Does Chiropractic Help?

Many patients have heard that chiropractic care can help relieve headaches. A brief description of the types of headaches is listed below.

Two categories of headaches exist: Functional and Pathological.

Functional Headaches
• Tension Headache
• Vertebrogenic Headache
• Cluster headache
• Migraine Headache

Pathological Headaches
• Brain Tumor Headache
• Brain Abscess Headache
• Subdural Hematoma Headache
• Hypertension Headache
• TIA Headaches
• Sentinel Headaches

Of the two categories, patients will seek chiropractic care for relief from one of the four Functional Headaches listed above. Chiropractors only deal with Functional Headaches.

Functional Headaches

Tension Headache – tense muscles of the head, neck and face produce this headache. The headache is generally felt as a band of pain or vice-like pressure from the eyes to the back of the headache.
Vertebrogenic Headache – This headache is produced by structures in the spine/neck. Structures involved are nerve roots, nerves and joints. Headache pain is experienced more commonly in the back of the head, side and front of the head. Occasionally, this headache will be felt in the face and front of the neck.
Cluster Headaches – This severe headache is generally felt over one eye. On occasion it may radiate into the face, cheek, chin or neck on the same side. The onset of pain is sudden lasting and average of 15 minutes then disappears. The headaches can occur in clusters of 10-20 attacks per day over a period of days, weeks or even months.
Migraine Headaches – Caused by the expansion and/or contraction of blood vessels in the head. Headaches are severe, pulsating and throbbing generally starting in one eye then radiating to the other eye, neck or face. The classic migraine has an aura phase that precedes the headache whereas the common migraine headache does not.


Headache sufferers are claiming relief from headaches due to chiropractic care.
Research carried out by Bogduk (1) reveals that structures in the neck such as joints, nerves and nerve roots are commonly the source of headaches. Bogduk anesthetized these structures, which produced relief from the headaches. It was concluded that if a blocker for pain from the joints, nerves and nerve roots relieved the headache, it was likely that these structures were responsible in part for the headaches. This could explain why vertebrogenic headaches were alleviated by neck adjustments. These findings however do not explain why tension, cluster and migraine headaches sufferers also experience relief from chiropractic care.

Further chiropractic research found a neurological connection between the blood vessels in the head and coverings of the brain (2). Nerves from these structures converge at the C2 level, which is found in the upper part of the neck. Irritation of the blood vessels and brain coverings have been implicated in cluster and migraine headaches. Due to the nerve connection between the blood vessels and brain coverings of the head and nerves in the neck, we are beginning to understand how correction of nerve conduction in the neck can decrease headaches.

Although many headache sufferers do not utilize chiropractic care, the evidence is indicating that maybe they should. In addition to being effective for functional headaches, chiropractic care is safer than many traditional forms of treatment. Chiropractic care may be what you need to get your headaches under control and your life back into full swing.

1. Cephalgia 2002 Feb; 22(1): 15-22
2. Brain125: 1496-500: July 2002