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Chiropractic Care for Migraine Headaches

Published Date: 
August 3, 2022
Categories:
A man rubs his forehead because he is suffering from a migraine headache.

Migraines can be unpredictable and debilitating. Chiropractic care can help reduce pain and relieve symptoms.

How a Chiropractor Can Help Those Suffering from Migraines

Chiropractic care is an alternative treatment that helps relieve pain in body muscles, especially the back. Some people who experience headaches have used chiropractic care to relieve pain. However, there’s limited information to support the effectiveness of this method. 

The effectiveness of chiropractic care for headaches may depend on the cause of the pain. If your migraine headache results from muscle stiffness and neck pain, chiropractic care may work for you. 

Understanding Migraine Headaches

A headache can either be primary or secondary. A secondary headache is a symptom of an underlying health condition, but a primary headache is not. It occurs due to physical strain. A migraine is a primary headache that starts on one side and spreads to the other side of the head. It worsens if you engage in physical activities or expose yourself to lights and sounds. About 1 in 6 American adults suffer from a migraine headache every three months. 

Migraines can result from stress, physical strain, and sleep deprivation. In some people, migraines can come from drinking alcohol, wine, caffeine, or eating processed food and food with additives. Women can experience migraines due to hormonal changes and taking medications like oral contraceptives. Other factors that can cause migraine include changes in weather and some drug overuse. 

Stages and Symptoms of Migraines

Migraine appears in four stages as follows:

  1. Prodrome: Also known as pre-headache, it’s the first stage of migraine. It signals that a migraine is coming. Therefore, you can take action to prevent headaches. Symptoms of prodrome include fatigue, irritability, difficulty sleeping, muscle stiffness, trouble concentrating, and depressed mood. This stage can last several hours or days, and symptoms may differ depending on individual cases. 
  2. Aura: An aura is a group of symptoms that affect your speech, motor, and sensory system. It’s easy to mistake it with an impending seizure or stroke. This stage can last from five minutes to an hour. Symptoms include tingling in the body, numbness, temporary loss of sight, and visual disturbances.         
  3. Headache: Headache comes in varying levels. Sometimes it can be mild, but it’s usually throbbing or drilling. It starts from one side of the head and spreads to the other. And it can last for four to 72 hours. 
  4. Postdrome: Also known as a migraine hangover, this stage can last for a few hours to a few days after the headache. Its symptoms include feeling tired, inability to concentrate, and being in a bad mood.  

Some people may not go through all four stages. Also, the symptoms and duration of each stage may vary depending on the person. 

A woman rubs her temple because she is suffering from a migraine headache.

Signs You Are Experiencing Migraines

Some migraines may not have severe headaches, but others can have pounding pain and you could experience nausea and vomiting. If you can localize the pain to a specific area of your head, you could be having a migraine attack.

Also, migraine can increase your sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds. If you start showing symptoms of aura and prodrome, you could be having a migraine.

Can a Chiropractor Treat Migraines?

Research concerning chiropractic care as a proper treatment for migraine is still ongoing, but medical professionals associate migraine with physical strain, blood flow, and nerve signals. Chiropractic care is known to improve the functioning of the nervous system and blood flow, and it helps relax stiff neck muscles that cause headaches. There seems to be a link between chiropractic care and migraine prevention.   

A chiropractor can use various techniques to treat migraine, as shown below.

Chiropractic Adjustments for Migraine Headaches

Neuromuscular massage: This trigger point therapy focuses on specific points within the back, neck, shoulders, and head. The purpose is to release pressure from the surrounding nerves to prevent transmitting pain signals to the brain. 

Multidisciplinary care prevention: This treatment combines stress management techniques, physical therapy, dietary counseling, and relaxation techniques to reduce migraine.  

Muscle and Soft Tissue Therapy 

Physiotherapy for muscles and soft tissues provides relaxation from physical strain. A physiotherapist uses their hands or equipment to stretch muscles and soft tissues. This process produces the same effect as massage and chiropractic care.  

Massage Therapy 

Massage therapy focuses on various body parts, such as the feet, back, and neck. It may involve the use of hot stones and cold stones and can be intense or relaxing. Some types of massage may work better than others. It depends on the location of trigger points for each person.

A chiropractor is treating a man for migraine headaches.

Why Chiropractic Treatment Is a Good Choice for Those Who Suffer From Migraines

Chiropractic care for migraines has the same effect as massage. Both can make you relax and reduce stress levels. If the cause of your migraine was stress, then chiropractic care can treat you by relieving stress. Also, chiropractic care helps reduce fatigue, neck pain, and muscle stiffness, which are possible causes of migraine. 

Chiropractic care for migraines helps reduce reliance on headache medications. Studies show that overuse of pain relievers can lead to more headaches, and pain relievers like opioids are known to cause addiction. On the other hand, chiropractic treatment has no such side effects. 

Conclusion 

The use of chiropractic care for migraine sufferers is still undergoing research, and there’s incomplete evidence due to the placebo effect. Whatever the case, some patients have successfully recovered from migraine after taking the treatment. 

If you have constant migraines and want to reduce your reliance on drugs, you should consider chiropractic care. But first, consult your doctor to ensure this treatment option is safe for you. You can receive treatment from your chiropractor, physical therapist, or massage professional.

FAQ

Is massage or a chiropractor better for migraines?

The most effective treatment is to combine therapeutic massage and chiropractic care. Chiropractors will likely recommend massage therapies accompany chiropractic treatments. 

Can neck misalignment cause migraine headaches?

Spinal misalignment is a common cause of migraines. Misalignment aggravates the nerves that run through the spine and up to the head. Pressure or irritation on these nerves can cause headaches.

Can a neck adjustment help treat migraines?

Chiropractic neck adjustment manipulates the upper cervical spine which impacts the way nerves send messages to the brain. By manipulating the spine, chiropractors can impact blood flow to the central nervous system. This helps to treat and prevent migraine headaches.

Dr. Eric Neumann D.C.

Dr. Eric Neumann grew up in Alberta, Canada where he majored in Chemistry at the University of Calgary. During his time at University, he obtained licensure as a Massage Therapist. It was clear that hands-on healing would be his calling. After suffering multiple sport-related injuries he became interested in Chiropractic. Dr. Neumann graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 2009. He has since specialized in the treatment and management of acute spinal injuries.

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