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Health & Wellness

Ways to Manage Headaches with Chiropractic Adjustments

April 16, 2017

Updated on 12.27.23

With over 150 different kinds of headaches known, they have numerous ways to interrupt your day and make it difficult or nearly impossible to concentrate. Headaches can range from being a nuisance to debilitating. Whatever the degree of headache, a slight chiropractic adjustment may fix it.

Where’s Your Pain?

The location of your headache pain gives a better idea of how to treat it.

  • The base of the skull—Cervicogenic headaches feel a lot like tension headaches but are often caused by muscle spasms in the area and can be treated with an adjustment of vertebrae.
  • Side of the head—Often, when pain is localized to the side of the head, a chiropractor will work on jaw muscles, even from inside the mouth.
  • Neck—For headaches caused by stiff muscles in the neck, chiropractors use dry needling to release tension at specific trigger points.

The use of dry needling to release tension at specific trigger points can also be helpful for all these headache types.

“With tension and cervicogenic headaches, we typically look to see if anything needs to be adjusted. A lot of times, an adjustment or muscle release will get rid of the headache,” says Christopher Howson, DC, a chiropractor with Altru. “Decreasing irritants in the spinal and musculoskeletal system helps a surprising amount when treating headaches.”

Potential Headache Causes

Neck ache

“Tension headaches are the most common we see, as people sit for long periods and carry stress in their upper shoulders and neck,” says Jordan McIntyre, DC, a chiropractor with Altru. “We also see headaches from the jaw, because people will clench their teeth from stress or sitting, and those muscles connect to the top of the head and make you feel like your head is throbbing.”

"Posture is also important," Dr. McIntyre notes. "It’s far easier to get stiff and tight in the upper neck if core muscles are inactivated and the head and spine are unsupported."

 Migraines vs Headaches

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s a migraine,’ when they have a particularly bad headache, but migraines aren’t your typical headache,” explains Dr. Howson. “Migraines will have a throbbing or pulsing quality and tend to interfere with everything you do. They get worse with exercise or exertion, and many people will be nauseated or have trouble with light and sound.”

Some people who experience migraines will know beforehand due to a neurological sensation called an aura. A kind of warning, auras can be anything from seeing flashing lights to briefly losing the ability to speak correctly to smelling something that isn’t there, such as campfire smoke.

Altru’s chiropractors can treat your pain from head to toe. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Howson or Dr. McIntyre by calling 701.732.7620.


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