Combining chiropractic and acupuncture led to complete headache relief for a patient in a recent case study. Earlier research has shown that chiropractic can effectively ease migraine and cervicogenic headache, and evidence suggests that acupuncture is an effective first-line alternative treatment for migraines. However there have been no reported studies on the effects of combining both treatments.
The case study involved a 32-year old woman who had suffered from chronic daily headaches since she was a teenager. She visited a neurologist who diagnosed her with tension-type headaches superimposed by migraines. The neurologist examined her with brain MRI scans which were all negative. The patient was prescribed verapamil, a calicum channel blocker, and Tylenol.
After several years of taking these medications, the woman starting having stomach cramping, nausea, and vomiting. All blood laboratory tests and GI scopes were normal, and she was not given a diagnosis for her GI symptoms. The patient was told to stop taking the medications and consume a bland diet without fruits and vegetables.
The woman presented at a multidisciplinary pain center with headache over her right eye and temple, neck tenderness, dizziness, and fatigue. After a Traditional Chinese Medicine evaluation, she received five treatments over a two week period. The first session was an acupuncture-only treatment, followed by four sessions with a combined treatment of acupuncture and chiropractic spinal adjustments. She also received nutritional counseling to assist her in reintroducing food to form a more balanced diet.
With each treatment session, the patient reported substantial improvements in headache duration and intensity. By the fifth session, she reported that the headaches were completely gone. She received an additional four follow-up treatments of spinal adjustments and acupuncture, and doctors continued to monitor her headaches, response to the reintroduction of foods, and liver enzyme levels. A year after treatment, the woman was still headache-free.
While larger-scale studies are needed, these preliminary findings suggest that combining chiropractic with acupuncture can significantly improve chronic headache symptoms.
Ohlse BA. Combination of acupuncture and spinal manipulative therapy: management of a 32-year-old patient with chronic tension-type headache and migraine. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 2012; 11: 192-201.