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Alison Beaver

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Chiropractic treatment is a viable alternative to pharmacological treatment for migraine and intractable headaches, and could be considered if:

• The patient's use of migraine medications is contraindicated.
• The patient has found the medications ineffective.
• The patient would prefer not to use medications.
• The patient is pregnant or breast feeding.

What is Chiropractic Care?

Chiropractic care is a method of adjusting the bones in your body to improve your nervous system function and allow healing from various ill health problems. Joints can be realigned to relieve pain such as backache, sports injuries and migraine.

Does it Work?

A recent review in the Journal of Headache Pain showed that female migraine sufferers who had been diagnosed by a neurologist had a 50 percent improvement in the severity of their migraines, compared to only a 13 percent improvement for women undergoing physical therapy.

In another study carried out in Australia, the patients were divided into three groups, one group had cervical manipulation done by a chiropractor, the second group had it done by a physical therapist or doctor and the third group had cervical mobilization done by a physical therapist or doctor.

They found that all three groups benefitted from the treatment. Chiropractic adjustment was found to be as effective as physical therapy and treatment by a doctor, despite doctors being doubtful of its use before the trial. Twenty months later, all the patients were followed up and they all showed further improvement.

The review also looked at other forms of alternative therapy such as massage therapy. They concluded that chiropractic treatment, relaxation, massage therapy and physical therapy may be equally as effective as drug treatments for migraine. (1)

Help for Pregnant Migraineurs

Women who suffer chronic migraines may find they go into remission when they get pregnant, or that the migraines ease. This is because pregnancy produces more endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller.

Hormones are also more stable during pregnancy. Women cannot get menstrual related migraines when pregnant.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Add a Comment19 Comments

Alina Nancy

Chiropractic care can also benefit migraines because it emphasizes healthy eating and sleep in addition to just pills.
Chriopractic care opens the pathway for the body to heal itself ,the most common side effect of chiropractic is relief of symptoms.Headaches are not normal period , be wise not to ignore them , chiropractic may be a solution for you.
home chiropractic

May 2, 2013 - 8:15am
EmpowHER Guest

Good that you are feeling better.

However, two alternative explanations are: i) simple placebo effect, and ii) the natural history of the disorder.

Hopefully point ii) will see your neckache go away in due course.

December 12, 2011 - 10:47am
Joanna Karpasea-Jones

Actually, it's 4 weeks without one now I think about it :)

December 12, 2011 - 8:40am
Joanna Karpasea-Jones

Just want to announce that I did manage to recover from neuralgia with chiropractic care.  I haven't had a neuralgia attack for about 3 weeks (before that it was constant and had lasted over 17 months), my headache is gone.  I have neck ache that he said is muscular and advised me to put a hot compress on it, but I have no daily headache and feel tons better than before.

If it comes back in the future I can go back to him, but I've signed off for now and feel happy that I can have Christmas without headache, unlike last year.

December 12, 2011 - 8:39am
EmpowHER Guest

Poor little "anonymous"...the earth is still flat and the blood flows through the body by the force of the moon...good luck with that!
Michael T Breneman DC

November 16, 2011 - 11:21am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Crikey - I didn't realise they still teach that stuff at Life?

November 16, 2011 - 8:12pm
EmpowHER Guest

I think that there is a lack of good quality evidence for chiropractic for any condition. Remember it was invented by a greengrocer. That's greengrocer, folks - not scientist.

November 14, 2011 - 11:07am
Joanna Karpasea-Jones (reply to Anonymous)

Well, vaccines were invented by a vicar and you believe in those, right?  I'm having chiropractic treatment for neuralgia now and I don't have a headache today (I have had one for 17 months) so I think it is working.  I can also move my head more easily and I'm stronger because I can push the chiropractor away from me and I wasn't able to on the first consultation.  I feel so much better and that's only after two sessions.  The doctors wanted to give me anti-seizure drugs for it which make one in 500 people suicidal, as I have a history of depression I said no.  All their options are drug options and as I already take medication for osteoarthritis I didn't want to take anymore medication.  The doctor didn't want to do surgery on me, he said it was too risky, so after 17 months of pain almost every day, I decided to try and chiropractor and so far I am improving and am really pleased with my care and the amount of time the chiropractor devotes to my care.  That's why I wanted to write this so that others in similar situations might also benefit like I have.

November 14, 2011 - 12:40pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Joanna Karpasea-Jones)


I appreciate what you say and I guess you write in good faith. (That is, your partner isn’t a struggling chiropractor on the back streets of Iowa.) Anyway, have you considered that your improvements and the visit to the chiropractor may not be causally linked? It’s common for people to attribute causation to things that co-occur, but that doesn’t mean chiropractic actually has provided a cure. It may simply be that you are getting better all by yourself.

The best way to test the effectiveness of chiropractic is by RCT. Those, unfortunately for chiropracty, tend to show chiropractic works around the level of placebo. There is research that purports to show chiropractic works above and beyond placebo, but it is generally of the lowest level, such as case studies by chiropractors published in the ‘journal’ JSVR. Most scientists consider the basic principles of chiropracty to be biologically implausible.

A further question for you: does your chiropractor crack your neck? (They’ll call it upper cervical manipulation.) If they do, you might want to look up ‘risks of chiropractic’ in Dr google. It may shock you.

Regarding the vicar: Did she/he then go off making vaccines in their garden shed and hawking them around neighbourhoods whilst proclaiming they were a figure like Jesus Christ? I doubt it. But that’s roughly what D Palmer did. Until his son BJ ran him over and took over the family business. (Yes, that’s business!)

November 16, 2011 - 8:11pm
Joanna Karpasea-Jones (reply to Anonymous)

No, he's not a chiropractor, he's a photographer, he does weddings etc.  Before that he used to fix computers, none of us are alternative therapists. 

My chiropractor didn't 'crack' anything, nothing went crack.  It was quite gentle.  He gently moved C2/3 (they are fused) back into the correct position and the headache went immediately for a few hours.  I had felt twisted up for months and could barely turn my head and could not 'un-twist' myself, couldn't sleep etc.  Well, the twisted feeling went straight away.  I wish my doctors had checked my neck instead of just giving migraine drugs because they would have seen this too.

On the second adjustment he adjusted a few neck muscles and spent half the time doing this massage which was the most pain relieving thing I have had in years.  I had no pain that day, the next day I got a fever and was completely wiped out which I took as a positive sign that the immune system was finally trying to kick this problem.  I have not had any headache since (I know it's only been a few days but that's amazing considering I've had this intractable headache for 17 months).  All I have now is a bit of nerve pain in the shoulder (that started before the chiropractor).  I have two more sessions and hope that it will all be sorted by then. 

There were plenty of side-effects to the medications I was taking, and to the hip injection I had for osteoarthritis but I still had them because I was in too much pain to function.  That's how I feel about chiropractic adjustments, whose side-effects are probably much less than the treatments I had already had.

Believe me, I was in SO much pain I was bed ridden many days, dosed up on very high level codeine and muscle relaxants just to go out of the house for a little bit.  It didn't even respond to steroids or anasethetic.  I was so desperate I asked the doctor to open my head and remove the nerve, and I am not the type of person that likes invasive actions but I was losing all quality of life, so I know there is no way that my adjustments were placebo effect, I was too ill for that.  I fully expected the anasethetic blocks to work so technically should have had a placebo effect with that, yet it didn't work.  

I didn't actually think the chiropractor would help because I figured if this headache is so stubborn it sticks around for 17 months then nothing is going to shift it.  I think it's perfectly biologically plausable, if the spine is twisted that puts pressure on all the muscles and nerves and could result in a neuralgia.  If then you put the cervical spine into the correct position and massage the muscles to relieve the strain put on them, you are taking the pressure off the nerve. 

Well, the inventor of vaccines burnt women at the stake for being 'witches' and practicing 'black magic' and he even wrote a book about witch killings.  I personally think that is crazier :)


November 17, 2011 - 2:39pm
drtchiro (reply to Anonymous)

Wow Anonymous, I am a scientist with a degree in Biochemistry, and a Chiropractor. An uninformed remark at best. The inventor, D.D. Palmer was not a green grocer, and most modern chiropractors do not ascribe to traditional chiropractic theory, anyway (like the inventor, it was a theory). I became a chiropractor because of my personal experience with chiropractic which was profoundly helpful (enough to make me go into the field). If you understand what chiropractic does, not any new age explanation about nerve flow or nervous system irritation, but from a functional, neurological, physiological and structural point of view, in short, takes off the over all stress of specific areas of the body allowing it to function more closely to it's design. If you have never been adjusted, you wouldn't know, but anyone who has, and has had headaches and experienced immediate and/or sometimes permanent relief from headaches due to chiropractic care wouldn't care about it's history (which admittedly is a little sordid). Attacking its creator, is a strawman argument, the question is, "is it effective?" My patients don't care who invented it or what he was (even though you are incorrect about him). Remember MD's (which I respect and also refer to when applicable) also used to utilize bloodletting and leeches among other things that we no longer believe to be effective, for example). I, as a chiropractor do not believe in traditional subluxation theory, but have a more modern definition that is both scientific and based on evidence, which obviously the writer of the original article found some, and personal experience. By the way, have you read her article, she sites sources that are not affiliated with chiropractic? I should preface that all chiropractors are NOT THE SAME, and I cannot stress that highly enough. I have more information about this on my website, http://www.drtchiro.com, which I hope you would actually take the time to read and realize that chiropractic care has come a very long way. I'd be happy to answer questions from people who really want to know, rather than just attack something that they don't understand, don't know about, or haven't had any experience with themselves.

November 14, 2011 - 12:13pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to drtchiro)

"In 1895 the founder of chiropractic, DD Palmer (1845-1913), a grocery store owner in the US Midwest..." that's a qoute from Ernst and Pittler's, Desktop guide to complementaty and alternatve therapies. He was also a magnetic healer, which rather adds to his credibilty, don; tyou think. (Not.) A large percentage of chiropractors actually are straights; that is, they are vitalistic and believe in subluxations as the root cause of human disease. A good many also shun vaccinations.

I'd actually suggest your whole post is a strawman argument. Chiropractic is not effective for any condition. You need to check some proper research, not just that in the journal of very silly research. For example, I suggest you go check what the Cochrane collaboration have to say about chiropractic. You might also go check www.forbes.com/sites/.../2011/11/.../chiropractic-cures-for-your-dna/

Then ask yourself this: Why would cracking someone's back do anything except make a sort of popping sound?

The bottom line is this: If you think you are ill, then go to see an MD. You owe it to yourself, your children, your family and, most of all, yourself.

November 14, 2011 - 12:50pm
drtchiro (reply to Anonymous)

Anonymous, wikipedia says that Palmer was a beekeeper, school teacher, and grocery store owner, as well as other things which I find irrelevant (and I didn't know that, but the many jobs one has had in one's life again is irrelevant, many MD's probably worked at McDonald's to pay their way through school), and why, in addition, your post is an Ad Hominem fallacy and incorrect. In addition your argument is a Straw Man Arguement, due to attacking an incorrect "straw man".

I will concede that some chiropractors are weird and practice some forms of "quackery", which why I also prefaced in post with NOT ALL CHIROPRACTORS ARE THE SAME. BTW, your post for Forbes didn't work, but again irrelevant because it doesn't apply (straw man). Admittedly, some of my colleagues get out of school and forsake most of what we learn in chiropractic school and embrace some form of pseudo-scientific paradigm (I don't understand why), but not mainstream chiropractors.

I question your statement that most chiropractors are "straight" (I would question the semantic use of the word), but you stated that a large percentage "believe in subulxations as the root cause of human disease." I would disagree with that thought, and I believe more chiropractors would agree that it may contribute to disease, but not ultimate root cause.

The founder D D Palmer, theorized this, (but then was modified and marketed by his son B J Palmer, who to most chiropractors would agree popularized chiropractic) but most mainstream/modern chiropractors do not ascribe to it, hence the straw man, again. At least can we agree, that it's not all chiropractors, and definitely I would exclude myself from that claim.

You ask, "Why would cracking someone's back do anything else except make a sort of popping noise?" I would refer you to the multitudes of people who get adjusted daily, and again suggest that you have never had a good adjustment. Truthfully, I would be skeptical myself, had I not had a profound experience, and I love skeptics, if you are a skeptic, read this.

I think the best research is simple research as long as the premise is correct, context and consistency of factors, where you have a problem, ask a question, "You saw a chiropractor for it, did it work, yes/no?" like here at cure togther.com. They ranked chiropractic treatment as 11th, and obviously not everyone got chiropractic treatment, and for some it was effective, others not. Had they limited the financial barriers to chiropractic care would that have skewed the results for the positive and moved up the rank? If you get a significant amount of yes's more than no's, that's enough research for some, but not always good enough. Because then you have to ask why "yes", or why "no", investigate further, do another study with better parameters.

Chiropractic won't work for all headaches and maladies of all types. That would be "silly", and some chiropractors do make such claims, which I would not agree with, but to nullify the effectiveness based on your Ad Hominem and Straw Man Arguement would also be "silly".

I'm for intellectual honesty within the chiropractic profession as well, and there are those who make outlandish claims about what we can cure, based on a vitalistic model should be challenged.

Many, if not most, patients who have migraines that I see in my office have likely already seen MD's, neurologists, as well as other specialists and come to me out of desperation. I would agree with you that if you are ill (one would have to define ill), you should likely go to see an MD (I do myself), but for neuromusculoskeletal disorders, headaches included, depending on the cause (which many times has a biomechanical/functional component and can't always be determined without an evaluation), chiropractic is extremely effective. When chiropractic is not effective, I refer back to the MD where they manage it with medication, not cure, though, usually. Sometimes it's both and we co-treat concurrently. I've had a few patients sent by their neurologists because they've read that it may help. Most do get at least some relief, if not complete recovery.

By the way, I'm not opposed to medication, when necessary, but most people, including myself would rather not treat with drugs, unless absolutely necessary. That's what chiropractors are best at.

I would contend that your blanket claim that "Chiropractic is not effective for any condition" is "silly" and the author of the article original article would likely agree with me as well as many others who have had positive experiences with chiropractic care. I would expect that there are also negative experiences, however, overall, I would submit that there are more positive experiences than negative and I think popular opinion as well as research would validate that.

November 14, 2011 - 4:00pm
Joanna Karpasea-Jones (reply to drtchiro)

Absolutely, I had already seen medical professionals extensively for my headaches - the family doctor was the first person I visited.  Unfortunatey they just don't have the answer for me.  He gave me drugs that I was contraindicated to (because I had depression), I can't take any anti-depressants for the headache due to adverse reactions.  I tried occipital nerve blocks, the first one worked for only 5 weeks then wore off (and you have to wait months to see the specialist and have it done in an operating room so after it wore off I was weeks and weeks in pain with no help, taking progressively higher amounts of over the counter meds just to cope), the second block didn't work at all and in fact aggravated by nerves and made the situation worse.  I went into the pharmacy in desperation and asked what they could do for me and he suggested codeine and a muscle relaxant which worked but then the headache came back every time I stopped taking them and I was getting dependent on codeine.  That's not health, it's just covering up the symptoms.  I had already become immune to ibuprofen because I took so much of it, it takes a crazy high dose to have any effect. 

I went back to the doctor and asked what I should do and all he could recommend was migraine drugs.  The headache wasn't migraine and I really didn't want more drugs.  He wouldn't refer me to a neurologist as in his opinion the micro-vascular de-compression surgery was too risky and with patchy results.  I did ask for it, in fact I pressed him over it because I was so desperate.

I came to the chiropractor after 17 months of almost constant, severe headache because I'd exhausted my options with the medical profession.  My first consultation was an hour long and I had the chance to talk (unlike the 10 minutes you get with the doctor) and the treatment stopped my headache for half an hour which was something considering how long I'd had it.  The following day it also disappeared for the day which was such a relief.  On my second treatment, I could turn my head without pain and felt much more free and less arthritic, I also had no headache all day.  Then I got a fever the next day and today I also have no headache so I feel like I am making progress and that is only after two sessions.

November 16, 2011 - 2:16am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Joanna Karpasea-Jones)

JKJ - Just seen you are on the support Dr Andrew Wakefild register. May I point out he's not a doctor, he's a Mr - he was struck off for medical fraud!

November 16, 2011 - 8:17pm
Joanna Karpasea-Jones (reply to Anonymous)

Yes he is a doctor - he is still practicing in America with very good results for children with gastrointestinal issues and autism, he recently was invited by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons to talk to other doctors.  The 'fraud' issue is debatable, it was brought up by a journalist, not a doctor, who has made his career on creating sensational stories about Wakefield.  The BMJ has already admitted being funded by Merck and having conflicts of interest in publishing this kind of stuff about him.  No parent ever complained about him, the complaint was by the journalist.  The GMC never allowed any expert witnesses on Wakefield's side and let's face it, they were always going to reach the conclusion they reached because they needed to protect the vaccine programme.  I think it was more of a PR campaign for the programme rather than anything to do with Wakefield as a doctor.

But vaccines aren't anything to do with the subject of this article - chiropractic care. Can we stick to the subject matter of the article, please.


November 17, 2011 - 1:35am
drtchiro (reply to Joanna Karpasea-Jones)

Thanks for taking a "risk" on chiropractic by writing this article. You may not have realized how controversial it is, because your results were like mine, positive. At the time, I didn't care how it worked, just that it did. For me, my relief was immediate and extremely helpful, although it took some time to stabilize.

I look forward to reading more of your articles.


Dr. T.

November 16, 2011 - 7:42pm
Joanna Karpasea-Jones (reply to drtchiro)

I don't see why it is controversial, I mean, physical therapy is done by the medical profession which is a different type of manual therapy.  In the UK, I got acupuncture on the NHS (recommended by the gynaecologist).  To me, putting needles in people to open up meridian lines is several steps away from chiropractic care in terms of how easy it is to understand and accept.  After being told to get acupuncture by the gynaecologist I went to my GP (family doctor) and she wrote the referral letter to refer me for the acupuncture.  I know, in the UK at least, you can often get NHS referrals for osteopathic treatment, some surgeries even have osteopaths working along side them.  I know my MIL's surgery did that (not mine, unfortunately).

You can also make applications here, to the NHS to get funding for chiropractic care.  They may refuse now, in the current financial climate, but I know they've given funding to other patients to have chiropractic care.  I myself was offered the chance to write an application to the NHS for my chiropractic treatment but I elected to pay privately as I wanted to see someone immediately and not wait for weeks while they consider my application.  In some areas of the country, there are chiropractors who already have contracts with the NHS.  Unfortunately there are none with contracts in my town.

You can also get aromatherapy massage on the NHS.  I had PTSD after some traumatic events several years ago and I was given aromatherapy massage in hospital.  I also went to a self-help group run by the NHS where we were taught meditation and guided visualisation in order to relax.

My friend who is a reflexologist and massage therapist was hired by a local hospital when she lived here to give aromatherapy massage to the doctors and nurses.  Apparently they got stressed working long hours and often pulled muscles lifting patients so she used to have an 'open house' there that they could go to and they'd get aromatherapy massages from her in their break times.

You can also get private medical insurance if you choose and chiropractic care is usually included in the policy.  Unfortunately I didn't take out an insurance before I got neuralgia so that option isn't open to me.  So I don't see how it is that controversial.  If the spine is out of whack then that is obviously going to cause ill health.  My chiropractor found my C2/C3 bones (fused) were too far to the left so he adjusted them.  I've only had two sessions so far and I haven't had any painkillers for two days (that is a real achievement).  I don't have a headache, just some nerve pain in my shoulder which I am confident he will fix by the end session.  Neuralgia headache ruined 17 months of my life, a lot of days I couldn't get out of bed and missed lots of working time and time with my kids.  Now I feel like a new woman.

November 17, 2011 - 2:23am

I'm a chiropractor, and this is an excellent article. Chiropractic care is great for migraines, migraines during pregnancy and many other things associated with pregnancy including low back pain and sciatica due to a woman's changing body. Most chiropractors may agree with your statement about, "What is Chiropractic?", but I am one of many chiropractors who differ the mechanism of how chiropractic works. The article said, "Chiropractic care is a method of adjusting the bones in your body to improve your nervous system function and allow healing from various ill health problems." Most chiropractors would agree with this definition, HOWEVER; I think it's much more than that. Because chiropractors talk about the nervous system function, they lose a lot of people, in fact that's why many MD's think chiropractors are "quacks". The mechanism that chiropractic works is actually based on the removal of the overall physical stress on the structures allowing them to function better, which removes the symptoms. Anyone who has ever had a good adjustment knows what it feels like. I say a good adjustment because treatment by osteopaths, PT's, etc. did not seem to get the same effect as noted in the article. I have more on my website for those who are interested http://www.drtchiro.com. Most chiropractors do not realize that there is alternative view to the mechanism for chiropractic's effectiveness that just makes sense without having to believe in "nervous system function".

November 14, 2011 - 5:33pm
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