Chiropractic treatment focuses on the body's alignment, particularly the spine, to alleviate pain, improve the body's mobility and function, and allow the body to naturally heal. Most practitioners engage in moving, stretching and manipulating the spine to make "adjustments."1
Most of the research on chiropractic focuses on spinal manipulation and its benefits for back pain, neck pain, headaches, and joint conditions, although some researchers have studied the use of chiropractic with migraine.
Research on chiropractic management and migraine
There aren’t many high-quality, large studies on the benefit of chiropractic treatment in migraine. One meta-analysis (a study that searches through recently published literature to review several research trials) published in 2011 found three randomized, controlled trials to evaluate. Data from two of the trials suggested that chiropractic manipulation had no effect on the Headache Index or migraine duration and disability compared with drug therapy, spinal manipulation plus drug therapy, or mobilization. The third trial included in the meta-analysis showed significant improvements in migraine frequency, intensity, duration and disability associated with migraine compared to detuned interferential therapy.2
Was chiropractic therapy effective in relieving your migraine symptoms?
Another meta-analysis published in 2011 looked at manual therapies for migraine, including chiropractic, massage therapy, and physiotherapy. Four of the seven studies included in the analysis focused on chiropractic care. However, several of the studies had no control group -- a group that receives no treatment or a placebo treatment, which is standard for high-quality studies to properly evaluate a treatment approach. Without a control group, it is difficult to interpret the data. One of the studies that evaluated chiropractic manipulation compared to a control group did show significant improvement in migraine frequency, intensity and duration.3
Based on the existing evidence, chiropractic care may be helpful for several conditions, including migraine.1
Possible side effects of chiropractic therapy
Side effects from chiropractic manipulation are generally temporary and may include:
- Soreness or discomfort where the chiropractic manipulation took place
There have been some rare reports of serious side effects, including stroke, pinched nerves, and further damage to already herniated disks, but the cause-and-effect has not been proven. These are not all the possible side effects of chiropractic treatment. Patients should talk to their doctor about what to expect with chiropractic treatment.
Things to consider about chiropractic treatment for migraine
Find a chiropractor with proper credentials (licensing and education).
Let your chiropractor know about all medications and supplements you take and all medical conditions you have.
Talk to your doctor about all complementary and alternative approaches you are using, including chiropractic care.
Pregnant women should get their doctor’s permission before receiving chiropractic treatment.
How would you rate the side effects you experienced with chiropractic therapy?
As always, the best source for advice on treating migraine is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your health care provider and should let them know of any other prescriptions, OTCs, and herbals you are taking to ensure there are no interactions.