Understanding the Role of Chiropractic Care in Headache Management

Chiropractic is a treatment that addresses the underlying causes of headaches and migraine. They also provide lifestyle recommendations such as avoiding teeth clenching (which can stress the jaw joints leading to headaches) and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Chiropractors use a holistic form of care and examine all areas your pain affects. This includes the neck and back, where abnormal curvatures can pinch nerves that go to the head.

Spinal Manipulation

Headaches can be extremely painful and often prevent people from working, exercising, or enjoying their lives. Luckily, many forms of chiropractic care can help treat headaches and relieve pain without drugs or chemicals. One such treatment involves spinal manipulation, a technique chiropractors use to realign the neck vertebrae. This can effectively be used for headache management to reduce or even eliminate migraines, tension-type, and cluster headaches.

Evidence suggests that spinal manipulation may be helpful for people with herniated lumbar discs, which can cause pain in the lower back and neck. The mechanical and chemical changes in the intervertebral foramen caused by a herniated disk can affect the dorsal root ganglia (DRG), which signals the brain to perceive pain.

Spinal manipulation has decreased central sensitization, leading to hypersensitivity of nociceptors in the brain and increased responsiveness to non-noxious stimuli. It is thought manipulation reduces central sensitization by removing subthreshold input from nociceptive DRG.

Joint Mobilization

Joints come in various shapes and sizes (like the hinge joint in your elbow or ball and socket joints in your hips). Your joints support a variety of physiological structures like ligaments, tendons, capsules, and muscle fibers. They also rely on stability and mobility to function efficiently.

Joint mobilization is a manual therapy treatment technique for any joint with dysfunction. It uses gentle, controlled oscillations within the available joint play range to increase mobility and decrease pain. It can be combined with other manual therapies, such as massage or trigger point therapy.

The most common types of joint mobilization include rolling, glides, and manipulations. Rolling is a pure rotation, usually around the long axis of the joint; glide is a movement between two bones with one bone “rolling” on another, and it would not happen without some compensatory glide. Manipulations are quick movements outside the range of joint play and break adhesions that inhibit motion. Grade V fast-thrust manipulation is performed by chiropractic and osteopathic physicians, physical therapists (physiotherapists), and occupational therapists.

Deep Tissue Massage

A deep tissue massage is a form of manual manipulation of deeper layers of muscle and fascia. This type of massage can help relieve neck and shoulder tension, which is often a cause of headaches. It has been shown to decrease pain and improve range of motion. It can also break up scar tissue and adhesions associated with chronic pain. It has been found to increase oxygen flow and decrease the build-up of toxins in muscle tissue. Drinking plenty of water after a deep tissue massage session is important to eliminate these toxins from the body.

A massage can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts the body’s stress response and promotes relaxation. This can lead to a reduction in cortisol levels which is associated with stress headaches. In addition, massage can reduce a stiff masseter muscle (muscle connecting the mandible to the cheekbone) that can be caused by bruxism and is a common cause of headaches.

Electrical Stimulation

Studies have shown that chiropractic care can reduce migraine pain and other headaches, including tension-type headaches and cervicogenic (originating in the neck) headaches. Unlike migraines, these headaches do not include sensitivity to light (photophobia) or sound (phonophobia).

Chiropractors use manual techniques like spinal manipulation and joint mobilization to relieve the tension in the vessels and nerves that supply the head. They also treat headaches by identifying and avoiding triggers.

Acupuncture is another form of chiropractic that effectively reduces the severity and frequency of headaches, particularly migraines. Acupuncturists insert tiny needles into points that are believed to help energy flow through the body. These points are found along meridians or pathways that connect specific organs and systems in the body.

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