Treating Headaches with Chiropractic
Many people suffer from chronic headaches. Some headaches can be attributed to stress or tension, but the latest medical literature1 reports that some cases of chronic headache are caused by a problem in the neck—and that they are often misdiagnosed or unrecognized by physicians.
These headaches are known as “cervicogenic headaches,” since they have their “genesis” in the cervical spine. They arise when the nerves, joints, or muscles of the neck are injured or strained. Pain signals from the neck can get mixed with nerve pathways of the head and face, and can create pain in seemingly unrelated parts of the body.
Cervical spine dysfunction can cause pain in any part of the head, and cervicogenic headaches are usually focused on one side. These types of headaches can last for many hours or days, and are usually described as a dull, aching pain. Neck movement, injuries, or an awkward posture can trigger these headaches. Medication may relieve pain temporarily, but if the root cause of the pain is not eliminated, the symptoms will just return down the road.
The first step in treating headache is to take a careful history and perform a thorough physical exam. This will help us determine the precise source of your pain, and help us design an effective treatment plan.
Chiropractic can be a great way to treat headaches, since we work specifically with the spine to make sure that it is functioning properly. If you suffer from regular headaches, contact our office for an appointment.
Biondi DM. Cervicogenic headache: a review of diagnostic and treatment strategies. JAOA 2005;Supplement 2;105(4):S16-S22.
Chiropractic Effective for Headache Treatment
Headaches are a common complaint that can be caused by a range of factors. Those that can be traced to disorders in the neck are called cervicogenic headaches, and this type of headache may affect as many as 20 percent1 of patients experiencing chronic head pain. Although their symptoms are similar to those of tension headaches and migraines, cervicogenic headaches are often a result of injury or other trauma. Because cervicogenic headaches often restrict a patient’s range of motion, this condition can seriously impact physical abilities and overall quality of life.
New research published in Chiropractic & Osteopathy supports the case for using chiropractic spinal manipulation to treat cervicogenic headaches. A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon, compared the effects of spinal manipulation treatment to light massage on a group of 80 patients suffering from cervicogenic headache. They found that over a 12-week period, 42% of study participants who received spinal manipulation treatment reported significant pain reduction compared to just 23% of those who received massage. During that same period, the chiropractic group experienced a greater reduction in the number of headaches (64% versus 46%) and reported that pain interfered less with their daily activities.
After 24 weeks, patients in the chiropractic group continued to experience greater benefit from their treatment, with 56% reporting that their head pain was less disabling compared to 38% improvement among the control group. Over three-quarters of participants who received spinal manipulation treatment noted some reduction in the number of headaches during the course of the study.
The study’s authors conclude that, “Spinal manipulation had a clinically important advantage over light massage in headache pain, number, and disability.” Their research shows that chiropractic treatment can have substantial and lasting benefits for a significant percentage of people suffering from cervicogenic headaches.
Haas M, Schneider M, Vavrek D. Illustrating risk difference and number needed to treat from a randomized controlled trial of spinal manipulation for cervicogenic headache. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010; 18:9
 Haldeman S, Dagenais S. Cervicogenic headaches: a critical review. Spine J.2001; 1(1):31 -46.