Less headaches, more relief for chiropractic patients

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According to a recent study, patients treated with chiropractic adjustments experienced a 50% reduction in the number of cervicogenic headaches they experienced.

Cervicogenic headaches are non-throbbing, steady headaches felt at the back of the head, with pain extending downwards through the neck and between the shoulder blades. Some patients also experience dizziness. Such headaches are caused by dysfunction in the cervical spine (the portion of the spine located in the neck).

Previous studies showed that chiropractic treatments can alleviate both the pain and disability resulting from cervicogenic headaches. This study showed that chiropractic treatments can also reduce the frequency of such headaches.

The research involved 80 people with chronic cervicogenic headaches. Patients received either light massage or chiropractic adjustments. Within each group, half received high doses of the treatment, while the other patients received lower doses. The light massage treatments involved several minutes of gentle neck and shoulder massage, while the chiropractic treatments consisted of high-velocity, low-amplitude adjustments of the upper back and neck.

Patients who received chiropractic treatments improved substantially more than those receiving massage. On average, chiropractic patients saw their headaches cut in half. At the conclusion of the study, chiropractic patients required one-third less pain medication than at the start, and reported a 50% reduction in symptoms.

The researchers found no major differences between patients receiving 8 chiropractic treatments and those who received 16 treatments. Those who received more treatments did have slightly more improvements in terms of neck disability. More research is needed to determine the optimum number of chiropractic treatments, but the researchers have concluded that chiropractic adjustments are an effective method of treating cervicogenic headaches. Research shows that chiropractic can also relieve migraine headaches.

Haas M, Spegman A, Peterson D, Aickin M, Vavrek D. Dose response and efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic cervicogenic headache: a pilot randomized controlled trial. The Spine Journal 2010; 10: 117-128.

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