Chiropractic Care and Headaches
Chiropractic care treatment includes a combination of spinal adjustment (sometimes referred to as manipulation), soft tissue mobilization and active and passive exercises for the treatment and prevention of headaches.
With a number of research studies underway, there are many guidelines that emerge about the use of chiropractic care as a treatment for headaches. The common types of headaches for which chiropractic treatment is often sought out include simple cervicogenic headaches, tension headaches, and migraines. Each type responds differently to therapy.
Headaches typically start at the back of the head and then move to the front. The typical headache is cervicogenic, which is believed to stem from a minor head injury or an underlying neck problem.
Chiropractic therapy further includes various options for treatment of simple headaches. These include:
In this procedure, a professional chiropractor uses his hands (manual manipulation) or a device (digital manipulation) to apply a gentle force to your spine. The force may produce a popping sound and is typically applied to the affected joint that is causing pain.
Spinal adjustment (or manipulation) primarily targets joints in the cervical spine (the upper part of the spine that is close to the head) and releases pressure from “pinched nerves” (the term “pinched nerve” is really not accurate as there is much more happening from a physiological perspective… but we’ll spare you the details). Your chiropractor will determine if this is a treatment you should consider adding to any treatment you’re currently receiving. Numerous individual cases exist highlighting the effectiveness of chiropractic care for headaches. While each cannot be taken as a definitive determinant, when combined they provide excellent insight into the effictiveness an efficacy of spinal adjustments.
Some reports also show certain adverse effects of the spinal manipulation, however, most of them are mild and short-lived. You should consult your chiropractor for the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.
This therapy involves the passive movement of your joints to improve movement and reduce pain. When used for the purpose of treating headaches, this treatment mainly targets the joints in the cervical spine.
Deep Neck Flexion Exercises
A type of therapy in which your cervical joints are actively moved to release pressure on affected nerves and muscles and restore the neck mobility.
There are multiple exercises that are specifically designed to relieve headaches. For instance, one common deep neck flexion exercise includes a series of chin tucks, followed by nodding your head to stretch the deep neck flexor muscles. Such exercises usually last for 10-15 seconds and are considered to play an important role in relieving and preventing cervicogenic headaches.
Episodes of tension headaches are extremely common. They can be due to poor posture or muscle tension as a result of prolonged tension in the head, neck, or shoulders. A mild episode of tension headache generally improves with common over-the-counter pain drugs, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).
However, these medications have not been found to be helpful in treating chronic and moderate to severe headaches. On the other hand, modified chiropractic therapy has shown high effectiveness in relief of tension headaches by flexion exercises and low-load joint mobilization.
Low-load Craniocervical Mobilization
This involves the rhythmic movement of the cervical segments using a gentler force than that used in spinal manipulation. The force is applied to correct posture and release the prolonged tension in the head, neck, or shoulder muscles.
Complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies such as chiropractic treatment can be a good option for relieving your simple and tension headaches. Speak to your chiropractor to determine if adding chiropractic adjustments to your existing treatments may be a good idea.