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Headaches & Chiropractic Healthcare

If you have a headache, you are not alone. Most Australians will suffer from headaches with some being intermittent, some constant, some that are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.

What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.

Research shows the primary form of care provided by chiropractors may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. More recently, research by Tuchin et al from Macquarie University found that chiropractic care helps migraine sufferers. 

A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, found that a Chiropractors treatment resulted in fast improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects along with longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication. Furthermore, a 1995 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that spinal manipulative therapy (one of the many techniques used by chiropractors) is an effective treatment for tension headaches and that those who ceased chiropractic treatment after four weeks experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in contrast with those patients who received a commonly prescribed medication.

Headache triggers

Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). 

Most headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern. Only a small minority of headaches are warning signs caused by physical problems such as a tumor or intracranial mass. Your chiropractor will take a thorough history and examination to ensure that if you are within their scope of practice and will refer you if necessary to the appropriate professional. 

 What can you do?

 Hands On Superhealth suggests the following:

  • Take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour if you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, typing or reading. Stretches should be done in a comfortable range of motion.
  • Gentle exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. Avoid high impact exercise if you are prone to dull throbbing headaches.
  • Avoid teeth clenching or grinding. The upper teeth should never touch the lower teeth, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches. If your unconsciously clench, it may be a sign of cranial imbalance. Have your chiropractor check it out.
  • Drink at least six glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.

What can a Chiropractor do?

After a thorough history and examination process, the Chiropractor will determine what your headache triggers are. They will then utilise some of the follow; each case is individual but this is a rough guide.

  • Perform chiropractic adjustments (there are many different types; your Chiropractor will tailor a specific type for you) to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system (Hands On Chiropractors do not “twist and crack” the neck)
  • Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet and perhaps the addition of specific supplements. 
  • Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques. 

Chiropractors undergo extensive education and training through Australia’s Universities to help their patients in many ways – not just headaches or back pain. They know how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, and they can take steps to relieve those problems. A healthy spine leads to a healthier life. 


Written by Dr Ryan Hislop, Chiropractor,  Hands On  Superhealth, July 2012

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