The primary objective of chiropractic care is find and reduce the underlying cause of your headache.

If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of 10 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 – one of the primary treatments provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. A 2014 report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) found that interventions commonly used in chiropractic care improved outcomes for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain and increased benefit was shown in several instances where a multimodal approach to neck pain had been used1. Also, a 2011 JMPT study found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, can improve migraine and cervicogenic headaches.2

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. The remaining 95 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. Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than in the past, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture (such as sitting in front of a computer). This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.

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 beyond just treatment for low 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.

What Can You Do?

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) offers the following suggestions to prevent headaches:

  • 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.



1. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, et al. Evidence based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with neck pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2014; 37: 42-63.
2. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, et al. Evidence based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2011; 34: 274-89.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it true that the spine is the primary cause of headaches?

    Not always. Physical injury, stress, and environmental chemicals can also directly cause headaches. However, oftentimes a combination of these factors will contribute to headaches, and an examination at our office can help to determine which are causing your headaches.
  • Why do people get subluxations?

    Subluxations are usually caused by either physical stress, emotional stress like anger or fear, or chemical stress such as alcohol or poor diet.
  • I was told that my headaches were made up. They aren’t. What do I do?

    In no way should a medical professional ever tell you that your pain is made up—if you’re feeling it, it is without a doubt quite real. Undetected subluxations are possibly the cause of your headaches, but the only way to find out is by having a proper chiropractic examination administered by a professional.
  • How many appointments will I need to see results?

    In many cases, recipients of chiropractic treatments will have a reduction in their headaches quite quickly. However, since everyone’s anatomy is unique, it is quite possible that you may require a series of appointments. This is impossible to tell without performing an examination and seeing how you respond to chiropractic treatments.

  • What if chiropractic treatments don’t solve my problem?

    We would be more than happy to refer you to other medical professionals who may be able to help you narrow down the root cause of your headaches. We only wish to serve you at our practice, even if we can’t help you ourselves.

  • Why didn’t my doctor suggest chiropractic intervention?

    While many doctors wouldn’t suggest chiropractic intervention in the past, new research and the dramatic amount of success that chiropractors have experienced in treating patients for headaches may change this.