According to the World Health Organization, headaches are among the most common disorders of the nervous system affecting an estimated 47% of adults during the past year. Headaches place a significant burden on both quality of life (personal, social, and occupational) and financial health. They are usually misdiagnosed by healthcare practitioners, and in general, are underestimated, under-recognized, and under-treated around the world. So, what about chiropractic and headaches… Does it help?
Suffice it to say, there are MANY studies showing chiropractic care helps headache sufferers. For instance, in a review of past research studies using an “evidence-based” approach, chiropractic treatment of adults with different types of headaches revealed very positive findings! Researchers note that chiropractic care helps those with episodic or chronic migraine headaches, cervicogenic headache (that is, headaches caused by neck problems), and tension-type headaches (chronic more than episodic). There appears to be additional benefit when chiropractic adjustments are combined with massage, mobilization, and/or adding certain types of exercises, although this was not consistently studied. In the studies that discussed adverse or negative effects of treatment, the researchers noted no serious adverse effects.
In patients suffering from athletic injuries, particularly post-concussion headache (PC-HA), chiropractic care can play a very important role in the patient’s recovery. With an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related brain injuries occurring each year, approximately 136,000 involve young high school athletes (although some argue this is “grossly underestimated”).
Several published case studies report significant benefits for post-concussion patients after receiving chiropractic care, some of which included PC-HA from motor vehicle collisions, as well as from slips and falls. For example, one described an improvement in symptoms that included deficits in short-term memory as well as attention problems. In this particular study, a six-year-old boy fell from a slide in the playground, and after 18 months of continuous problems, underwent a course of chiropractic care. After just three weeks of care, his spelling test scores improved from 20% to 80% with even more benefits observed by the eighth week of care!
Another case study looked at a 16-year-old male teenager with a five-week-old football injury who had daily headaches and “a sense of fogginess” (concentration difficulties). He reported significant improvement after the second visit, with near-complete symptom resolution after the fifth visit (within two weeks of care). After seven weeks of care, he successfully returned to normal activities, including playing football.
Dizziness and vertigo are also common residuals from concussion and were present in a 30-year-old woman just three days following a motor vehicle accident. She also complained of headache, neck pain, back pain, and numbness in both arms. The case study noted significant improvement after nine visits within an 18-day time frame.