According to the American Migraine Foundation, 12  percent of Americans suffer from migraines. One in four families has an affected  member. Combined medical costs, work time-loss and decreased productivity are  estimated to impact the U.S. economy by more than $20 billion annually. There is  no known cure for migraines. Current treatments aim to reduce the frequency,  intensity and duration of the headaches when they occur. Chiropractic treatment  is one option for migraine sufferers.

Understanding Migraines

The American Migraine Foundation describes migraine as  an inherited neurological disorder characterized by hyper-excitable brain  networks that may become spontaneously activated or may be activated by specific  triggers. Headache pain is the most prominent feature of migraine. This pain is  often severe and can lead to missed work and social withdrawal. In some, the  pain is preceded by warning symptoms such as visual disturbances or sensitivity  to light or noise. The headache may be followed by a period of fatigue, poor  concentration or mood changes. The headache pain typically lasts about 24 hours,  but the entire episode may play out over two to three days.


The Chiropractic Examination

An initial chiropractic evaluation will begin with the  taking of a history. The mode of onset, frequency, quality, location, duration  and severity of the headaches will be discussed, along with associated symptoms  like visual disturbances, nausea, light and sound or odor intolerances. The  family history may be helpful, as well as a review of other health problems,  including current medication use. The chiropractic evaluation will focus  primarily on the musculoskeletal system. Posture and muscular asymmetries may be  contributing factors. Particular attention will be paid to the muscles and  joints of the neck. The neck muscles will be examined for tension or spasm.  Reduced global or segmental motion in the neck, if found, will probably be a  primary focus of the chiropractor’s treatment.

Chiropractic Adjustments

Spinal adjustment, the primary treatment modality of  most chiropractors, has been studied in the context of migraines. A large study  involving 127 participants was reported in the February 2000 issue of the  “Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.” In this study, the  subjects who received two months of chiropractic treatment experienced  significant improvements in migraine frequency, duration, disability and  medication use compared to the control group. Twenty-two percent of the  participants reported more than 90 percent reduction of  migraines.


Certain foods, alcohol, caffeine, fatigue, sleep  changes, eye strain, light conditions, exposure to certain odors or use of  certain medications may individually or collectively act as triggers to a  migraine episode. Working with a chiropractor can help in identifying likely  triggers and developing strategies for their avoidance.


The chiropractor generally takes a holistic approach to  health problems. Lifestyle considerations are a big part of that approach, and  in the case of migraines, lifestyle factors appear to play a prominent role. The  American Headache Society makes specific lifestyle recommendations for those  suffering with migraines. These include getting adequate sleep, eating and  exercising regularly, staying hydrated, limiting consumption of caffeine and  alcohol, and reducing stress. A chiropractor can assist his patients in  implementing these and other helpful strategies.


Article reviewed by Patricia A. Carter Last  updated on: Sep 28, 2010

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