Headaches and Migraines



Headaches are a common reason why people may visit their family doctor. Tension type headaches, migraines or cervicogenic headaches are common types of headaches you may get. Did you know that one of your  headache treatment options is a chiropractor? Chiropractic could help you manage the musculoskeletal causes of your headache and migraine.

Headaches are so common that almost everyone has the odd headache now and again and just takes it for granted, but you may be suffering more than you can cope with. Headaches at least once a week or more are of concern and need to be examined by your local chiropractor or MD.

Tension Headaches

Tension type headaches are one of the most common types of headache. Tension type headaches tend to have a strong connection with emotional and physical stress. People may experience tight, tender muscles or ‘knots’ in their neck, muscle of the jaw joint (due to bruxism or teeth grinding) and feel a vice-like pressure over the side of their heads.

Looking for the source of the type of stress causing tension in your body is important to control and manage tension type headaches.


Migraine is a severe headache, that tends to be on one side of the head and can be accompanied by other symptoms (a.k.a. auras) that may include increased sensitivity to light or sound, nausea or visual disturbances, that can last for hours or even days. If preceded with an aura then the migraine is known as a “classic migraine”, if not then it is usually a “common migraine”.

Even though migraine headache causes are thought to be of a vascular mechanism, mechanical problems affecting the vertebrae (the bones of your spine) in your neck will contribute in causing a headache, and may be a contributory factor in migraines.

Your chiropractor will be able to identify restricted passive or active movement of the vertebrae in your spine. Helping to improve the restricted spinal movement and decrease abnormal muscle tension can help the pain of a migraine. The aim is to reduce physical stress on the muscles and joints which could be over stimulating your nervous system which in turn may be causing the migraine problem.

Cervicogenic Headache

If you have had a neck injury due to a road accident whiplash, sporting accident, or a repetitive strain to your neck through bad posture, these type of events tend to cause a cervicogenic headache. Chiropractic can be effective in the treatment of headaches that are the result of these injuries.

The type of headache and neck pain you are experiencing can be reproduced by palpating (feeling) the spine and neck muscles. Cervicogenic headache symptoms tend to be a dull or aching pain, affecting the base of the skull or one or both sides of your head.

Here is where chiropractic can make a big difference with a chiropractic adjustment which restores normal motion to those restricted spinal joints, which then stimulates your nervous system and can help relax the tight muscles.

Care is given to have the three systems (muscles, joints and nerves) working properly whilst giving you practical advice in reducing tension in your neck, shoulders and jaw.

Chiropractors can be a key component to helping balance the daily physical stresses that are placed on your nerves, muscles and joints. This in turn can help you balance the need for headache pain killer drugs or NSAIDS.

Headache in Children

Recent evidence suggests that it is not just adults that suffer from headaches, children get headaches too. Headaches in children can begin in early childhood. Headache pain may develop from those ‘bumps’ and ‘knocks’ a child goes through when learning to crawl, walk, run etc…

Serious Headache

If you recognize any of the below, these can be early signs of a stroke and emergency medical care will be required.

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  2. Sudden loss of facial expressions
  3. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  4. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  5. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  6. Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

Tips for treating headaches

Here are some common tips to try to resolve a headache:

  • Drink your daily amount of 2 litres of water
  • Avoid glare on the eyes from the sun, television or a computer screen
  • Have your eyes checked by an optometrist or opthalmologist and wear your prescribed eyeglasses/contact lenses if there is a blurring of your vision or difficulty reading,
  • Avoid prolonged periods of poor neck and back slumped posture
  • Avoid excessive stimulants such as coffee and tea (Caffeine)
  • Get enough sleep of 5 – 8 hours per night. Using a good posture-supporting pillow may also help.
  • Watch out for a medication over use headache from regularly taking too many pain killers.

Headache treatment

Headache treatment as done by a chiropractor will always start off with a thorough history and physical examination to determine if you have a tension type headache, cervicogenic headache, migraine or another type of headache.

The aim of Chiropractic care for headaches is to:

  • Give relief of headache pain
  • Help reduce dependency on painkiller medication
  • Reduce the frequency and severity of headaches
  • Include sensible advice on how to cut down the physcial stress in your life
  • Help chiropractic patients manage their chronic headaches.