Chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy are drug-free treatments for headaches
Headaches hurt. A tension headache can feel like a constant ache or pressure at the temples or back of the head and neck. A migraine might throb severely and cause nausea and/or vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound. Any kind of headache can cause debilitating pain—making it difficult to do what you want or need to do. Headaches can become financially costly when they keep you from work and emotionally costly when they separate you from socializing with family and friends.
If you suffer from headaches, you want to find relief. You might reach for a painkiller like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), or even a prescription medication. While painkillers can be a helpful tool, overmedicating headaches can actually cause more headaches. It happens frequently enough that there’s a name for it — Rebound Headaches.
Effective, drug-free headache treatment exists. The doctors at Family Chiropractic successfully help people who suffer from tension headaches, migraines, and many other types of headaches. We practice evidence-based health care, which means we integrate clinical expertise, patient values, and the best research evidence into the decision making process for our patients’ care. The purpose of our blog is to educate you because it’s your health. The more solid, scientific information you have about your choices, the more control you can exercise over your own health and wellness. Honoring your values and your choices is integral to our practice.
A growing number of people are interested in drug-free therapies, so let me explain how chiropractic treatments combined with massage therapy can effectively relieve and manage various types of headaches.
Chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy for tension headaches
Episodic tension headaches are the primary headaches we treat with a combination of chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy. Episodic means they occur on the average of once or twice a month. Tension—specifically muscle contraction in the head and neck—causes tension headaches.
Muscular tension increases strain on joints, and chiropractic adjustments can alleviate this strain. When we’re doing an adjustment, we’re working on the functioning of the joints, which are like hinges, making sure they can move properly. Restriction of movement increases tension.
Massage therapy complements chiropractic adjustments by working on the muscles that move the bones and joints. Massage relaxes the tension within the muscles, which decreases the strain on joints and contributes to ongoing freedom of movement. This reinforces the effect of chiropractic adjustments, and it does all of this without drugs!
A tension headache is the most common type of headache, and also the easiest for us to treat. By combining chiropractic treatment with massage therapy, we address the cause of tension headaches, not just the symptoms. We are also frequently able to help prevent future headaches, but even when we are not able to eliminate headaches, we are able to effectively help our patients manage even difficult, chronic headaches.
Chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy for migraine headaches
Anyone who suffers from migraines knows how difficult it can be to stop the intense, debilitating pain. Other migraine symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, difficulty speaking, numbness or tingling, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are a neurological condition which often runs in families.
Migraines are a chronic condition, which means they can’t be cured. Although this may be difficult to accept, it is a reality that many health conditions cannot be cured, and instead must be managed. Managing migraines and other chronic headaches means we work together with the migraine sufferer to lessen the frequency and severity of occurrences, resulting in a better quality of life.
We don’t claim to treat the underlying neurological causes of migraine — science doesn’t have the answers for that yet — but most headaches are multifactorial, and most headaches are exacerbated or even triggered by tension. That includes migraines.
There are many common triggers to migraines including lack of sleep, caffeine or red wine, hormonal changes, changes in barometric pressure, high humidity, and flashing lights or sirens. Many of these things are beyond the migraine sufferer’s control, but tension and restricted neck joints are controllable and treatable. Treating tension in migraine sufferers can help manage the frequency and severity of migraine occurrences.
Here’s how it works: Think of an audio mixing board with muscular tension being one of the “sound channels.” Almost all of us suffer from muscular tension (which is why massage is good for everyone!), but for a migraine sufferer that tension can easily turn disabling. If the tension is already dialed up to a high degree, it won’t take much of another trigger or factor to escalate it. In other words, all it’s going to take is a little nudge somewhere else in the system to make the volume of the whole system “loud.” We have found that with regular chiropractic and massage treatment aimed at relieving tension, migraine sufferers can more successfully manage their condition.
Chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy for other headaches
We have also helped people who suffer chronic headaches caused by injuries, strokes, and congenital anomalies, and of course a headache treatment that relieves pain without administering medications will eliminate the possibility of rebound headaches caused by medications.
One of my patients has a congenital anomaly, with a brain stem extending down into the neck. This developmental anomaly causes extra pressure, which has triggered lifelong headaches. By working with low force adjustment techniques and acupuncture, we loosen up the muscle tension and improve the movement of her neck joints. This person's headache episodes usually last 4-6 treatments, but then there may be no need for treatment for another 6-9 months. The cause—the congenital anomaly—will always be there. Everyday stressors will inevitably ramp up her tension and trigger future headache episodes, but the good news is that there is comfortable, affordable, effective, drug-free treatment that will quickly return my patient to a happy, functional, headache-free life.
Another one of my patients experiences chronic headaches due to multiple head injuries, strokes, and a lot of difficult health problems. This person reported daily headache pain of 9 on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain imaginable. Talk about agony! With treatments of a 90 minute massage and low force adjustments, the pain became much more manageable, which has greatly increased this patient's quality and enjoyment of life. This person continues to see us every three to six weeks, depending on how under control the headaches are. While we would obviously like to see a complete cure for every person we treat, this patient is enthusiastic about the outcomes and considers this a great success, and so do I. This is an example of a treatment plan that meets the goals of our practice to provide compassionate, affordable, effective chiropractic health care. The combination of chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy have transformed this person’s ability to function by decreasing daily pain levels from an unbearable 9 to an acceptable, bearable 4 or 5.
Rebound headaches are caused by medication overuse. Generally, a person who takes headache medication or pain relievers more than a couple of days a month may be susceptible to experiencing a rebound headache. The prevention for this type of headache is to avoid medication overuse. A treatment plan consisting of chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy will help headache sufferers avoid rebound headaches.
Headaches hurt. We’re here to help relieve your pain. If you or a loved one experiences tension headaches, migraines, other chronic headaches, we can provide compassionate, affordable, effective, and drug-free chiropractic health care and massage therapy to help you feel and function better.