were far more focused and attentive than were any of the others. That is, their physical retreat triggered increased mental control—presumably because of the ancient link between threat and vigilance. Confronted with a problem or difficulty, it made be advisable to take a step back and think about the situation—literally.

When I was in school I loved use techniques to help me assimilate information. I learned that drinking coffee an hour before a test helped with recall, I never missed a cup. Taking frequent breaks while studying helps process the info, I was the king of breaks. Now I learn that I should walk backwards when I need more brain power.

So if you see me walking backwards one day — I’m not crazy — just trying to get my brain to work.


Dr. Craig Anderson