Most people will experience headaches at one time or another, but for some people, headaches that have become chronic and/or severe can have a debilitating effect on their quality of life. Migraine sufferers, in particular, can find that their condition and the pain that comes with it can interfere with their wellbeing. Chiropractic care approaches can be much sought after by headache and migraine patients alike. Some want to avoid using medication to manage their pain, others have found that medical interventions aren't working or have reached a plateau.
What causes headaches and migraines?
Headaches can have a variety of causes. Some of these are primary (directly cause the headache), whereas others are secondary (the headache is a byproduct of another illness or disorder).
The most common primary headaches are tension headaches and migraines.
These are very common and are often triggered by stress, dehydration, skipping meals, noise, tiredness, and poor posture (among others). They are usually felt as constant pain in both sides of the head, a tightening of the neck muscles, and pressure behind the eyes.
A migraine is felt as a throbbing pain in one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to noise and light. Some people experience an aura before the migraine begins, such as flashing lights. Again, the exact cause of migraines is unknown but there appears to be some involvement of changes in the blood vessels, chemicals, and nerves in the brain.
How can chiropractic care help with headaches?
Chiropractic care is an umbrella term for a variety of alternative treatment approaches. The chiropractic care approach is unique in that it takes a whole-body approach to treating pain. The treatment isn't just focused on the exact site of the pain, but a thorough treatment plan is devised that can encompass other areas of the body that could be affecting the pain as well as incorporating improving the patient's wellbeing.
In the majority of cases for both tension headaches and migraines, there is neck pain and/or stiffness. Chiropractors are experts in treating the spine, neck, and back by improving functioning as well as reducing pain. This is often achieved through spinal manipulation and/or mobilization. Other treatments can include soft tissue massage, stretching exercises, the use of electronic modalities such as TENS machines, exercise advice, nutrition counseling, and lifestyle counseling (including posture correction). The exact treatment package offered for helping patients who are suffering from headaches and migraines will vary depending on their situation and needs.
In a systematic review of a large number of studies that looked at chiropractic care for headaches and migraines, it was found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, was an effective treatment (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21640251/). When patients with headaches were treated with a chiropractic care approach, it was found that they had an improvement in their pain scores, more pain-free days, less use of medication, and decreased anxiety/dysphoria (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6440032/).
Headaches and migraines are fairly common, but for many people, they can become a chronic source of pain and discomfort. A chiropractic care approach can reduce the need for medication, as well as the pain and frequency of both tension headaches and migraines.