Can a chiropractor help with headaches?

chiropractor treating a headache by massaging the neck

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Did you know that almost half of the world’s population deals with a headache at least once a year? While a headache is usually no big deal now and again, what happens when it becomes an ongoing issue?

Headache disorders account for the third leading cause of lost years from disability. With such a prevalent health issue in the world, what are the treatment options?

Can a chiropractor help with headaches? The answer is often yes, especially for tension-type and cervicogenic headaches.

Maybe you are someone that has gone through multiple treatments to no avail. Or perhaps you are only just beginning to deal with nagging headaches and want to address the issue right away.

If you want to address your headache woes, keep reading on to learn more about how a chiropractor can help you.

What is a headache?

Before diving into how can a chiropractor help with headaches, it is essential to address what a headache is. As it sounds – a headache is a specific type of pain in your head. This pain can also be present in the facial region.

For starters, there are many different types of headaches. Most of the time, headaches are relatively harmless from a medical standpoint.

With over 300 different headaches, it can be challenging to know what causes yours and the best treatment options. Approximately 10% of headaches have a known cause.

Most of the time, headaches are not a medical emergency. Rarely, headaches are indicators of more significant problems such as a stroke or brain tumour.

A headache requires immediate medical attention if it accompanies some of these symptoms:

  • significant changes in patterns
  • atypical and severe
  • worse with coughing
  • changes in personality
  • accompanied by a stiff or painful neck
  • blurred vision
  • acute physical weakness.

Most of these headaches are secondary headaches and are indicative of a more significant problem. Contact your general practitioner if you notice any unusual headache symptoms.

Types of headaches

Most headaches don’t require immediate medical attention, but that does not mean they don’t cause detrimental effects in your daily life, work, and hobbies.

Headaches are either primary or secondary. Secondary headaches are due to an underlying medical condition.

Primary headaches mean that there isn’t an underlying or diagnosed medical condition. The majority of the population deal with primary headaches. Some of the more common types of headaches that people have include:

  • tension headache
  • cluster headache
  • sinus headache
  • medication overuse headache.

Headache triggers

Headache triggers vary from person to person. Some common triggers include

  • dehydration
  • stress
  • fatigue
  • loud noises
  • poor posture
  • muscle tension.

If you are dealing with a cold, flu, or sinus infection, that can also cause a headache.

Medication overuse headaches arise from overusing pain medication for your headaches. These headaches are also known as rebound headaches. They typically stop with reduced use of pain medication or other treatment.

Because of the extensive nature of headaches, it is difficult to assemble a comprehensive headache trigger list.

Can a chiropractor help with headaches?

Chiropractors focus on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems to treat various disorders and pain.

Spinal adjustments tend to work reasonably well for people who suffer from tension and cervicogenic headaches since these headaches can arise from problems in the musculoskeletal system.

Chiropractic adjustments work towards helping relieve tension and discomfort through manipulations, adjustments, modalities, relaxation techniques, dieting, and exercise.

This combination works in providing short-term and long-term relief from headaches and migraines. Often in conjunction with other medical treatments, if necessary.

Recent studies 

Some researchers have looked further into the ultimate question: can seeing a chiropractor help with headaches? While studies show the benefit that some chiropractic adjustments can have for people with tension headaches, migraines have remained a big question.

In this study, researchers dived further into migraine treatments. A chiropractor saw three patients for the space of 12 months. The treatments included:

  • spinal adjustments
  • soft tissue manipulation
  • exercises
  • education.

After treatments, researchers found that each patient reported less pain, less medication use, and less anxiety. The researchers also emphasised how chiropractors are beneficial to the overall health care plan.

Another research study took a more comprehensive approach and examined a variety of studies on headaches. In total, they gathered 21 studies that examined how can a chiropractor help with headaches. They found that spinal manipulation and massage were beneficial in migraine treatments.

When treating cervicogenic headaches, spinal manipulation and joint mobilisation were the most helpful. Lastly, low-load craniocervical mobilisation was helpful in certain types of tension headaches.

These research studies were significant for shedding light on other forms of treatment for headaches and migraines outside of medication management. After seeing these positive results, it opens the door for further research and studies on the long-term outcomes of chiropractor treatments.

Chiropractic adjustments

Spinal adjustments and joint mobilisations are some of the ways that people find relief from pain and discomfort. If you haven’t seen a chiropractor before, you might be unfamiliar with what to expect. An adjustment involves the practitioner using manual manipulations or tools on various joints or the spine.

By using distinct forces, a chiropractor can create minor corrections to the spine and joints. These corrections can reduce pain and also help improve postural alignments. Depending on the severity of the case, you might need more than one treatment.

Cervicogenic headaches

Neck injuries and disorders that may cause referred pain to the head from bony structures or soft neck tissues are called cervicogenic headaches. However, other diagnoses such as rheumatoid arthritis and tumours can also lead to these types of headaches.

Chiropractors are helpful for acute and chronic management of cervicogenic headaches. In the beginning stages, chiropractic treatment options include:

  • stretching
  • posture exercises
  • modalities
  • cervical traction
  • manipulations
  • myofascial release.

Ultimately, these types of headaches can require long-term management. Complementary therapies such as seeing a chiropractor, acupuncture, and cognitive psychological strategies are helpful in the overall treatment plan.

Tension headaches

Can a chiropractor help with tension headaches? Yes – this is often another commonly treated diagnosis in chiropractor offices. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache.

You might describe a tension headache as pain that wraps around the head like a “headband”. Poor posture is one possible cause of the pain that stems from the neck.

Chiropractors help treat musculoskeletal problems that result in these types of headaches. Some common treatments that chiropractors use are:

  • adjustments
  • massage
  • mobilisation
  • joint manipulation
  • exercises.

Posture and core training are two main focuses of strengthening interventions. Your chiropractor can also give helpful suggestions for changing your workspace and preventing future headaches.

Headache relief

Headaches are debilitating and lead to missed work and less enjoyment of your favourite hobbies. Lingering headaches can also cause you to miss out on time spent with your family and friends.

So – can a chiropractor help with headaches? Hopefully, you can see how the answer is yes; they can help.

Chiropractors work towards helping alleviate pain through adjustments, exercises, and education.

If you want to take that next step in managing your headache, contact us today.

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