Head Pain Disorders



The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a number of important initiatives in the field of clinical neuroscience and among them is Project Atlas, a series of publications now including the Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011. This document was published in 2011 in collaboration with Lifting the Burden (www.l-t-b.org), a UK charitable organisation whose purpose is to direct the global campaign against headache


The key message from this global epidemiological study is that headache disorders are ubiquitous, prevalent and disabling. Yet they are under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated worldwide. Despite that headache is felt, at some time, by nearly everybody. This first global enquiry illuminates the worldwide neglect of a major public-health problem. Almost half of the world’s adult population have recent experience of one or more of the three very common headache disorders and 60% of those suffering are self- treating.

Although headache disorders are among the most common of all health disorders, their epidemiology is only partly documented. Population studies have mostly focused on migraine which, although the most frequently studied, is not the most common headache disorder. Tension-type headache is more prevalent, while the group of headaches occurring on 16 or more days every month are generally more disabling, but both of these have received less attention.

Tension-type headache is mentioned as having a possible musculo-skeletal origin although it recognises that the patho-physiology needs further research.
The main focus of treatment for headache disorders is medication although this study shows that one of the most prevalent types of headache disorder is caused by the very medications that are used to treat the disorders. This is a very important observation to take note of for alternative and complementary practitioners when treating these disorders for obvious reasons.
Alternative and complementary therapies receive a brief mention and it is indicated that physical therapy, acupuncture and naturopathy are the most common modalities used globally for patients searching non-drug based treatments.

Interestingly and somewhat ironically Project Atlas does not mention this small bone sitting under the skull.

In 2013 the Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS) produced the 3rd edition (beta version) of the International Classification of Headache Disorders. This document is an extremely useful resource for anyone treating patients with head pain.

Click to access International-Headache-Classification-III-ICHD-III-2013-Beta.pdf

The question is do many types of headache disorder have their root in the upper cervical spine? Some research is indicating this to be the case. This research indicates that the suboccipital muscles undergo changes in patients with chronic neck and head pain. MRI studies show atrophy of suboccipital muscles with fatty infiltration (1,2). Furthermore research is suggesting that manual treatment applied to the suboccipital muscles and upper cervical joints is effective for tension type headache (3).

It is possible that atlas malrotation may be aetiological in headache disorders due to the fact that this dysfunction has the following effects on the structures in its vicinity :
1) Disturbance of the length tension relationships of the suboccipital muscles and subsequent atrophy and fatty infiltration.
2) Dural irritation possible because of the myodural ligamentous connections to the suboccipital muscles.
3) Vertebral artery irritation and subsequent disturbance of irrigation of blood to the brain.
Patients have reported improvements and sometimes complete alleviation of headache symptoms following the atlasprofilax procedure. Below are some testimonials from patients treated by this method. It must be stressed that these are the opinions of the patients that provided them and for legal reasons Matthew Voigts does not make any claims that he has healed or cured anyone.


1. Atrophy of suboccipital muscles in patients with chronic pain: a pilot study. Hallgren RC, et al. J Am Osteopth Assoc, 1984.
2. Association of cross-sectional area of the rectus capitis posterior minor muscle with active trigger points in chronic tension-type headache: a pilot study. Fernandez-de-Las-Penas C, Cuardrado ML, Arendt-Nielsen L, Ge HY, Pareja JA Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2008.
3. Effect of manual therapy techniques on headache disability in patients with tension-type headache. Randomised controlled trial. Espi-Lopez CV, Rodriguez-Blanco C, Oliva-Pascual-Vaca A, Benitez-Martinez JC, Lluch E, Falla D. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 2014.