Chiropractic CE

Chiropractic for Headaches

            Chiropractic works for the treatment of headaches to keep them under control as well as potentially rid the patient of them all together. Headaches are a persistent and increasing problem amongst adults and children in the U.S. Fourteen percent of U.S. adults 18 or older reported having severe headaches or migraines in the previous 3 months with higher prevalence in females. The beneficial thing is that chiropractic can address the many possible causes for these headaches without the use or overuse of medications.


            There are many types of headaches, and while many of them, such as primary, tension, migraine, and cluster headaches are standalone issues, about 5% of them are indicators of other possible physical issues.

Headache symptoms:

  • Throbbing, sharp, or a dull ache/pain

  • Affects one or both sides of the head

  • Radiates from a central point

  • Can last anywhere from an hour to several days

Primary headaches are brought on by triggers, and they are all ones that can be addressed with chiropractic.

Headache triggers:

  • Environmental overstimulation – bright lights, loud noises, etc.

  • Stress – both external and emotional.

  • Behavior – insomnia or poor sleep habits, alcohol consumption, too much blue light from screen time.

  • Food – some foods will trigger headaches in those with food sensitivities.

  • Long hours on the computer or looking at the cell phone.

The great amount of headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck, upper back, and scalp.

Chiropractic Care for Headaches

            Chiropractic treatment for headaches involves assessing, diagnosing, then managing the headaches. In order to improve headaches, a spinal adjustment will improve spinal function and relieve stress on the nervous system allowing the patient’s body to function normally, and reduce risk of stress or tension building to cause the headache.

Chiropractic treatment options:

  • Soft tissue therapy

  • Electrical stimulation

  • Manual therapy

  • Lifestyle changes

There are various types of chiropractic treatments for different types of headaches, and something like pain in the head needs to be dealt with a careful way. chiropractic treatment delivers a gentle, non-invasive, non-addictive therapy

Does chiropractic work for headaches?

There are various types of chiropractic treatments for different types of headaches.

Headaches vs chiropractic treatment types:

  • Tension headaches – low-load craniocervical mobilization – using this treatment involves a gentle force applied to the neck joints in addition to stretching.

  • Cervicogenic headaches – spinal manipulation – the usual application of controlled force on a specific joint with their hands or a device.

  • Migraines – multidisciplinary care – an intervention which is an approach combining physical therapy exercises, stress management, dietary counseling, relaxation techniques all of which are effective for decreasing migraine duration, frequency, disability, and pain.

  • Migraines – neuromuscular massage – more well known as trigger point therapy focusing on the trigger points of the back, neck, shoulders, and head to improve blood flow, relieve stress, and relax muscles. This treatment can release pressure on the compressed nerves causing the pain in the head.

  • Cervicogenic headaches – joint mobilization – treatment targeting the cervical spine for headaches in which the joints are moved passively to improve range of motion and decrease pain.

  • Cervicogenic headaches – neck flexion exercises – this treatment involves active movement of the muscles and joints

All in all, the goal of chiropractic treatment for headaches is to loosen and stretch the deep neck flexor muscles which play a key role in supporting the neck.

Recommendations for Specific Types of Headaches:

  • Vision – these headaches are around the forehead and behind the eyes in the head because when the eye muscles strain to see they put pressure on the optic nerve. However, these headaches aren’t always caused by poor vision alone, but can also be caused by things like bright lights or staring too long at a book or screen.

    • Recommended treatment – first, it is important to discuss some lifestyle fixes for these types of headaches with the patient. Recommend that they take frequent breaks from looking at screens or books for too long. Additionally, if they are having trouble seeing things at a distance, reading the computer screen, or seeing the print in a book in focus, recommend that they also have their eyes checked for vision correction.

  • Cold Neuralgia – also known as brain freeze or ice cream headache, and it is unknown the exact cause of these headaches. It is theorized that cold foods (most often ice cream is a culprit) hit the warm roof of the mouth and causes blood vessels to tighten up and cause a headache.

    • Recommended treatment – since this pain usually naturally goes away, recommend that the patient just slow down while eating.

  • Subluxations – Misalignments in the spine put pressure on the nervous system, which can cause headaches, muscle tension, and poor body functionality.

    • Recommended treatment – perform cervical adjustments through trigger point therapy and massages to relieve muscle tension to reduce misalignments.

  • Sinusitis – sinusitis puts pressure on the nose, cheeks, and forehead causing headaches.

    • Recommended treatment – in this case, since the headache is coming from another condition, it is important to do a physical exam to determine the exact cause of the swelling. Use chiropractic manipulative therapy and light-force cranial manipulation to help relieve the pressure on the facial nerves. Another option is the nasal-specific technique in which you would insert balloons into the nasal passages to open the sinus cavities.

  • Sleep disorders – inadequate sleep can cause a variety of issues, not least of which are headaches. Serious sleep conditions such as sleep apnea or insomnia cause the brain to miss out on REM sleep causing migraines.

    • Recommended treatment – in these cases, lifestyle recommendations are just as needed as an adjustment. Advise the patient some key habits to get a good night’s sleep such as going to bed at a set time every night, sleep in a well-ventilated room, do cardio during the day but not 3-4 hours before bed, take a warm bath before bed, hang black-out curtains or use a sleep mask to block light, and avoid reading tablets, phones, or computers at least one hour before bed.

  • Brain Tumors – this is a much rarer reason that a patient would have a headache, but they are easier to tell based on the symptoms which accompany it.

    • Recommended treatment – have the patient visit a healthcare professional who specializes in brain tumors. Be sure that the patient doesn’t have the following symptoms along with their headache: changes in previous headache patterns, headaches that are unresponsive to therapy, changes in memory, thinking or personality, repetitive or prolonged vomiting, headaches which get worse when coughing, sneezing, straining, or bending over, and any new sensory, motor, or visual symptoms.

Headaches & Chiropractic

            Although there are variations across the country, headache disorders are a worldwide issue affecting people of all ages, income levels, races, and geographical areas. Headaches have many causes and triggers, and research shows that spinal manipulation has been shown to be an effective treatment for headaches. Following potential treatment protocols, and giving the appropriate lifestyle recommendations will help us successfully help our patients.