Chiropractic Care for Headaches and Migraines

Getting a headache is a universal human experience, and most headaches are short-lived and relatively benign. For millions of people, however, headaches are a serious problem because of their frequency or severity. A very small percentage of headaches are due to traumatic brain injury or tumor, and some are the result of anatomical abnormalities or polyps. The vast majority are due to more benign causes. This does not, however, make these headaches any less painful. While conventional medicine treats headaches primarily with medication, chiropractic care for headaches involves hands-on manipulation of misaligned vertebrae to reduce or eliminate nerve compression and increase the flow of oxygen and blood to the affected site.

Types of Headaches

Most headaches, regardless of their origins, respond well to chiropractic treatment since all are either precipitated by, or worsened by, both tension and cervical misalignment. Types of headaches treated with chiropractic care include:

  • Tension headaches
  • Cluster headaches
  • Sinus and allergy headaches
  • Migraine headaches

While tension headaches are the most common, accounting for approximately 75 percent of all headache pain, migraine headaches affect millions of people. Migraines most commonly affect women during their reproductive years, presumably because of variations in hormone levels. There appears to be a hereditary component to migraines since most migraine sufferers have a family history of the ailment. Most headaches that are not the result of underlying disease or anatomical abnormality can be treated effectively with chiropractic care.

Chiropractic Care for Headaches and Migraines

Chiropractors approach headaches of all types in a holistic fashion. Chiropractic medicine focuses on spinal manipulation to keep the body's systems functioning properly. In the case of headaches, the emphasis is on restoring proper energy flow throughout the nervous system and the immune system. Unless abnormal structures, such as nasal polyps, bone spurs or tumors, are interfering with efficient function, chiropractic adjustments and stretches can restore alignment and effectively treat most headaches.

Other methods that chiropractors may use in headache treatment may include:

  • Ice or heat therapy
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Deep muscle massage
  • Trigger point therapy

In addition to the hands-on treatment, chiropractors can be helpful in recommending lifestyle changes and ways of moving that are helpful in preventing physical and emotional factors that may precipitate or exacerbate headaches.

Advantages of Chiropractic Care for Headaches

In several studies, including one at Duke University, chiropractic adjustments of the cervical vertebrae have been found to be as effective as, and sometimes more effective than, typically administered headache medications. Patients reported longer- lasting relief as well as a lessened frequency of occurrence. Chiropractic care also is beneficial because it is:

  • Non-invasive
  • Has no side effects
  • Has no addictive or rebound effect
  • Helps the immune system function more efficiently

The most common cause of tension headaches is subluxations (misalignments) of the cervical spine, especially the upper neck, and such subluxations are exactly what chiropractic care is designed to treat. Since other types of headaches are also worsened by misalignment, chiropractic care has proven effective in treating various types of headaches.

Additional Resources

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