If you’re a sufferer of chronic headaches or migraines, you don’t need convincing that they’re one of the most painful, debilitating conditions you could possibly suffer. Millions upon millions of dollars a year are spent on trying to find relief from this crippling illness. But what causes migraines? Basically it’s a decrease in oxygen to the brain. If the brain receives less oxygen per milliliter of blood, it will simply increase the amount of blood flow to increase the overall amount of oxygen received. In order to increase the amount of blood flow it must dilate the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. When these vessels dilate, it stretches pain fibres that wrap around the outside of these vessels. When these pain fibres are stretched they are activated and start sending pain signals into the brain, resulting in your perception of pain.
Headaches and migraines may also be caused by dysfunction of muscles and joints in the neck. This then causes inflammation and tension of the joints, muscles and blood vessels, which then transfers pain up into the skull. This can commonly be a trigger for a migraine. Other triggers can be lack of sleep, stress, chemicals and allergies.
So what can chiropractic do to help? By performing gentle but specific adjustments to the neck and upper back we improve the function of the joints and muscles in the neck, which alleviates the tension that is a prime cause of headache and migraine symptoms. As well as removing the tension, the inflammation around the joints, muscles and blood vessels is decreased and the pain fibres begin to be deactivated.
One study involved 177 volunteers who had been suffering neck pain and migraines for over 18 years. All of those who received chiropractic care were able to reduce their medication intake, with a significant number reducing their intake to zero. Additionally, 59% reported no neck pain after 2 months, and another 35% had a significant decrease in neck pain.
This is not the only study to show these results; other high level clinical randomised trials report excellent improvement in 78% of subjects that received chiropractic care.1-4
There are other factors that contribute to headaches, but these figures, and chiropractors’ everyday experiences show that neck problems are a huge contributor.
So, if pain persists, come in and see what we can do!
- Vernon H. (ed.) Upper cervical syndrome: Chiropractic diagnosis and treatment. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1988.
- Knutson G. Vectored upper cervical manipulation for chronic sleep bruxism, headache and cervical spine pain in a child. JMPT. 2003;26(6):1-3
- Aprill, Axinn MJ, Bogduk N. Occipital headaches stemming from the lateral atlanto axial joint. Cephalalgia. 2002;22(1):15-22
- Tuchin PJ, Pollard H, Bonello R. A randomized controlled trial of chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy for migraine. JMPT 2000:23(2):91-95.