What puts the Ache in Headache?
The ache in headache does not come from your brain-your brain cannot feel pain. During brain surgery a patient is often wide awake feeling nothing, even talking to the surgeons and nurses while his/her brain is being operated on ( a local anesthetic numbs the scalp). So what puts the “ache” in headache? It’s the non-brain structure: blood vessels, membranes and cranial nerves in the brain and skull. When these structures are stretched, compressed, irritated, inflamed or infected, headaches often result.

The Chiropractic Approach
Why do millions of headache sufferers turn to the natural, drug-free chiropractic approach to health? That’s because chiropractic has a unique healing approach-chiropractors are the only health professionals trained to analyze your body for a serious and often ignored condition that damage your nerves, cause tissue inflammation, cause fatigue and set the stage for sickness and disease. This condition is called the subluxation.

Just as you may have a cavity in your tooth and be aware of the damage it’s causing, so the subluxation may be causing serious harm to your body-sometimes for years-without your knowledge.
What exactly is a subluxation? It is a tiny distortion or misalignment in your spine and structural system that stresses your nervous system. What causes subluxations? Any physical or emotional stress that your body cannot withstand can cause your spine and structural system to develop a subluxation.

The Chiropractic Checkup
Using his/her hands, x-ray and other instruments, your chiropractor will determine if you have a subluxation. If you do, your chiropractor will give you a safe, gentle correction or adjustment to rid your body of the subluxation and the pressure on your nerves, brain and structural system.

Why Does Chiropractic Work so Well?
Why has chiropractic been a blessing to millions of headache sufferers? The reason may be that most headache sufferers appear to be carrying around subluxations in their bodies (and don’t even know it). For example, one study of 6,000 long-term headache sufferers (suffering two to 25 years) revealed that neck damage (whiplash, falls) was the most important factor in the cause of the headache and should be suspected in every nonspecific case of headache.(2)

In a randomized controlled trail performed at the University of Odense, Denmark, those under chiropractic care decreased their use of painkillers by 36% and the number of headache hours per day decreased by 69%.(3)

Headaches affect children too. For example, a ten-year old girl with chronic, severe migraines (six times a week for the previous three years) was unable to go to school due to the severity of her condition. Neurologists could not help her. A chiropractic examination revealed a subluxation in her upper neck. After her third adjustment she was off her pain medications and by the third week she was back at school, had started dance classes for the first time in two years and “began to smile again. She was leading a normal and healthy life…by the end of the fifth visit.”(4)

A 13-year old boy who was hurt in a football game was in terrible pain and had to wear dark glasses and ear plugs to compensate for increased sensitivity to sound and light. Medical doctors had given the child painkillers and had him hospitalized in traction for two weeks with no improvement. After his first chiropractic adjustment he could ride home without wearing his sunglasses and for the first time in two weeks expressed an interest in food.(5)

How Long Will it Take?
It depends. Some patients report dramatic relief after just one adjustment. Others may take months of care to finally resolve them. Everyone is different in how they respond to care. An analysis of 47 studies of chiropractic for headaches, neck pain and upper back pain revealed that it took (on average) 7.7 visits to see a 46.5% improvement in these conditions and 17 visits to completely resolve them.(6)

Many studies and clinical reports repeatedly reveal that anyone suffering from headaches should seek out chiropractic care.(7-12)

How Does Chiropractic Affect Headaches?
For many years it has been said that the DC after a Doctor of Chiropractic’s name also stands for “Doctor of Cause”- chiropractors correct the cause of a patient’s health problems, rather than give painkillers and other drugs which only treat the symptoms or suppress the disease symptoms and drive them deeper.

A team of surgeons may have found one of the answers as to why chiropractic works so well. They discovered a small neck muscle that connects to brain membranes. When the neck is out of alignment, this muscle can actually pull on the brain! As the lead surgeon write:”An increasing body of literature relates headaches to pathology affecting the cervical spine and a number of clinical trial have demonstrated that chiropractic…is valuable for managing headache.”(13)

Not a Headache Therapy
Anyone suffering from headaches (or any other condition) should make sure they are free from subluxations-for the health of their whole body, not just certain parts.


  1. Eisenberg DM. Unconventional medicine in the United States. NEJM. 1993;328: 246-252.
  2. Braef MM, Rosner SJ, Trauma of the cervical spine as cause of chronic headache. Trauma. 1975;15:441-446.
  3. Nilsson N. Christensen HW, Hartvigsen J. The effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of cervicogenic headache. JMPT. 1997;20:326-330.
  4. Bofshever H. Encephalgia/migraine. ICPA Newsletter. Jan/Feb 2000.
  5. Esch S. 13 –year-old with headache, depression, poor appetite, nausea, general muscular weakness, dizziness and sensitivity to light and noise. ACA J of Chiropractic. December 1988.
  6. Maltby JK, Harrison DD, Harrison D et al. Frequency & duration of chiropractic care for headaches, neck and upper back. JVSR. August 21, 2008: 1-12.
  7. Thomas JC. The Webster Technique in a 28-year-old woman with breech presentation and subluxation. JVSR. April 7, 2008: 1-23.
  8. Ressel O, Rudy R. BioVertebral subluxation correlated with somatic, visceral and immune complaints: an analysis of 650 children under chiropractic care. JVSR. October 18, 2004;1-23.
  9. Simpson J. Hawkins E. Xiphodynia: a diagnostic conundrum. Chiropractic & Osteopathy. 2007; 15:13.
  1. Pauli Y. The effects of chiropractic care in individual suffering from learning disabilities and dyslexia: a review of literature. JVSR. January 15, 2007; 1-12.
  1. Lovett L, Blum C. Behavioral and learning changes secondary to chiropractic care to reduce subluxations in a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a case study. JVSR. October 4, 2006; 1-6.
  1. Blum CL, Cuthbert S. Williams S. Developmental delay syndromes and chiropractic: a case report. International Conference on Chiropractic Research. Vilamoura, Portugal. May 17-19, 2007.
  1. Hack GD. Then anatomic basis for the effectiveness of chiropractic spinal manipulation in treating headache. Abstracts from the 15th annual upper cervical spine conference. Nov. 21-22, 1998. CRJ. 1999;VI(1).

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