Chiropractic and Headaches
Updated: Jan 22
Chiropractic Care May Help Your Headache Pain
Headaches are often dismissed as minor ailments that can be easily cured simply by popping a few over-the-counter pain relievers. Although pain medication may be helpful for occasional headaches, it's not always effective for chronic headache pain. Pain relievers can also cause liver or kidney damage and other serious side effects if you take too many of them. Fortunately, chiropractic care offers a drug-free treatment option.
What Kind of Headache Do You Have?
Chiropractors often treat patients who have these types of headaches:
Tension Headaches: Tension headaches occur when the muscles in your neck and head contract and become too tight. You may feel tightness and pain in your forehead only, or the pain may wrap around to the back your head and your neck. The headaches can be caused by stress, poor posture, or even looking down at your cellphone for hours.
Migraine Headaches: Migraine, the sixth most disabling illness in the world, affects 18 percent of women, 6 percent of men and 10 percent of children in the U.S., according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Pain, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, in addition to other unpleasant symptoms, can affect the quality of your life and make it difficult to work or care for your family.
Cluster Headaches: These extremely painful headaches typically occur on one side of the head and last 10 minutes to several hours. They're called "cluster" headaches because sufferers usually get multiple headaches in one day. The headaches can disappear for months at a time and may reappear at the same times every year.
How Do Chiropractors Treat Headaches?
Treatment options depend on the type of headache you have, but may include:
Spinal Manipulation: Manipulation relieves pressure on your joints, realigns your spine, improves blood flow, and helps relax tight muscles. Your chiropractor uses his or her hands or an activator to apply quick, forceful pressure to the vertebrae. Spinal manipulation is particularly helpful if nerve irritation triggers your migraines or cluster headaches. Manipulation relieves pressure on your nerves, easing your pain and reducing the frequency of your headaches.
Spinal Mobilization: Spinal mobilization involves gentle, hands-on pressure that stretches your spine, improves joint function, and helps ease tension in the muscles between the vertebrae. Since tense muscles can be an issue no matter what type of headache you experience, mobilization can be very effective.
Massage: Massage is often included in treatment plans for headaches. The therapy loosens tight muscles, improves range of motion, increases blood flow, and may help reduce the frequency of your headaches. Regular massages also reduce stress, which can be a factor if you get tension headaches.
Flexion-Distraction Therapy: This therapy is performed on a segmented table that moves or drops as your chiropractor gently manipulates your vertebrae. Flexion-distraction therapy reduces stiffness, improves range of motion in your back and neck, and may even help decrease the number of headaches you get every month.
Your treatment plan might include a few other types of therapy, including ice and heat therapy, ultrasound treatment, or electrotherapy. Improving your posture and strengthening the muscles that support your head and neck may also be helpful. Your chiropractor can recommend exercises, make suggestions that will help you improve your posture, and provide advice about a healthy diet.
Is Chiropractic Treatment Effective?
In a case series published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, researchers discussed the case of a 31-year-old patient whose migraines become chronic after two pregnancies. After chiropractic treatment, she experienced fewer migraines. During the 10th month, she reported no headaches during the entire month.
Another case study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care examined the case of a 44-year old woman who suffered from daily headaches that didn't respond to pain medication. During her treatment, spinal manipulation, ultrasound, and other therapies were used. After three months of treatment, her headache pain began to subside. The pain was completely eliminated by six months.
Are you tired of living with headache or migraine pain? We can help you control your symptoms naturally. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
Migraine Research Foundation: About Migraine
American Chiropractic Association: Headaches and Chiropractic
NCBI: Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care: Long-Term Relief from Tension-Type Headache and Major Depression Following Chiropractic Treatment, May/June 2018
Global Advances in Health and Medicine: Integrating Chiropractic Care into the Treatment of Migraine Headaches in a Tertiary Care Hospital: A Case Series, 3/28/19