Chiropractic Therapy

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2024 | Last updated: March 2024

Chiropractic therapy uses precise body movements to reduce pain. The chiropractor uses their hands or small instruments to move your joints in specific ways. They may focus on certain areas depending on your concerns. A chiropractor in the United States must be licensed to practice in a specific state or territory.1,2

During the treatment, the chiropractor might move, stretch, or bend different joints, including the spine. These treatments are also called chiropractic adjustments. The goals are to:1

  • Align or straighten your spine
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase your ability to move (mobility)

Chiropractic adjustments can be beneficial for some people. They can help people who are experiencing different kinds of pain such as neck, back, or other joint pain. Some research suggests that chiropractic treatments may also help reduce migraine attacks in some people.1,3

Research on chiropractic management of migraine

There aren’t many high-quality, large studies on the benefits of chiropractic treatment for migraine. Existing evidence suggests that chiropractic care may reduce how often migraine attacks happen in some people. But there is a lot we do not know.3-6

Most of the research studies have very few participants. This makes it harder to be sure about the effects of the chiropractic treatment versus random changes in people’s condition.3,4

For example, 1 study divided 61 women with episodic migraine into 2 groups. One group received their regular migraine treatment. The other group received their regular migraine treatment plus chiropractic treatment. Members of the group that received chiropractic treatment had fewer days with migraine compared to the other group. However, other studies have not observed this improvement in migraine after chiropractic treatment.3

As more research is done, we will get a better understanding of the possible benefits of chiropractic therapy for people with migraine disease. Many people rely on medicine to deal with migraine. But the overuse of certain medicines can increase how often you get migraine attacks. Chiropractic therapy may help you avoid overusing medicines.5,6

What are the possible side effects?

Side effects can vary depending on the specific treatment you are getting. Side effects from chiropractic therapy are generally temporary and may include:1

  • Mild headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Soreness or discomfort in the area of your body that was adjusted

There have been some cases of serious side effects, including:1

  • Stroke
  • Pinched nerves
  • Further damage to already herniated disks
  • Tearing of blood vessels

These serious side effects are very rare, and we do not always know if they were caused by the chiropractic treatment. Be sure to go to a licensed chiropractor to get the best care.1,3

These are not all the possible side effects of chiropractic treatment. Talk to the chiropractor about what to expect when getting treatment. You also should call the chiropractor if you have any changes that concern you during your course of treatment.

Other things to know

Keep the following tips in mind when pursuing chiropractic treatment:1

  • Find a chiropractor with proper credentials (licensing and education).
  • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before starting chiropractic treatment to make sure it is safe for you.
  • Know the possible side effects of chiropractic treatments. If you experience numbness or pain that does not get better with time, talk to your primary care doctor as soon as possible.

Talk to your doctor before you begin any new treatment, including chiropractic care. Tell both your doctor and your chiropractor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

The best source for advice on treating migraine attacks is your own migraine doctor.

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