A migraine episode is the worst. Hello, stabbing pain, puking, and light sensitivity. If you’re ready to crawl into a cave to escape the symptoms, integrative medicine like chiropractic care might be your next go-to.
Here’s how chiropractic care *might* help your migraine attack.
Can a chiropractor work for migraines?
Maybe. Some research shows chiropractic treatment can help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. But it might not work for everyone and we definitely need more research.
You might be wondering how a snap-crackle-pop of the spine can help your head. It might be because chiropractic treatments are believed to:
- decrease nerve irritation
- encourage normal blood flow
- reduce muscle tension that can trigger migraine episodes
- strengthen the muscles that help support your spine
- help align the spine which can restore nervous system communication
But does it really work? The results are mixed and TBH we need more research to prove it works. But here’s what some studies have shown:
- A 2016 study found that 6 to 8 cervical and upper thoracic spine manipulation sessions helped relieve pain in peeps with chronic headaches better than exercise and movement.
- In a 2019 case series, three participants with chronic migraine symptoms were given chiropractic treatments over the course of 12 months. At the end of the study, they reported improved pain scores, decreased medication usage, and more pain-free days. FYI: Other treatments (e.g. oral meds and Botox injections) were also used.
- A 2019 systematic review analyzed six randomized controlled trials. The overall results found that spinal manipulation reduced migraine days and decreased pain and intensity.
Chiropractic treatments are generally safe if performed by a legit licensed chiropractor. But there are still some potential risks.
Increased risk of stroke
You may want to avoid chiropractic care if you have an increased risk of stroke. The high velocity thrust technique used in cervical manipulation can put strain on carotid and vertebral vessels.
Osteoporosis can make your bones more brittle and increases the risk of fractures. Ask your primary care physician or orthopedist before seeing a chiropractor. Even if they say it’s OK, you should still let your chiropractor know. They can modify their treatment and use a gentler approach.
Other bone conditions
Consult your doc before going to a chiropractor if you have a condition that affects your bone health. This includes:
- Paget’s disease
- benign or cancerous bone tumors
- spinal bone infection (aka osteomyelitis)
- multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects your body’s plasma cells
Certain inflammatory diseases
Inflammatory diseases like ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make chiropractic care tricky. The Arthritis Foundation suggests avoiding the chiropractor if you’re in the throes of a flare up.
If chiropractic treatments don’t cut it, you’re still in luck. Here are some other ways to help you manage migraine attacks:
- Medication. Your doc might suggest over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription meds to keep symptoms at bay. Triptans, antiemetics, ergot alkaloids, acetaminophen, combination analgesics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are all popular choices.
- Relax. Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation can reduce stress, a common migraine trigger.
- Work it out. Exercise is a great way to relieve tension. Just keep in mind, you don’t have to run a marathon to see results. A nice nature walk, gentle yoga class, or chill cycle sesh are all great options.
- Keep a headache diary. Record the time and intensity of your migraine episodes. It can help you keep track of potential triggers.
- Drink up. About one-third of folks with migraine issues say dehydration is a trigger, according to the American Migration Foundation. So be sure to keep your water intake on fleek.
Chiropractic care isn’t just good for an out-of-whack back. Some studies suggest chiropractic treatments can help folks with migraine. Consistent treatments may reduce symptoms and give you more pain-free days. Just keep in mind, chiropractic care isn’t a cure-all. You can also try medications and other lifestyle treatments to help you live a life with less migraine episodes.