As anyone who suffers from migraines already knows, they’re not just headaches. Migraines are considered a chronic neurological disorder that is characterized by recurring moderate-to-severe headaches – usually on one side of the head – and other autonomic nervous system symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and vomiting. These symptoms can last up to 72 hours. About a third of people who suffer from migraines also perceive an aura, in the form of transient visual and sensory disturbances that indicate to them that the headache will soon occur.
Preventive strategies typically involve avoidance of behaviors or sensory inputs that can trigger the headaches. Most medical treatment of migraines tends to focus solely on pain management and relies primarily on pharmaceuticals, including NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen) or combinations of analgesic drugs with caffeine. Unfortunately, these drugs work only for about half of migraine sufferers, so stronger drugs from the triptan and ergotamine families are sometimes used.
Thus, it is interesting that a recent study published in the February issue of Headache indicates that, among 225 sufferers of severe migraine headaches, nearly the same percentage had sought treatment from a chiropractor as had sought pharmacological treatment from a medical doctor. This finding isn’t a surprise to chiropractors, who have been successfully using spinal manipulation, massage, and adjustment of the body’s soft tissues and joints to treat migraines for years. Many of their patients prefer the chiropractic approach because it is more natural, and because it avoids dependence on strong drugs that often don’t work, or that can create undesirable side effects.
Chiropractic care provides a holistic approach to pain relief, one that does not rely on drugs. Its efficacy in the treatment of migraine has been established in numerous studies, including a 2000 study that investigated 127 migraine patients who suffered from at least one migraine headache a month. The patients were divided into two groups, one of which received inactive treatment, with the other receiving chiropractic treatment that focused on realigning specific areas of swelling and misalignment. The chiropractic group showed a significant reduction in headache frequency and intensity during the study—a reduction that persisted after the experiment was over. They also reported a reduction in their need for migraine medications. One in five of the subjects in the chiropractic group had a 90% reduction in the frequency of their migraines.
Similar research in over 22 studies, involving more than 2,600 patients, has found that chiropractic treatment can significantly help patients who suffer from episodic or chronic migraines. In one published case involving a 72-year-old woman with a 60-year history of having migraines at least twice a week, the patient was able to achieve a total remission from her symptoms, which persisted for seven years after the initial treatment without a single headache.
So if you or someone you care about suffers from migraines, consider chiropractic care. It may be the wisest decision you’ve ever made.