If you’re suffering from migraines, you may be wondering what’s better for migraine treatment — medications or chiropractic adjustments? If so, you’re ahead of many people who may never even consider the question.
Like many migraine sufferers, Aaron*, a contractor, had tried several treatments, including taking a variety of medications. He was unaware of the benefits of chiropractic care and might never have tried it had he not stumbled across it.
He was doing some rehab work in a chiropractor’s office. At the end of the job, the doctor asked Aaron about his health. “I’m having a hard time remembering the last time I felt good,” Aaron said. Unfortunately, Aaron had been experiencing chronic migraines on a daily basis for many months. Typically, nausea, throbbing pain, and sensitivity to light and sound accompanied his severe headaches. The conversation led to Aaron undergoing a series of chiropractic treatments.
With just one month of chiropractic care, his migraines stopped completely. It’s been almost a year now, and he hasn’t had a migraine since.
What Causes Migraines?
To understand Aaron’s positive results, you have to look at the root causes of migraines.
Migraines have many triggers including stress, hormonal changes, alcohol, the weather, certain types of foods, and even exercise. While these factors may lead to the onset of a migraine and people often see them as the culprits, the underlying cause is usually nerve, muscle, or vascular problems.
By using a variety of techniques to treat these problems, a chiropractor can alleviate migraine pain or prevent migraines altogether.
How Does a Chiropractor Treat Migraines?
After obtaining a comprehensive history, a chiropractor will perform a physical exam. This examination includes orthopedic and neurological testing to identify disc herniation, spine misalignment, skin sensitivity and other areas of concern. Based on the findings, a chiropractor determines the cause of the migraines and whether chiropractic care can help. In most cases, it can.
Patients typically receive one of the following treatments:
Trigger points are areas of the body where the muscles are tight. They cause referred pain, meaning a trigger point in a muscle can cause pain somewhere else in the body. For instance, a tight muscle in your neck can result in pain around your ear. Because trigger points often cause migraines, chiropractors use myofascial techniques to reduce the severity of muscle spasms and eventually eliminate them.
With myofascial treatment, a chiropractor applies direct pressure manually to trigger points. In some cases, he may use the Graston Technique (GT) to eliminate muscle tightness. During a GT treatment, he’ll apply stainless steel tools to your skin’s surface to break up the muscular tension.
Chiropractors use muscle stimulation to calm muscle spasms and prevent pain. With this treatment, electrodes are placed on the patient’s skin, sending light electrical pulses to the muscles and reducing muscle spasms. Most patients enjoy the experience and liken it to a massage.
Inflammation at the base of the head and in the occipital region, the rear portion of the skull, often goes hand in hand with migraines. To reduce it and minimize the pain, your chiropractor will apply ice directly to the inflamed areas at 10-minute intervals. Since this procedure can offer patients a lot of relief, your doctor may recommend continuing the ice treatments at home.
Because most patients experience positive results from it, spinal manipulation is one of the primary methods chiropractors use to treat migraines.
During a spinal manipulation, a chiropractor uses his hands to apply pressure to specific joints as necessary to make adjustments. These are precise, small movements, which improve spinal function and alleviate stress on the body, often providing immediate relief from pain.
Your chiropractor will also evaluate your posture to determine whether it’s contributing to your health problems. If it is, he’ll recommend exercises you can do at home to strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture.
Many patients are surprised to learn the role hydration plays in preventing migraines. However, fluctuations in water intake affect blood pressure and viscosity, the consistency of the blood, which can trigger headaches. So a chiropractor will discuss the quantity of water you should be drinking to achieve the best possible health outcomes.
Although individuals react differently to it, caffeine can also play a role in migraine headaches. While caffeine helps some patients, it can exacerbate symptoms in others.
Your chiropractor will evaluate your caffeine intake and other aspects of your diet. Based on your input, he will discuss changes you can make to reduce the frequency and intensity of your migraines.
The Bottom Line: What’s Better for Migraines?
In the majority of cases, migraine sufferers have a mechanical problem in the head or neck area. Chiropractic care addresses these areas, tackling the cause of migraines. For this reason, studies have shown that chiropractic care can alleviate the intensity of migraines or prevent them entirely. On the other hand, while medications may mask migraine symptoms, they do not address the cause.
That’s all well and good, but how about safety? Experts say that if you live more than a mile away from your chiropractor, you’re more likely to be injured in a car accident on the way there than you are to experience negative effects from your treatment.
Over-the-counter and prescription drugs, however, are not so innocent. They can usher in unwelcome side effects which commonly include fatigue, fast heart rate, nausea and trouble thinking clearly. Given the scary and uncomfortable symptoms brought on by over-the-counter and prescription drugs, it’s hard to imagine why migraine sufferers would not want to see for themselves what chiropractic care can do for them. After all, the risks are almost non-existent, the rewards are potentially life-changing, and treatment is often covered by insurance. If you want a long-term, safe remedy that empowers your body to heal itself, it’s certainly worth a try.
To find out if chiropractic care can prevent or alleviate your migraine pain, call (610) 853 9000 or contact our Havertown office using our online form to schedule a free consultation now.
*Not the patient’s actual name