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Chiropractor for Migraines and Headaches

Migraines are debilitating headaches that can severely impact your quality of life. While many treatments focus on alleviating symptoms, chiropractor for migraines offers a unique approach by addressing potential underlying causes.

In this comprehensive guide, we explore how chiropractors can effectively reduce the frequency and severity of migraines through spinal adjustments and holistic care. Discover the benefits, understand the science, and learn how to find the right chiropractor to help you manage and prevent migraines.

Key Findings

  • Chiropractic care can significantly reduce migraine frequency and severity.

  • Correcting spinal misalignments helps alleviate migraines.

  • Studies and patient testimonials back chiropractic care for migraines.

Understanding Migraines

chiropractor for migraines

Migraines are a type of headache characterised by intense, throbbing pain, typically on one side of the head. They are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last from a few hours to several days and can significantly impact a person's quality of life.

Migraine attacks are generally categorised into four stages: prodrome, aura, headache, and post-drome. The prodrome stage can begin hours or even days before the actual headache, with symptoms like mood changes, food cravings, and fatigue. 

The aura stage, experienced by about one-third of migraine sufferers, involves visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, and other neurological symptoms. The headache phase is the most debilitating, where the severe pain occurs. Finally, the post-drome phase can leave individuals feeling drained and washed out, similar to a hangover.

Migraines are more than just a severe headache; they are a neurological disorder that requires proper diagnosis and treatment. Understanding the full spectrum of symptoms and stages is crucial in managing and treating migraines effectively.

How is a Migraine Different from a Regular Headache?

While migraines and regular headaches both involve pain in the head, they are distinctly different in terms of their causes, symptoms, and impact.

  • Intensity and Duration: Migraine pain is usually more severe and can last from 4 to 72 hours, whereas tension headaches are typically milder and shorter in duration.

  • Location: Migraines often cause pain on one side of the head, while tension headaches usually cause a dull, pressure-like pain around the forehead or the back of the head and neck.

  • Associated Symptoms: Migraines are accompanied by a range of other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Tension headaches rarely include these symptoms.

  • Triggers: Migraines can be triggered by a variety of factors including hormonal changes, certain foods, stress, and sensory stimuli. Tension headaches are often caused by stress, poor posture, or muscle tension.

Understanding these differences is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment. Regular headaches might be manageable with over-the-counter painkillers and rest, but migraines often require more specialised treatments and preventive measures.

Causes of Migraines

What are the Main Causes of Migraines?

The exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to abnormal brain activity that affects nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain.

Genetics also play a significant role, as migraines tend to run in families. If one parent has migraines, there is a 40% chance their child will too; this increases to 75% if both parents are affected.

Common triggers that can precipitate migraines include:

  • Hormonal Changes: Particularly in women, fluctuations in estrogen levels, such as those occurring during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, can trigger migraines.

  • Dietary Factors: Certain foods and drinks, such as aged cheeses, alcohol (especially red wine), and food additives like MSG and aspartame, are known to trigger migraines.

  • Stress and Anxiety: Emotional stress is a well-known trigger. The body's response to stress involves the release of certain chemicals that can provoke migraine symptoms.

  • Environmental Factors: Bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, and changes in weather or barometric pressure can all trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.

  • Sleep Patterns: Both lack of sleep and oversleeping can trigger migraines. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is crucial for migraine prevention.

By identifying and managing these triggers, individuals can reduce the frequency and severity of their migraine attacks. Regular consultation with a healthcare professional can help in devising an effective management plan tailored to individual needs.

Can Being Out of Alignment Cause Migraines?

Yes, being out of alignment, particularly spinal misalignment, can contribute to migraines. The spine and the central nervous system are closely connected, and misalignments can lead to disruptions in nerve function and blood flow, potentially triggering migraine headaches.

When the vertebrae in the neck (cervical spine) are misaligned, it can cause tension and irritation in the muscles and nerves of the neck and head. This condition, known as cervicogenic headache, can mimic or contribute to migraine symptoms. Chiropractic care aims to correct these misalignments through adjustments, which can relieve pressure on the nerves and improve overall spinal health.

Research suggests that chiropractic adjustments can be an effective treatment for reducing the frequency and severity of migraines. By addressing spinal misalignments and improving neuromusculoskeletal health, chiropractors can help manage and prevent migraine attacks. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on individual needs and medical history.

Chiropractic Care for Migraines

How Chiropractic Treatments Work

Chiropractic treatments for migraines focus on the alignment of the spine and the overall health of the nervous system. Chiropractors use a variety of techniques to address spinal misalignments, which can help alleviate migraine symptoms.

The primary method employed is spinal manipulation or adjustment, where the chiropractor uses their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled force to a specific area of the spine. This helps to correct misalignments, improve spinal function, and reduce nerve irritation.

In addition to spinal adjustments, chiropractors may use other techniques such as:

  • Soft Tissue Therapy: This involves manipulating the muscles and soft tissues around the spine to relieve tension and improve blood flow.

  • Therapeutic Exercises: Chiropractors may recommend specific exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, improve posture, and enhance overall spinal health.

  • Lifestyle and Nutritional Advice: Chiropractors often provide guidance on lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise, and ergonomics, to help prevent migraines and improve overall health.

  • Chiropractic care is holistic, aiming to address not just the symptoms but also the underlying causes of migraines. By improving spinal alignment and function, chiropractic treatments can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Migraines

Chiropractic care offers several benefits for individuals suffering from migraines:

  • Pain Relief: Spinal adjustments can reduce the intensity and duration of migraine pain by alleviating pressure on nerves and improving spinal function.

  • Reduction in Migraine Frequency: Regular chiropractic care has been shown to decrease the frequency of migraine attacks. By maintaining proper spinal alignment, the likelihood of migraines can be reduced.

  • Non-Invasive Treatment: Chiropractic care is a drug-free and non-invasive treatment option, making it an attractive alternative for those who prefer to avoid medications and their potential side effects.

  • Improved Quality of Life: By reducing pain and the frequency of migraines, chiropractic care can significantly improve a person’s quality of life. Patients often report better sleep, increased energy levels, and overall improved well-being.

  • Holistic Approach: Chiropractors address the whole body, offering advice on lifestyle changes, nutrition, and exercise, which can contribute to overall health and migraine prevention.

The benefits of chiropractic care for migraines are supported by various studies and patient testimonials, highlighting its effectiveness in managing and preventing migraine symptoms.

Can a Chiropractor Help with Ocular Migraines?

Yes, a chiropractor can help with ocular migraines. Ocular migraines, also known as retinal migraines, involve visual disturbances such as flashing lights, blind spots, or temporary vision loss in one eye, often followed by a headache. These migraines are thought to be caused by changes in blood flow or nerve function in the brain.

Chiropractic care can address the underlying issues that may contribute to ocular migraines. By improving spinal alignment and reducing tension in the neck and upper back, chiropractic treatments can help improve blood flow and nerve function. This can, in turn, reduce the frequency and severity of ocular migraine attacks.

Additionally, chiropractors often provide advice on lifestyle modifications, such as stress management, dietary changes, and exercise, which can help prevent ocular migraines. Regular chiropractic care can be a valuable part of a comprehensive treatment plan for managing ocular migraines, but it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate course of action for your specific condition.

Comparing Treatments: Chiropractor vs. Other Methods

Chiropractor vs. Osteopath for Migraines

When it comes to treating migraines, both chiropractors and osteopaths offer valuable approaches, but they differ in their methods and focus.


Chiropractors primarily focus on the alignment of the spine and the overall health of the nervous system. They use spinal adjustments to correct misalignments and improve nerve function.

Chiropractic treatments include spinal manipulation, soft tissue therapy, therapeutic exercises, and lifestyle advice.

Chiropractic care can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines, alleviate pain, and improve overall spinal health. It is non-invasive and drug-free.


Osteopaths take a holistic approach to health, considering the body as a whole. They focus on the musculoskeletal system, but also consider the impact on other bodily systems.

Osteopathic treatments include osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which involves stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance techniques to improve mobility and function.

Osteopathic care can help reduce migraine symptoms by improving blood flow, reducing muscle tension, and enhancing overall body function. It also emphasizes preventive care through lifestyle and nutritional advice.

Massage Therapist:

Massage therapists focus on relieving muscle tension and improving circulation. They address areas of muscle tightness that can contribute to headaches.

Massage therapy includes techniques such as deep tissue massage, trigger

point therapy, and Swedish massage to relax muscles and reduce tension.

Massage therapy can provide immediate relief from headache pain by relaxing tense muscles and improving blood flow. It is particularly effective for tension headaches and stress-related headaches.

Who comes out on top?

The choice between a chiropractor, osteopath or massage therapist depends on individual preferences and specific health needs. All three approaches have their merits, and some patients may benefit from a combination of all of them. Consulting with healthcare professionals from both fields can help determine the best treatment plan for managing migraines.

For tension headaches and immediate muscle relaxation, massage therapy may be more beneficial. For headaches related to spinal misalignments or chronic issues, chiropractic care or osteopathy may offer more lasting relief.

Frequency of Chiropractic Visits

How Often Should You Go to a Chiropractor for Migraines?

The frequency of chiropractic visits for migraines can vary based on individual needs, the severity of the migraines, and how well you respond to treatment. Generally, here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Initial Phase: During the initial phase of treatment, you might need to visit your chiropractor more frequently, often 2-3 times per week. This period aims to address acute issues and begin correcting spinal misalignments.

  • Adjustment Phase: As your symptoms start to improve, the frequency of visits may decrease to once a week or every other week. This phase focuses on continuing adjustments and monitoring progress.

  • Maintenance Phase: Once your migraines are under better control, you may move to a maintenance phase, which might involve visits once a month or every few months. This phase aims to maintain spinal health and prevent the recurrence of migraines.

Signs You Need a Chiropractor

Recognising the signs that indicate you might benefit from chiropractic care can help you address migraines and other health issues more effectively. Here are some signs that you might need to see a chiropractor:

  • Frequent Migraines or Headaches: If you experience frequent migraines or headaches that disrupt your daily life, chiropractic care might help alleviate the symptoms by addressing underlying spinal issues.

  • Chronic Neck or Back Pain: Persistent pain in the neck or back can indicate spinal misalignments that a chiropractor can treat, potentially reducing related migraine symptoms.

  • Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty moving your neck or back freely can be a sign of spinal misalignment. Chiropractic adjustments can help restore proper movement and function.

  • Poor Posture: If you have poor posture, whether from prolonged sitting, standing, or improper ergonomics, it can lead to spinal issues that contribute to migraines and other problems. A chiropractor can help correct posture and improve spinal health.

  • Muscle Tension and Stress: Chronic muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulders, can lead to headaches and migraines. Chiropractic care can relieve tension through adjustments and soft tissue therapy.

  • Numbness or Tingling: Experiencing numbness or tingling in your extremities can indicate nerve compression or irritation, which chiropractic care can address by relieving pressure on the nerves.

  • Sports or Accident Injuries: Injuries from sports, accidents, or other physical activities can lead to spinal misalignments. Chiropractic treatment can aid in recovery and prevent long-term issues.

  • Recurring Health Issues: If you have recurring health problems such as digestive issues, fatigue, or sleep disturbances, they might be linked to spinal health. A chiropractor can help by ensuring your spine and nervous system are functioning properly.

  • Preventive Care: Even if you don’t have specific symptoms, regular chiropractic check-ups can help maintain overall health, improve your body’s resilience, and prevent future issues.

By paying attention to these signs and seeking chiropractic care when needed, you can manage migraines more effectively and improve your overall well-being. Regular chiropractic visits can play a crucial role in maintaining spinal health and preventing issues that contribute to migraines.


  1. Can going to a chiropractor help with migraines?

Yes, chiropractors can reduce migraine frequency and severity through spinal adjustments and improved nerve function.

  1. Is a massage or chiropractor better for headaches?

Massage provides immediate relief for tension headaches; chiropractic care offers long-term relief for chronic headaches and migraines.

  1. Does acupuncture work for migraines?

Yes, acupuncture can reduce migraine frequency and intensity by improving blood flow and promoting relaxation.

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