How Do Chiropractors Help with Headaches?

The average person describes a headache as a dull ache or a tight band behind their eyes or around their head. Tension headaches often result from subluxations in the neck or back. This can be treated effectively through chiropractic adjustments. Headaches impact nearly everyone, but the symptoms are different. One individual may feel a pounding sensation and another will become nauseous. The pain can be extremely sharp or a dull pound. The length of the headache can be for a few minutes or last for several days. Headaches with serious underlying causes are considered rare, but require immediate medical attention. The majority of headaches can be effectively treated by a chiropractor.

The Benefits of Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care involves a combination of massage, passive and active exercises and spinal manipulation. This combination is often effective for treating a wide variety of headache types. This includes both headache prevention and management. Chiropractic treatments have become an extremely popular holistic approach due to the effectiveness for a wide variety of issues. There are guidelines put in place for using chiropractic care for the treatment of headaches including tension headaches, migraines and cervicogenic headaches. This helps ensure the treatments are both safe and effective. A different approach is required for each specific type of headache.

Cervicogenic Headaches

In most cases, a cervicogenic headache starts with a pain on one side of the back of the head prior to moving to the front. This often includes pain in the arm or the shoulder on the same side. The belief is a cervicogenic headache is caused by an underlying problem in the neck, often triggered due to an injury. This is the least common type of headache and usually does not improve with medication. Chiropractors often use spinal manipulation to help relieve this type of headache. The chiropractor has been trained in spinal manipulation using either a device or their hands in the application of a controlled force to one of the joints in the spine. Applying this force usually results in a popping sound. The upper part of the spine closest to the neck is called the cervical spine. This is the area used for spinal manipulation for the treatment of cervicogenic headaches.

Another option is called joint mobilization. When used for headaches, the cervical spine is targeted. The chiropractor triggers a passive movement of the joints to decrease pain or improve movement. In some cases, exercises for deep neck flexion are recommended. This exercise is an active way for the chiropractor to move the joints and muscles. A good example of this type of exercise is when the individual lies flat on the floor. This is followed by a series of chin tucks then nodding the head. This triggers muscle contractions lasting for intervals of ten seconds. This is followed with ten seconds of rest prior to performing fifteen more repetitions. The ultimate goals is the stretching of the deep flexor muscles in the neck. These muscles are important for proper neck support.


The characteristics of a migraine include a headache, nausea and dizziness. There are medications to treat these symptoms, for acute migraines and for migraine prevention. In some cases, pain injections are prescribed. The issue is these medications only treat the pain, not the underlying cause of the migraine. Although medications are successful for some people, they do not work as well for others. One of the best options for treating a migraine is chiropractic care. These treatments include a neuromuscular massage. This type of massage focuses on the trigger points in the head, neck, shoulders and back to help ease the symptoms. Multidisciplinary care intervention is a treatment combining dietary counseling, stress management, relaxation techniques and physical therapy exercises. This technique is effective for decreasing the pain, duration and frequency of migraines.

Episodic Tension Headaches

One of the most common headaches is an episodic tension headache. This is often caused from a prolonged tension in the head, shoulders and neck. Although pain medications including acetaminophen and anti-inflammatories can be effective, chiropractic treatment is an effective and more natural approach. Modified chiropractic therapy often helps episodic and tension headaches. Low-load craniocervical mobilization is one of the most common therapies recommended for tension headaches. The force used for this technique is gentler than what is required for spinal manipulation. The force is applied to the neck joints for headaches to enable a rhythmic movement. This treatment usually involves stretching as well. If you are experiencing headaches, please call 205-637-1363 so we can help.

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