Chiropractic Care for Headaches and Migraines
What is chiropractic care for pain management?
Chiropractic is a health profession that focuses on controlled force to a spinal joint. A trained specialist (chiropractor) aligns the musculoskeletal structure (especially the spine) through hands-on manipulation, which improves physical function and spinal motion. Many people experience reduced pain symptoms, including inflammation and muscle tension, with chiropractic care.
Chiropractic care for headaches and migraines
Migraines and headaches affect millions of people; and many of the medications used to treat them have dreadful side effects. In addition to the pain, other symptoms include muscle tension, musculoskeletal problems, neck stiffness and pain, and reduced jaw function.
Chiropractic care is often used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment to help relieve chronic headaches, cervicogenic headaches, migraines, and tension headaches. It is also used in combination with other tactics, (e.g., exercise, physical therapy, diet, lifestyle changes, etc.), to help limit triggers. Individuals wishing to reduce medication or avoid opioids may find a low-risk alternative treatment plan with chiropractic care.
How chiropractic care works
To develop a treatment plan, a chiropractor will complete a health history, physical examination, and any additional testing or imaging deemed necessary. To reduce stress and improve spinal function, a chiropractor will perform a spinal manipulation or adjustment. Chiropractic care can help ease pain and provide relief from tense muscles of the neck and upper back.
During a chiropractic session, the individual is placed in specific positions (e.g., face down, on the side, on the stomach, etc.) on a padded table. A chiropractor applies force with their hands to move a joint. Oftentimes, individuals hear popping or cracking sounds as dissolved gas releases from the synovial fluid of the joint.
Although more research is needed to test chiropractic treatment’s effectiveness for headaches and migraines, a combination of approaches seem to be more effective than spinal manipulation alone. Potential benefits of chiropractic care for headaches and migraines include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Lower pain levels
- Reduced neck pain and stiffness
- Decreased medication usage
- Reduced headache or migraine frequency
- Decreased anxiety
- Reduced musculoskeletal pain
Although chiropractic care is typically safe, risks and side effects are possible. Increased discomfort in the muscles, bones, tendons or ligaments, tingling or numbness in the upper limbs, headaches, and fatigue may occur, however, they typically resolve on their own within 24 hours. Other risks include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Spinal cord injury following manipulation
- Cauda equina syndrome
- Collapsed lung
- Worsening of a herniated disc
- Vertebral artery dissection
- Increased pain
- Worsening of symptoms