Chiropractors & Headaches: My Deep, Dark Secret

See end of post for supporting links. Including them in the text makes a mess of the first paragraph.

I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a few weeks. A gazillion people have recommended it over the years — everyone knows someone whose headaches have gone away after chiropractic. But I never intended to go to one. Not only is it potentially dangerous, evidence of its efficacy is mixed. And I’m well aware that many people make spurious conclusions of cause and effect.

You know I’m willing to try all sorts of alternative and complementary treatments. As long as there’s no chance the treatment could harm me. I’m still wary of chiropractic, but I just had my third adjustment of the week.

My neck and lower back have been acting up for the last six months. It seems more likely that a chiropractor can relieve back pain than headaches. What pushed me over the edge is Kelly’s, my friend and yoga teacher, trust in this particular chiropractor.

Out of everyone I know, Kelly is the last person who would endanger her body. Her extensive knowledge of anatomy and movement combined with her insistence on safety gives me confidence.

My back and neck do feel better, but I have to ask if the worsening of my migraines is coincidental or related to the chiropractic. Today started out well and I still feel good. I’ll give it a few more weeks.


9 Responses to “Chiropractors & Headaches: My Deep, Dark Secret”

  1. emily Says:

    my experience w/chiropractic (for back pain only, this was before i had problems w/headaches) was that as long as i kept GOING to the chiropractor, everything was ok. but being a young and fairly healthy teenager i felt like he should be teaching me how to improve my situation – how to move towards fewer and fewer visits. this was never mentioned, and even when i requested it, i was never taught exercises or stretches that actually helped.

    everyone’s experience is different, and i’ve been to several chiropractors. to me, that’s the most important thing, esp. since so little of it is often covered by insurance. i don’t want to be permanently committed to seeing a chiropractor….

    i ended up finding a great deal of relief w/pilates. (in case you wonder how the story ends). 🙂

    Did any of your chiropractors teach you exercises?

    I’m seeing the chiropractor in conjunction with practicing yoga regularly. As far as my back goes, I see the chiropractor as loosening things up while I’m strengthening my core.

    So maybe you and I will have similar outcomes!


  2. Bob Cuddy Says:

    At the risk of sounding like a spammer you may be interested in knowing about a new method of relieving headaches and neck pain. Many headaches are caused by disc problems and trapezius muscle problems. My problem was pain from a herniated neck disk. I ultimately invented and patented the SquidFace and ComfyRest pillows that do relieve my neck pain plus the periodic headaches associated with reoccurrence. Hopefully it may help you. Many of the benefits are on my website.

    Looks interesting. Thanks for telling us about it.


  3. Christina P Says:

    Caveat: This is a theory-in-evolution.

    It has been my observation that many chronic migraine sufferers have chronic neck problems, with muscle pain, spasms, and in some cases, loss of mobility in the upper cervical spine (with prominence of one or more vertebrae.) I have published these findings. These are not individuals with a history of trauma, nor is there disk herniation. In some cases, the neck abnormalities have resolved in as few as three or four months with an appropriate preventative medication regimen.

    It is usually not quite that easy. More often, adjunctive treatment with a physical modality is needed, whether it be physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic treatment. In all cases, it is necessary that the practitioner in question understand headache and the neck, which is not true of everyone who holds the credential in question.

    And yes–a strengthening exercise regimen specific to the cervical spine is essential to maintaining the benefit gained.

    Thanks for the information. My tendency is to be skeptical of every treatment — sometimes to the point of not seeing the other side of the story.

    As you know, it’s tough to find a provider who knows about headache. When I can’t find anyone with more headache education, I’m tempted to fall back on a provider’s personal experience with migraine as enough “expertise” in headache. This is clearly not an adequate substitute. The chiropractor I’m seeing has migraine but she doesn’t seem to know much about them beyond her experience.


  4. ErinM Says:

    I use Chiropractic care to control my migraines. At first, I went once or twice a week to try and “fix” things. She gave me neck stretches to do at least once a day. I did them. At it seemed to help.

    Now, about six months later, I just go in once in a while (maybe once a month?) when I’m feeling tight or am feeling a migraine coming on. I also do extra stretches at home. Often, it doesn’t make the migraine go away… but it usually stops it from getting any worse.

  5. Ted Says:

    I’ve been suffering from CDH for 2.5 years now, and I’ve tried lots of things. I, too, finally tried a chiropractor near me. (He is also an acupuncturist, and my wife had good luck with him doing acupuncture for some shoulder pain.)

    I tried it for 2 months, 2 times a week. Also incorporated acupuncture. I had no lessening in the frequency nor severity of my headaches.

    I am also very skeptical of chiropractic. There appears to be a lot of hand-waving and semi-medical mumbo-jumbo being bandied about.

    Sorry to hear the chiropractic and acupruncture didn’t help. I’m with you on the “semi-medical mumbo-jumbo.” But I do wish I were one of the people who it helped!


  6. Angel Says:

    Ok…at the risk of being the party pooper…there was a Medscape article I got the other day about the risks of chiropractic care when you have headaches/neck pain.

    I just started acupuncture (when I got mono, darnit) and have been doing auricular therapy. No real changes in my headaches, but other things feel better.

    I’ve had alot of people recommend a chiro, but I’ve had 2 bad experiences, and it’s just not for me.

    Thanks for the info.

    I didn’t see that article. Do you remember the title of it?


  7. brightbite Says:

    I have gone to a chiropractor for 16 visits. The pain moved around, but ultimately, I still get migraines to this day. The chiro I went to see used questionable methods. Tips on choosing a chiro can be found on In all honesty, you should not have to keep going to the chiro to experience pain relief. If pain doesn’t improve within a few visits, it is probably beyond the scope of a chiro. I know my migraines aren’t *just* due to neck and back problems.

  8. Matthew Says:

    Besides the chiropractor, make sure that you are avoiding artificial sweeteners like Splenda(sucralose), Apsartame, Saccharin, and Acesulfame Potassium, as they have been shown to have a substantial correlation with migraines.

    Massage therapy and exercises can also be beneficial.

  9. Dr Darin Says:

    As with any profession, one can find mixed results when seeking relief from a chiropractor. As a chiropractor myself, I feel the need to suggest looking for a chiro that SPECIALIZES in headaches. Too many chiro’s don’t specialize in any one or two things.
    And don’t be afraid to try another one if you don’t get the results you hoped for the 1st time. Getting an adjustment for a headaches is statistically 400 times safer than taking an aspirin for that very same headache. Ask any medical malpractice insurance carrier.

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