Chiropractic care, which includes a combination of spinal manipulation, active and passive exercises, and massage, is often used for headache management and prevention. While chiropractic neck headache treatment is popular, there is limited evidence regarding its effectiveness for most headache types, and there are potential adverse outcomes of spinal manipulation.
Here are some of the ways in which chiropractic care can be useful:
1. For Cervicogenic Headaches
Cervicogenic headaches typically begin with one-sided pain that starts at the back of the head and then moves to the front, often with accompanying same-side shoulder or arm pain. Cervicogenic headaches are believed to stem from an underlying neck problem and may be triggered by an injury.
2. For Migraines
Chiropractic therapy options for migraines include:
- Neuromuscular massage: Also known as trigger point therapy, this type of massage focuses on trigger points within the back, shoulder, neck, and head to relax muscles, improve blood flow, and even relieve stress. This may ease symptoms by releasing pressure from compressed nerves that send pain signals to the brain.
- Multidisciplinary care intervention: This approach, which combines physical therapy exercises, relaxation techniques, stress management, and dietary counselling, has been found to be effective in reducing migraine pain, frequency, duration, and disability.
3. For Tension Headaches
Episodic tension headaches are very common. They can result from muscle tension due to prolonged tension in the neck, shoulders, or head, and they generally improve with over-the-counter pain medications.
Chiropractic treatment, including spinal manipulation, has not been found to be helpful for managing this type of headache. However, chronic tension headaches may improve with a more multidisciplinary approach that includes soft tissue therapy.
If you are interested in complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies for your headaches, talk with your doctor. It’s likely that a combination of therapies will ease your headache pain—and finding the right combination will require some patience, persistence, and a little trial and error.