A 39 year old woman presented to our office this past week for evaluation and treatment of neck and upper back pain, tightness, and stiffness. Upon further questioning, she reported having a severe headache one week prior, which landed her at Urgent Care where she received a Toradol injection and a muscle relaxant. Indicating that she didn’t like how these made her feel, she was hoping, since it was several years since the last one, that maybe it would just be gone for a long time. Despite the injection, she didn’t have any significant or lasting relief of symptoms and decided to try chiropractic care as a last resort for her headache. Since this was her first visit to a chiropractor’s office, she had a ton of questions regarding how chiropractic works and how it can assist with headaches.
After this case, I realized there are common cases and questions like these and wanted to share my thoughts based on my experience with helping patients with headaches. Chiropractic care is a healthcare approach that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of neuromusculoskeletal disorders. Chiropractors can be exceptionally proficient at this as evaluation and treatment does not typically focus solely on an area of complaint but rather the entire body, assessing how everything is functioning collectively from a neurological, muscular, and skeletal standpoint. Chiropractors can use many techniques including adjustments to affect the central nervous system, which is the control center for the body. This is accomplished by adjusting the spine, however, adjustments may also be performed on the extremities. The goal of a chiropractic adjustment is to improve joint range of motion where it is lacking, restore proper alignment, balance the central nervous system, and optimize how the body is functioning as a whole.
When it comes to headaches, chiropractic care may be beneficial for certain types of headaches, particularly tension headaches and some types of migraines. These types of headaches can be caused or exacerbated by muscle tension and misalignments in the neck and upper spine. There can be other causes of headaches, therefore establishing the true underlying cause of the headache is paramount. Without this, patients often endure frequent, recurrent, and sometimes debilitating headaches that take from their quality of life.
The goal of chiropractic care regarding headaches is to help determine the cause and provide in a treatment plan that will contribute to reductions in frequency, duration, and severity. This process typically begins with a thorough examination to assess your condition and identify any areas of misalignment or dysfunction.
Based on their findings, chiropractors will develop a personalized treatment plan, which may include spinal adjustments, soft tissue therapies, exercises, lifestyle modifications, and recommendations for self-care at home. The goal is to alleviate tension, reduce inflammation, improve spinal function, and promote overall health and well-being.
It’s important to note that while many people find relief from headaches through chiropractic care, the effectiveness of treatment can vary from person to person and will depend on the underlying cause. Some individuals may experience immediate relief, others may require several sessions to achieve noticeable improvement, and in some cases a referral may be given to the type of provider most skilled at addressing the origin of the headache. It’s always a good idea to consult with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor or medical doctor, to determine the most appropriate treatment options for your specific condition.
Additionally, if you experience severe or sudden headaches, or if your headaches are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention to rule out any serious underlying conditions.