Can chiropractic care prevent headaches? This is a question I am often asked, and to answer it we must understand what types of headaches there are. There are several different types of headaches. Most common include tension, migraine, cervicogenic, and sub-occipital headaches. Tension headaches commonly present as a band like tension or vice grip feeling around the head, whereas migraine headaches usually result in pain on one side of the head and are commonly accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Cervicogenic headaches and sub-occipital headaches, the neck is the source of the problem but the pain is perceived in one or more areas of the head and/or face.
The causes of headaches are not always well understood but a family history of headaches, neck stiffness, history of concussions, stress, barometric pressure, stimulates such as caffeine, and constant computer use and fluorescence lighting are common factors. So, how can chiropractic care help headaches?
As a sports chiropractor I have treated a wide range of patients suffering from headaches and the most important that I’ve learned in my ten years treating patients is that each headache is different from the last. Our bodies are constantly changing and therefore no two headaches are the same. With that being said, I have found that the most helpful treatment in dealing with headaches is manual therapy techniques. These include myofascial release, pin and stretch, PNF stretching, cupping, instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation, and soft tissue mobilization. Often times I am able to reproduce the type of headache my patients experience during my examination! Most commonly I will use manual therapy techniques, cervical traction, spinal manipulation, and rehabilitation with my headache patients and I have found these procedures to provide the best outcomes. Studies have also shown that chiropractic care can help decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines.
It’s important to take headache seriously. Consider consulting myself if you often have headaches, if you frequently take a pain reliever for your headaches, if your headache pattern changes, or if your headaches are getting worse. Seek prompt attention if your headache is sudden and severe, follows a head injury, or is accompanied by fever, stiff neck, weakness, numbness, or difficulty speaking.
1Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, Marcoux H, Potter B, Ruegg R, Shaw L, Watkin R, White E. Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2011;34(5):274-89.: