Effects of Chiropractic Manipulation on Headaches & Migraines

Effects of Chiropractic Manipulation on Headaches & Migraines
By Dr. Scott Nicol

QubeCore Sports & Rehab Chiropractor

Being able to think clearly and calmly allows us to make decisions, process emotions, and carry on with our day-to-day lives. That clarity can be easily hindered with a strong headache. Frequent headaches that affect your ability to sleep or get on with your day can be disabling. Unfortunately, these headaches are more common than you would expect. In fact, studies have shown that 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men experience them regularly.[1]

There are many types of headaches including tension-type, cervicogenic, migraines, and cluster headaches. Most believe that headaches will simply resolve on their own. The good news is there are ways to both prevent and treat frequent headaches.

What is the difference between tension-type headaches, cervicogenic headaches and migraines?

Tension-type headaches commonly present as band-like tension around the head, whereas migraine headaches usually result in pain on one side of the head and are commonly accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.

With cervicogenic headaches, the neck is the source of the problem but the pain is perceived in one or more areas of the head and/or face.

A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by an aura, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities.

What causes headaches?

The causes of headaches are not always well understood but a family history of headaches, neck stiffness, and stress are common factors. Certain exercises, diet and alcohol consumption can also cause headaches.

How can a chiropractor help with headaches?

A chiropractor will first assess and diagnose the headache to determine the best management plan. Tension-type headaches, cervicogenic headaches and migraines can all be treated and managed with various techniques. Evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including manual therapy, can be effective in treating cervicogenic and tension headaches.[2]  Studies have also shown that chiropractic care can help decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines.[2]

What specific techniques can chiropractors use to help treat headaches?

  • Manual therapy. This targets the joints to restore mobility and correct any misalignments in the spine that can be causing and/or contributing to the headache.
  • Soft tissue therapy. Tightness within the musculature and other soft tissues can put uneven stress on the neck and the base of the skull which can contribute to headaches.
  • Often, headaches can occur from structures being too strong or too weak. Isolating these areas and providing specific exercises to improve these dysfunctions can greatly improve the outcome of headaches.
  • Lifestyle changes and education. During a thorough assessment of your overall health, there are often habits or activities that can put undue stress on certain structures which can predispose you to a headache. By identifying root causes and providing input on how to modify the habit or activity can help prevent further flare ups down the road.

It’s important to take headaches seriously. If you experience frequent headaches, if you resort to taking pain relievers for your headaches, if your headache patterns change, or if your headaches are getting progressively worse – there is likely something that chiropractic care can help with! Seek prompt attention if your headache is sudden and severe, follows a head injury, or is accompanied by fever, stiff neck, weakness, numbness, or difficulty speaking.

QubeCore Sports & Rehab offers Chiropractic services in North Vancouver for a wide range of conditions. To book your appointment with Dr. Scott Nicol, call 604.210.2274 or simply book online by clicking HERE.



  1. News Medical Life Sciences. Proof that chiropractic treatment helps migraine sufferers. May 22, 2005. https://www.news-medical.net/news/2005/05/22/10268.aspx
  2. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, Marcoux H, Potter B, Ruegg R, Shaw L, Watkin R, White E. Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2011;34(5):274-89.