Can Chiropractic Care Help My Headache?

By: Dr. Ivana Monserrate, DC

Do you suffer from headaches? You are not alone. Nine out of ten Americans have suffered from a headache at least once in their lifetime. They can be dull, throbbing, constant and even debilitating. How do you take care of your headaches? Do you try to fight through it? Do you stop to lie down for a few minutes? Or do you take medication and hope for it to go away? It does not always occur to suffering patients to try chiropractic care. Recent studies suggest that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, may lessen symptoms and frequency of headaches.

Majority of the population are confined to a sedentary lifestyle in which they may sustain an improper posture.  This unfavorable positioning can cause joint irritation and muscle straining of the scalp, neck and upper back, leading to a headache. At times, there can be certain triggers that are the culprit. Triggers can include types of food, alcohol, environmental stimuli (noise, light, change of weather, etc.) or everyday behavior (excessive exercise, stress, insomnia, etc). In rare cases, a headache can be the cause of a serious condition such as a brain tumor, hypertension or diabetes. Some patients may experience an aura before or simultaneously with a headache.  Auras can be any type of perceptual disturbance including a strange light, an unpleasant smell, or confusion. There are red flags of headaches that can be emergent. Some examples of red flags include having the worst headache you have ever had, any head trauma, neurological signs or symptoms, cognitive changes (confusion, drowsiness or giddiness), vomiting without nausea, low diastolic blood pressure associated with the headache, and any severe neck rigidity.

Chiropractors are well trained in identifying the source of the headache through history and examination. In the office, chiropractors can perform manual therapy to the surrounding musculature and joints along with spinal manipulation to improve function and alleviate any stresses.  Chiropractors also can offer nutritional advice, recommend supplements and educate patients on correct posture, ergonomics and stretching techniques.

There are different categories of headaches in which each demonstrate unique symptoms.  A migraine type of headache is one-sided, pulsating in nature and may be associated with an aura. Cervicogenic headaches are caused by an abnormality of the structures within the neck.  This type is usually one sided as well and can last from three hours to a week. Pain and tenderness in the neck and head usually coincides with this type. With specific neck movements or maintained neck positions the intensity of cervicogenic headaches may be increased. Cluster headaches are typically severe, occur at night and are most common amongst females. While they are short in duration, they can last for weeks or months at a time. Lastly, tension type headaches are the least severe. Ranging from mild to moderate intensity they can be felt on both sides of the head. With all types of headaches, if very severe, a patient may experience nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to noise and light, nasal congestion, and/or watery eyes.

How can you prevent a headache from occurring?

  1. Take a break and stretch your head by moving through comfortable ranges of motion every 30 minutes to an hour, especially when in a prolonged posture.
  2. Engage in low intensity aerobic exercises, such as walking.
  3. Avoid clenching your teeth to avert from stressing the jaw and the neighboring muscles.
  4. Continuously drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
  5. Manage and modify everyday behaviors (sleep, stress, not skipping meals, etc).
  6. Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Sleep on your side or back with the head supported at level with the spine.

In conclusion, chiropractors undergo extensive training on how to help their patients in more ways than just for low back pain. Chiropractic care does not have the amount of side effects as other non-conservative methods and is a superior alternative when it comes to headaches.


Dr. Ivana Monserrate, DC is a Chiropractor at ProClinix Sports Physical Therapy & Chiropractic in Armonk and Ardsley. 

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