Can Chiropractors Help With Migraines?

Can Chiropractors Help With Migraines

Can spinal misalignment cause migraines?

Chiropractic has a long-standing history of being able to help with migraines, but what does the research say? We’re going through a paper today that talks about how upper cervical chiropractic specifically helps with migraine headaches. The research article is appropriately titled “Effects of Atlas Vertebral Realignment in Subjects With Migraine: An Observational Pilot Study.” This was published back in 2015 and it has a lot of great information which we are going to break down for you.

“It has been proposed that a misaligned atlas vertebra creates spinal cord distortion disrupting the neural traffic of brainstem nuclei in the medulla oblongata, encumbering normal physiology.” So what does that mean? Looking at a model of the upper cervical spine, we can see the atlas, C1, at the top with C2 sitting underneath it. The orange bit is the spinal cord. On top of the atlas is the cerebellum which is the bottom part of your brain that’s closest to your skull. What the research paper is saying is that if the atlas is turned and not in its proper position it’s going to create pressure inside the spinal cord. It’s going to prevent your nerves from talking correctly. That’s a pretty big problem because your nerves run your entire body. The research paper is starting out by saying ​if you have a misalignment in the top of your spine that it’s going to affect how your body works because your nerves aren’t going to be able to talk to each other properly.

The paper goes on to say that “realignment aims to re-establish the patient’s normal biomechanical relationship of the upper cervical spine to the vertical axis.” This means that when an upper cervical chiropractor comes and evaluates the spine and finds that the atlas (C1) is causing that neural tension, then they’re going to realign that vertebra back to normal. By doing so, the tension that is created in your delicate nerve tissues is reduced.

The paper continues to say “the correction theoretically removes core distortion created by the atlas misalignment.” This means that we think that what it’s doing is taking the tension off the spinal cord. This is a constant research topic and something that chiropractors continue to look at because we’re working with live people. So when we make a change, we can see that the patient responds and clinically gets better.

Exactly what is happening underneath the surface is ongoing research. The paper goes on to talk about how realigning the atlas actually helps keep cerebral spinal fluid flowing. Cerebral spinal fluid brings nutrients to your brain, it has some cooling powers and takes waste products away. When the atlas is misaligned those become stagnant and don’t do the job they’re ​supposed to. With atlas ​realignment, the nerves work better and the cerebral spinal fluid flows better so that your brain is getting the nutrients it needs, the waste products go away and the brain is cooled.

Are chiropractors good for migraines?

In this study, volunteers were between ages 21 and 65. The chiropractor that did this study had a neurologist with several decades of migraine experience screen applicants using screening tools that neurologists use to diagnose migraines. “Potential subjects naive to upper cervical care must have demonstrated that they have between 10 and 26 headaches per month for the previous four months with no significant head or neck trauma in the past year.” These people had never been to an upper cervical chiropractor before and they were having between 10 and 26 migraines per month.

These people were then put through the upper cervical process where they came in, got evaluated, the chiropractor went over the evaluation, did an initial assessment, looked at post films, and made sure that the upper cervical spine corrected the way the chiropractor thought it would. They continued care for eight weeks. At the eight-week point, some participants were offered a longer study of 24 weeks. The reason for this is because while a single upper cervical adjustment will align the spine and create benefits for the patients, we see the most benefit, as practitioners, ​when patients continue with care long-term. It stabilizes the area for a long period of time so that the body can completely heal.

“study results suggest the atlas realignment intervention may be associated with a reduction in migraine frequency and marked improvement in quality of life, yielding significant reduction in headache-related disability as observed in this cohort.” This means research supports that upper cervical chiropractic can help with migraines. This is fantastic news for migraine sufferers.  To watch the full video, click here.