Around 12% of Americans suffer from migraine, as per the National Institute of Health, making up a whopping 40 million of the population. Migraine is a neurological health condition typically characterized by throbbing or intense pain on one side of the head.
While there is barely a cure for migraine, several modern treatments help minimize their symptoms, and chiropractic adjustment is one of them. What is the link between migraines and chiropractic treatment you must be wondering since chiropractic care is known for bone, muscle, and spinal adjustments?
Fortunately, evidence from multiple studies shows that chiropractic care is effective in treating some types of migraine. Let’s learn in detail what these studies suggest and how effective chiropractic adjustment is for migraine.
What are migraine headaches?
A migraine is not just a bad headache; it’s a neurological condition with different symptoms. Typically, it is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The migraine pain is mainly limited to one side of the head in the form of a throbbing sensation, as described by the patients. A migraine has 4 different phases:
Phase 1: Prodrome
Prodrome is the initial phase of a migraine that can last from a few hours to several days. During this phase, people may experience nausea, fatigue, unusual food cravings, and difficulty concentrating.
Phase 2: Aura
The aura phase occurs in only 15% to 20% of migraine sufferers. During this phase, the patient may feel tingling, numbness, ringing in the ears, blind spots, or temporary vision loss. Since these symptoms can vary from person to person, some have reported experiencing wavy lines or flashing lights during this phase. It is a shorter phase than the initial only lasting 5 minutes or a maximum of an hour.
Phase 3: Headache
This is the stage when you actually know that you are having a migraine. Also, it is the main symptom of the migraine condition. The pain may start from one side of the head and gradually extend to the other. The headache stage may last for 3 days.
Phase 4: Postdrome
This phase is also called a ‘migraine hangover’; by this stage, the symptoms have started to decline, and the person enters the recovery stage. During this phase, the migraine sufferer may feel depressed or worn out and have difficulty concentrating. In fact, some even reported feeling euphoric in this stage.
While it is not clear what exactly causes migraine, several researchers believe it occurs due to environmental or genetic factors. Several triggers may lead to migraine pain.
- Stress: It is considered one of the most common migraine triggers, with 70% of patients reporting experiencing migraine after high levels of stress.
- Hormonal imbalance in Women: Estrogen fluctuations in women often lead to migraine headaches. It usually happens before or during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause.
- Drinks: Beverages containing too much caffeine or alcohol can kick in migraine.
- Poor Sleep: Disturbed sleeping schedule could be another reason for migraine headaches. When you don’t sleep enough or sleep too much, it affects neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in migraine headaches.
- Sensory Stimuli: Loud sounds, flashing lights, or strong smells such as secondhand smoke, paint thinner, and perfume trigger migraine.
- Physical Factors: Intense physical activity like workouts or sexual activity might provoke migraine pain.
- Dietary habits: Consuming too many preservatives, salt, and artificial sweeteners containing foods can also trigger migraine headaches.
- Medications: Hormonal medications like oral contraceptives can aggravate migraine pain.
- Weather changes: Fluctuations in the barometric pressure can sometimes cause migraine in some individuals.
Chiropractic Treatments for Migraine
As said previously, migraine cannot be treated. However, some chiropractors can surely help relieve some of its symptoms. Usually, they perform manual therapies, for instance, massage, spine manipulation, and other adjustments to help minimize the pain. Following are some chiropractic treatments effective for migraine:
- Neuromuscular massage
Have you ever heard of ‘trigger point therapy? The neuromuscular massage focuses on pressure points within the neck, shoulders, and back. How does it help? It relaxes your muscles relieve stress, and improve blood flow. It releases pressure from stiff and compressed nerves sending pain signals to your brain.
- Multidisciplinary care
It is the type of chiropractic adjustment that involves physical exercise, stress management, relaxation techniques, as well as dietary counseling. According to the patients, multidisciplinary care intervention helps a lot with reducing pain, it’s duration, and frequency.
Migraines and Chiropractic Treatment – Possible risk factors
Risk and side effects are associated with any care treatment, including chiropractic adjustments. It is challenging to get accurate reports of any treatment’s adverse effects, especially in the case of chiropractic treatment. Primarily it is because many clinical trials do not always report catastrophic results.
A 2017 research study showed that mild to moderate side effects had been noticed in both adults and children after spine manipulation. They surfaced somewhere between 23 to 83% of the population. Following are the adverse effects seen in people after spine manipulation:
- Excessive pain and discomfort in the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons
- Numbness or tingling in the upper limbs
These side effects usually go away by themselves within 24 hours. That said, more severe side effects were also encountered in some children and adults. They included:
- Cauda equine syndrome
- Spinal cord injury after lumber, thoracic or cervical manipulation
- Herniated lumber disc
- Lung collapsing
These side effects were rare, running 1 in every 2 million manipulations, but they do happen. Another meta-analysis back in 2017 found that the side effects that were reported previously were based on flawed methodology. So the most often reported serious side effects included:
- Worsening of symptoms
- Increased pain
- Vertebral artery dissection
After going through references from authentic sources, we would suggest you ask your doctor first whether it’s safe for you or not, before going to a chiropractor. They will let you know the possible risk based on your personal condition.
Is chiropractic adjustment safe for children?
Parents who hesitate to administer medications to their children might consider taking them to chiropractors. Well, the idea is not as bad as giving medication because many migraine medications are formulated for adults, and they can have adverse side effects for children.
Several chiropractic treatments are devised for children, especially. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners in 2010 found that 17% of people who receive chiropractic adjustment were teens younger than 18. That said, the authenticity of the research was unknown. Therefore, it did not draw accurate conclusions.
There have been adverse side effects of chiropractic treatment in children. However, they were minimal, as per the American Chiropractic Association.
Consult your family pediatrician to determine whether it is fine to get chiropractic care for your child. Also, if you have decided to get chiropractic care for your child, make sure you go to the one experienced with children.
Is chiropractic care for migraine safe for pregnant women?
Some experts believe migraine medications can badly affect pregnant women and their fetuses. Thereby, most pregnant women now consider chiropractic therapies for migraine. But is it safe for them? Let’s figure it out!
Very little research evidence is available on the effect of chiropractic care on pregnant women. Older research from 2019 suggests it may be safe for them. The study was based on pregnant women with chronic migraines for 12 years. She previously took massage therapies, physicals, and other therapies for relief. She further administered non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with codeine which only provided minor relief.
Her symptoms improved when she received chiropractic spinal manipulation treatment and add-on therapies, and soon after, she got off all medications. While more research it needed in this area, this old case study suggests that chiropractic adjustments effectively treat migraine in pregnant women.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is chiropractic treatment effective for migraines?
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, an expert chiropractor may be able to reduce migraine symptoms using a variety of techniques. Moreover, chiropractic care has also been found to be effective for other headache treatments.
2. Does spinal misalignment cause migraine?
Spinal misalignment in the cervical spine can cause severe headaches, including migraine, by irritating nerves in those areas. The chiropractor performs adjustments to relieve the pain.
3. Is Acupuncture effective for migraines?
Acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine in which needles are inserted into your body to treat migraine headaches. 59% of people who got the treatment reported that it cut the number of migraine headaches by half. In fact, the review also proved that acupuncture treats migraine better than traditional medicines.
Conclusion – Migraines and chiropractic
Migraine hits bad, in fact, worse than other forms of headaches, resulting in several lost work days. It snatches your focus and leaves you good for nothing. As far as we researched in this area, chiropractic treatments are effective for migraine. It has minimal to no side effects for both adults and the younger generation. If you are interested in trying it, it would be better to speak to your family doctor first. If he/she gives you heads-up, you are good to go!