Your Headache and Neck Subluxations Might be Connected.

Watch this video

Chiropractic Care Produces Long – Term Results in Patients with Headaches

A report from the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research finds that chiropractic patients have less severe headaches. In addition, they experience headaches less often.

The study collected information from more than 2500 sources. It compared how patients with different types of headache responded to different approaches. These approaches included chiropractic, acupuncture, drug therapy, exercise and relaxation techniques.

According to the report, adjustments “appeared to result in immediate improvement in headache severity”. The report went on to say that when compared with soft-tissue therapies such as massage, chiropractic resulted in “sustained improvement in headache frequency and severity.”

Patients under chiropractic care had about the same immediate effect as patients taking a common headache drug (amitriptyline) . However, patients who took the drug experienced some type of adverse effect 82% of the time. The patients receiving chiropractic care experienced significant improvement in both headache frequency and severity. The patients taking the drug returned to the same frequency and severity they experienced before the study.

What does that mean?

It means that chiropractic care allows the body to function better, which allows true healing to take place. On the other hand, medications tend to simply cover up the problem. Masking symptoms does not mean that true healing is taking place. True healing takes place when the body is restored to its highest level of function.

Why People are Suffering from Headaches . . . and Never Get Results

If you are one of the 80 million Americans needlessly suffering from headaches, don’t feel alone! Headaches are not “just one of those normal things that happens to us.” There is more that can be done than just taking medication.

Fact: Drugs don’t and can’t fix the cause of your headache pain. Drugs block out the symptoms. However, the real problem worsens without you noticing. Think about it, if a house is on fire, do we just shut off the alarm while it burns?

Migraines Respond to Chiropractic Care

Migraine headache patients experienced significant relief under chiropractic care.

Headaches: The Spinal Connection

Chances are you – or somebody you love – battle chronic headaches. The relentless and pounding pain is capable of sidelining work and leisure activities. Fortunately, there’s hope for headache sufferers. Cutting edge research reveals that chiropractic care alleviates most types of head-related pain. This includes tension headache, cervicogenic headache and migraine.

Why is chiropractic such an effective solution to headaches? Because chiropractors go to the source of head pain rather than masking symptoms with medications.

The root of many headache sufferers’ pain lies not in their head but in their neck. Specifically, scientific studies indicate that a common spinal condition, called vertebral subluxation, is often the hidden cause of pain. The good news is that chiropractic care safely and effectively corrects this disorder. In conjunction it relieves the pain associated with it.

What is a vertebral subluxation?

A vertebral subluxation is an area in the spine where movement is restricted or bones (vertebrae) are out of alignment. In patients with headaches, vertebral subluxations are often identified in the spine of the neck (cervical spine). They are frequently associated with a straightening or reversal of the neck’s natural curve (“military neck”).

Vertebral subluxations are triggered by a myriad of elements such as poor posture, inadequate exercise and emotional stress.

How do vertebral subluxations cause headache?

The spinal column consists of a series of bones (vertebrae) stacked one on top of the other. These vertebrae are separated by gel-like intervertebral discs, which absorb shock and provide cushioning. Tendons and muscles connect the vertebrae of the spine with the muscles of the back, neck and head. Through the center of the spinal column runs the spinal cord, a primary component of the central nervous system that joins the brain around nose-level. Nerves extend out from the spinal cord between vertebrae – transmitting information to and from structures throughout the body and the brain.

Scientific research indicates that vertebral subluxations trigger headache. (See reverse side of this handout for a sampling of research linking vertebral subluxations with head pain.) But what accounts for this association? Researchers have uncovered two possible explanations: muscular dysfunction and nerve interference.

Muscular Dysfunction Theory

Studies show that vertebral subluxations alter muscular functioning, in turn spurring muscle tension and pain. Because muscles and tendons connect vertebrae in the neck with the head, it’s easy to visualize how a misaligned vertebrae in the neck or upper back – or a group of misaligned vertebrae – can
set off a chain reaction that disrupts muscular integrity in the head, spawning pain. This connection between the spine and the muscles of the back, head and neck explains why headache pain is often accompanied by muscular soreness in the neck or upper back.

Nerve Interference Theory

Because the spinal cord courses through the spinal column, and the spinal column is comprised of individual vertebrae, researchers theorize that vertebral subluxations may interfere with nerve flow. Specifically, vertebral subluxations may inhibit transmission between the nerves that emerge between’
vertebrae, the spinal cord and the brain. In this way, vertebral subluxations in the upper back or neck may disrupt nerve flow to the brain, a phenomenon seen in some types of headache.

How does chiropractic care eliminate the spinal triggers of headache?

Chiropractic care eliminates the source of head pain by correcting vertebral subluxations. To accomplish this, chiropractors apply a gentle force to the spine called a chiropractic adjustment. These maneuvers effectively restore movement and alignment to the dysfunctional vertebrae.

Headaches & Chiropractic

If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.

What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.

Research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.

Headache Triggers

Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems.

Ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern.

“The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck,” says Dr. George B. McClelland, a doctor of chiropractic from Christiansburg, VA. “Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.”

What Can You Do?

  • The ACA suggests the following:
    If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on a sewing machine, typing or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.
  • Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.
  • Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.
  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

Your doctor of chiropractic may do one or more of the following if you suffer from a primary headache:

  • Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system.
  • Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet and perhaps the addition of B complex vitamins.
  • Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques.  This advice should help to relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.

Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to help their patients in many ways – not just back pain. They know how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, and they can take steps to relieve those problems.

Introduction to Headaches

Headaches are an incredibly common occurrence for the majority of us and according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Ninety Percent of people will experience at least one headache in the next year alone. However, of that percentage, only 1% will be emergency-related. In this article, we’ll discuss the top four headaches. These make up 95% of all headaches. However, there’s an important point we’d like to make: headaches are a signal from our bodies. They communicate vital information.  Take the opportunity to assess why the body is sending this signal. It is an important step in breaking the cycle of treating the symptoms rather than the root cause. Above all, there is no fault in relieving pain by taking medication from time-to-time. However, taking medications regularly for frequent symptoms, is ignoring the vital message sent from our bodies.

Headaches are unique and come in many shapes and sizes. The four most commonly experienced headaches are:

  • Tension Headache
  • Migraine Headache
  • Cluster Headache
  • Sinus Headache

What can Chiropractic do for Headaches?

  • Better alignment of the spine, which translates to better posture, balance, muscle tone, and less pain-helping those with headaches and TMJ, among many other conditions.
  • Decisions surrounding food and nutrition-knowing which foods to take in and which foods contribute to headaches and pain is important in addressing the cause of your headaches.
  • Stretches and exercises to build weaker muscles, improve posture, balance, and muscle tone, and decrease pain-a sedentary lifestyle lacking motion is a primary cause of pain and headaches.
  • A more ideal ergonomic blueprint for your workstation, helping to put you in a position that will help you avoid pain and headaches.
  • Stress management-a factor present to all four of the most common headaches people typically suffer from tension headaches.

Tension Headache Symptoms

Band-like pain that starts at the base of the skull and wraps its way around the head-this headache is related to increased tension in the muscles in the shoulder, neck, and head
The pain is typically worse at the end of the day and can occur daily, as this headache is related to daily stresses which can be inflicted on us with great regularity. Tension Headaches comprise 90% of all headaches


The most common cause of tension headache is stress from lack of movement, keeping yourself in a position of poor posture for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis (e.g. poor office ergonomics). Tension headaches can also be related to a stressful emotional or physical event and to TMJ/TMJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) from gritting your teeth or pressure in the joint from joint misalignment in the temporomandibular joint (jaw)
Medication-Free Therapies

Chiropractic is very effective for patients with Tension Headaches and many other headaches for that matter.  It aids in relieving tension in the neck, shoulders, and head which is often a main contributor to headaches.

Chiropractic is also ideal for treating the effects of TMJ as this is often due to joint misalignment (subluxation) and tight muscles in the jaw region.

  • Better ergonomics and posture is crucial if your work environment is the culprit for your headaches; consider using a palates’ ball at your work station to improve posture and strengthen core muscles.
  • Stretches and exercises for the neck, shoulders, and head can improve posture and decrease pain from tension and other headaches, since prolonged immobility is a big factor in muscle tightness and spasm.
  • Other holistic therapies, such as massage and acupuncture, has been proven effective in relieving tension in the neck and shoulders associated with tension headaches as well
    Migraine Headache


Migraines are typically on one side of the head, but can be on both sides-the pain is pulsating or throbbing in nature and can lead to: nausea and vomiting, a desire to avoid lights or loud sounds, malaise, and visual disturbances. In the majority of cases there is increased muscle tension present in the shoulders, neck, and base of the skull which contribute to the symptoms and manifestation of pain


There is a genetic connection with migraines; however, environmental factors are often the triggers for migraine headaches.
Certain foods may trigger migraines, such as: caffeine, MSG, aspartame, alcohol, processed meats, and many more…
Environmental factors and emotional factors can play a role as well, such as exhaust from cars, smoke, perfumes, and stress or stressful events in our lives
Medication-Free Therapies

Discovering the foods, chemicals, stresses and other factors which trigger migraines is vital; note what you were doing or what environmental factors were at play 24 hours prior to having a migraine
Developing a pattern for when you experience migraines is key to limiting their occurrence
Cayenne pepper has been proven effective in limiting pain associated with migraines because it releases endorphins in the brain, natural pain-killers
Chiropractic care for the release of tight muscles and muscle spasm, as well as putting the vertebra back into position of ideal alignment can have beneficial effects on migraine sufferers
As a side note, it was once believed that migraines were caused by changes to blood flow in the body (vascular changes), but it is now believed that migraines are caused by neurological changes or changes within the brain itself-which is why many medications used to treat migraines for years were, in some cases, actually causing headaches and other symptoms with continued patient use
Cluster Headache


Non-throbbing pain which is located around the eye region, leading to tearing and sinus drainage, and often waking the sufferer at night
These headaches occur several days in a row, lasting for minutes to hours, for up to a few weeks to a few months; then they go away for a period of time only to reemerge at a later date (episodic pain)


Most common causes are alcohol and vasodilating drugs (drugs that cause arteries to expand, like nitroglycerine)
Other causes include: cigarette smoke and nicotine, hydrocarbon exposure (e.g. perfumes, exhaust from cars, etc.), sleep or lack of sleep, dehydration and (of course) stress
Medication-Free Therapies

Avoiding alcohol and certain drugs which may be triggering these headaches; avoidance of environmental triggers (smoke, perfumes, etc.); and stress management
Drinking plenty of water-dehydration can have a significant effect on cluster headaches
Oxygen therapy, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been proven effective for cluster headaches-even aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease duration and intensity of cluster headaches because it increases oxygen saturation in the body
Tension in the neck, shoulders, and head is often present with cluster headaches and chiropractic care can help relieve some of the symptoms associated with cluster headaches
Sinus Headache


Achy or dull pain that is caused by pressure over the sinus regions in the face-often affecting one side worse than the other
There may be accompanying sinus drainage with headache and the possibility of fever if the sinus headache is related to infection


Common causes can be indoor or outdoor inhalants. Outdoor triggers include: pollen, ragweed, and exhaust; indoor factors include: smoke, dust, chemicals, mold, and other contaminants from concentrated air recycled through ventilation systems
Allergens can also expand to foods, leading to sinus headaches and sinusitis-such as dairy products and any refined food (especially refined sugar as it feeds bacteria and fungus and weakens the immune system)
Sinus headaches can also be illness-related, as in the case of sinus infections or sinusitis (from viral, bacterial, or fungal invaders)

Medication-Free Therapies

Increasing water consumption (especially hot water) is an excellent way to get the sinuses clear and mucus flowing out of the sinus region (water has natural expectorant properties)
Also consider using a Neti pot to clear the nasal passages decreasing congestion and the effects of allergens and other nasal irritants

If your headaches are due to indoor irritants, consider opening a window to circulate the air, clean your house or work-station on a regular basis, and/or consider getting a HEPA filter to remove allergens from the air (ionic filters produce ozone as a byproduct and can irritant the lungs, so HEPA is the preferred air purification system). Dust covers for your bedding and air ventilation filters are effective means to improve air quality and limit exposure to many triggers

For outdoor allergens, consider taking a broad-spectrum antioxidant, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding common allergenic foods (dairy, wheat, corn, and soy are among the most common allergenic foods) which may be placing an increased burden on your body’s ability to handle allergy season

Chiropractic care has been proven to be the answer to ending your headaches!

Call today to see if you could benefit from chiropractic care: 978.448.WELL