The evidence on the effectiveness of chiropractic for migraines is limited. However, some studies suggest that it may be as effective as some of the other preventive drugs doctors prescribe for the condition.
According to an older 2011 study, chiropractic treatment for preventing migraines may have some benefits. Chiropractic is an alternative, complementary medicine that treats disorders of the bones, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons.
People can see a chiropractor for migraines as they often have related symptoms such as neck pain and stiffness, which chiropractors often treat. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), treatment may include spine manipulation and soft tissue therapies, along with lifestyle advice on diet, exercise, and posture.
The Migraine Research Foundation states that 39 million people in the United States have migraines. It’s most common in people between the ages of 18 and 44.
Read on to learn more about the use of chiropractic for migraines, how it works, and how safe and effective it is during pregnancy.
There is no cure for migraines, and many of the drugs that doctors prescribe for migraines have significant side effects. Because of this, people often choose alternative or complementary therapies like chiropractic.
While migraine headache symptoms vary, more than 75% of people with the condition experience neck pain. Many of them also report muscle tension, neck stiffness, and problems with jaw function.
Doctors usually prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy to manage these related symptoms. However, these treatments do not fully address the problems underlying the symptoms. A chiropractor’s expertise includes treating these symptoms and often alleviating the underlying problems.
The evidence on the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for migraine headache is limited but encouraging. An older review from 2011 evaluated clinical studies on the effects of chiropractic spinal manipulation, massage therapy, and physical therapy for migraines.
The results suggest that either of the therapies can be as effective as traditional preventive drugs like propranolol (Inderal) and topiramate (Topamax). However, the review revealed shortcomings in the clinical trials, which led the authors to call for further trials according to strict clinical guidelines.
Despite limited research on chiropractic care for migraines, treatment for the condition accounts for a significant percentage of physicians’ case numbers.
A 2017 survey interviewed 1,869 chiropractors to determine the prevalence of migraine treatment and management. The results showed that 53% had a high number of cases in people with migraines.
To treat migraine headaches, chiropractors perform adjustments or manipulations of the spine to reduce stress and improve the function of the spine. Treatment also includes soft tissue therapies, which may include:
- Massage that involves kneading joints and muscles
- Myofascial relaxation massage that targets the membranes that connect and support the muscles
- Trigger point therapies that target tight areas within the muscles
According to the ACA, chiropractic care for migraines also offers lifestyle management suggestions, such as:
- Change of diet and intake of B-complex vitamins
- Avoid heavy exercise and encourage low-impact walking and aerobics
- Advice on posture, such as how to sit properly at work
In addition, chiropractic care may include other lifestyle recommendations that can help prevent migraine headaches. Examples include clenching advice, which can put strain on the temporomandibular joint and trigger headaches, and encouraging people to drink plenty of water each day to prevent dehydration, which is another headache trigger.
The goal of a chiropractor in treating migraines is to relieve pain and maximize neuromusculoskeletal system health. Experts aren’t sure how the treatment will help, but think it likely because it is complex. For example, reducing muscle tension can relieve general musculoskeletal pain.
Some experts have concerns that side effects from preventive drugs can affect the health of a pregnant person and the developing fetus.
Therefore, a pregnant person might consider complementary therapy such as chiropractic.
There is little research on the use of chiropractic care for migraines during pregnancy. However, an older case study from 2009 suggests that it can be safe and effective.
The study included a 24-year-old woman who was pregnant and had had chronic migraine headaches for 12 years. Her previous unsuccessful treatments included massage therapy, physical therapy, and some other type of complementary therapy. She also took non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs containing codeine, but this brought only minor temporary relief.
After treating the spine with chiropractic and adjunct therapies, her symptoms improved and she became medication-free. More research is needed, but the case study suggests that chiropractic care can be safe and effective in treating migraine headaches during pregnancy.
People often consult a chiropractor to manage migraines because they get relief from the condition but don’t have the side effects they can get from medication.
Studies are limited, but previous research suggests that chiropractic care can help manage migraine headaches.
Even fewer studies have explored the use of chiropractic treatment for migraine headaches during pregnancy, but one case study suggests that it is effective and safe.