Chiropractic manipulation has been demonstrated to be effective as an alternative or in addition to medication for the headache patient. The special work of Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic (AO) can offer even greater benefits. They are not manipulations, rather they make specific adjustments.
Chiropractic’s ability to correct biomechanical dysfunction may decrease the factors that contribute to headache pain.
Many headaches are considered to be neck related and are referred to as cervicogenic headaches. These headaches are musculoskeletal in nature and are similar to a tension headache, which may also relate to migraines.
In a 1996 Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) article titled “The Effectiveness of Chiropractic Manipulation in the Treatment of Headache,” the researcher finds that chiropractic adjustments are equivalent to or even more effective than medications and also have the benefit of greater durability or length of positive effects of the treatment.
In studies there is less risk to receiving chiropractic adjustments than medical treatments. In 1996, another article in JMPT entitled “A Risk Assessment of Cervical Manipulation vs. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) for the Treatment of Neck Pain” concluded that the best treatment for neck pain is chiropractic manipulation, which is safer than NSAID use.
According to the latest research, 9 percent of men and 12 percent of women in the United States experience at least 1-2 headaches per month, with 4 percent of the population suffering headaches that are more frequent.
Two-thirds of all adult men and greater than 80 percent of women in developed countries suffer from chronic headaches, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Their effects are just as destructive to developing nations too, mostly because headaches are not generally look at as a disease. The WHO estimates about half of the people who have headaches never receive any treatment for them either.
People who suffer from chronic daily headaches amount to a staggering 4 to 5 percent of the world’s population, surpassing the rate of many other illnesses. Experts believe that the relationship of headache sufferers to those suffering from disabilities is about the same.
Headaches are so common that Americans pay more than $1 billion every year to get relief from migraines. Just as troubling: The pain associated with migraines can be so severe that some patients will actually consider suicide as a reasonable alternative. Medical expenses plus lost work time and lower productivity accounts for an estimated $50 billion in losses for American businesses.
Headaches are grouped into three basic categories:
- Tension headaches make up the largest group (80 percent) that are largely treated with over-the-counter drugs
- Vascular headaches, including migraines and cluster headaches, can be painful and incapacitating and involve the nervous system
- Brain tumors, aneurysms or other maladies account for less than 2 percent
So, around 95 percent of all headaches are classified as tension, migraine, or cervicogenic (starting in the neck). Symptoms include tightness and a stiff feeling in the neck with moderate pain on one or both sides of the head. Only a very small fraction of all headaches is of the more dangerous variety and these can be ruled out for further diagnostic tests and referral to appropriate professionals as necessary.
Doctors of chiropractic help thousands of individuals successfully reduce the symptoms of headaches by using safe and effective treatment protocols. A board certified Atlas Orthogonist would be able to help you determine first if you are an upper cervical chiropractic candidate and if what we do could help with your type of headache.
Chiropractic has such a huge success rate in the treatment of headaches because most headaches are soft tissue or nerve related. A spinal adjustment can help alleviate the pressure put on muscles, nerves and blood vessels, which will allow better function and diminish the symptoms of a headache.
Many people have concerns about chiropractic manipulation, especially when it comes to neck adjusting. The reasons I have heard are primarily fear based. Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic is a different kind of chiropractic treatment and is performed without manipulation of the head or neck. The snap, crack, or pop sounds usually associated with chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation is not necessary to move a vertebra, especially the atlas or upper cervical joint complex.
Chiropractors in general are not taught aggressive, forceful techniques; the kind that can injure tissues or vessels. We are taught to use speed and finesse rather than force. Problems can arise if the physician performing the procedure compensates for slow speed by increasing force in the delivery of the manipulation. I say this because chiropractors provide by far the greatest number of “manipulations” to the spine of any other profession, but other professionals are also performing “manipulations” and “mobilizations.” Because they don’t do them as often, they could very easily forfeit speed for power.
Recently, I had a patient tell me that her allergist offered to manipulate her neck for her. Osteopaths are the next best physicians trained to provide “manipulations,” but they generally do not usually use them much, instead opting to provide medications. Physical therapists provide what they call “joint mobilization.” None of these are as specific and low-force as an atlas orthogonist or one of the handful of other specific upper cervical techniques.
Let me be clear on this, not all chiropractors are the same and the upper cervical chiropractic adjustment needs to be done with great care and precision. You will note that I prefer to differentiate the more precise and fine-tuned “adjustment” from the less precise term, “manipulation”. So let’s discuss nomenclature. Merriam-Webster provides the following definitions:
- Manipulate – “to treat or operate with the hands or by mechanical means with skill.”
- Mobilize – “to put into movement or circulation”
- Adjust – “to bring to a more satisfactory state, to settle or resolve, to rectify.”
When you talk about having your dream car, your Lamborghini, serviced or fine tuned, will you ask the mechanic to mobilize it? Will you say, “Bob, would you manipulate my carburetor for me today? Not likely, unless you just do not care that much about your very expensive car. If you get that detailed with the mechanic at all, you would want him to adjust it. Musicians adjust the pitch of their instruments, they fine tune the Stradivarius.
Your body is better than any luxury or sports car or violin, its value is priceless. You have to keep it for a lifetime. Hopefully, you are not just going out to have it manipulated or mobilized. Get it fine-tuned, adjusted, to restore it to “a more satisfactory state.”
Get adjusted well to be well-adjusted.
Chiropractic doctors all have the same basic training as any other primary care physician. The difference between DC’s and MD’s lies in our philosophy of health and our treatment protocols. Chiropractors do not prescribe side-effecting medications or surgeries, but we do use a system of adjusting that safely and effectively moves the vertebrae into the correct position for optimal nerve flow and function.
Do we see a need for medical intervention? Yes! Absolutely! In emergencies and when otherwise necessary, if all other conservative options have been explored. The first choices should have no potential adverse long term consequences. Try Atlas Orthogonal (AO) Chiropractic first, followed by other less invasive measures. Drugs should be considered next to last, and major surgery should be an absolute last choice.
Most people who have had an AO adjustment report feeling what they describe as either a puff of force or nothing at all. Instead, they hear a small tap and later sensing the tightness and soreness leaving the body. Some describe the experience as initially “underwhelming.” Others report a wave-like sensation rushing through the body, especially the head and neck as things return to normal. The doctor usually sees substantial changes between his objective findings from before the adjustment and those he finds afterwards. AO Chiropractic care has a relaxing effect on patients and can be a great tool in the prevention of injuries, headaches and many other disorders.
If you are experiencing chronic headaches, joint or muscle pain and have never sought the help of a chiropractor, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Calling a board certified Atlas Orthogonist just may the best choice you ever made. If your chiropractor has the designation, BCAO, after his or her name, you are in good hands.