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For migraines chiropractic provides patients non-drug relief according to research

Studies are showing that migraines are significantly reduced by chiropractic care – the lone non-drug care to impact the debilitating condition to a high degree.

Migraine headaches involve severe, stabbing or throbbing pain that can be incapacitating for anywhere from four to 72 hours in excessive instances. Migraine headaches are part of a complex neurological condition that can encompass a variety of symptoms, including visual disturbances; nausea and/or vomiting; dizziness; extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and smell; and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face.1

Given that migraines have a very high prevalence, both in the U.S. (39 million adults and children) and globally (1 billion),1 odds are very good that a high percentage of your practice may also consist of either acute or chronic migraine sufferers. Furthermore, migraines disproportionately affect women more than men, with as many as 85% of chronic migraine sufferers being female. How can chiropractic care help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks?



Chiropractic migraine research studies

A 2017 article, published in the European Journal of Neurology, detailed a 17-month randomized study that included 104 patients who suffered from at least one migraine attack per month.2 The study included three groups of patients: one that received standard pharmaceutical treatment for migraines, one that received chiropractic spinal manipulations, and one that received placebo manipulations. The active study period lasted for three months, with a one-month run-up beforehand, and then follow-up periods at three, six, and 12 months afterward.2

The number of migraine days significantly reduced for all three groups from baseline to post-treatment, while this effect continued for the chiropractic treatment group through all the follow-up time points. Furthermore, duration of migraines were significantly more reduced in the chiropractic than in the control pharmaceutical group toward the end of the follow-up period of the study.2

Meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

One of the ongoing issues with gathering evidence as to the benefit of spinal manipulation for treating migraines is that many studies could be considered too small to stand alone in terms of making a case for chiropractic care.

A meta-analysis, which pools together the results from smaller studies to look for similarities across their findings, can help strengthen findings in such cases. A recent study published this April in the journal Headache performed just this type of analysis on six small studies, which covered 677 patients, of whom 75% were female.3 Intervention lengths among the studies ranged from 2-6 months, and primary outcomes included number of migraine days, migraine pain/intensity, and migraine disability.

In pooling findings across all six studies, the researchers found that spinal manipulation reduced migraine days and pain/intensity. They concluded: “Results from this preliminary meta-analysis suggest that spinal manipulation may reduce migraine days and pain/intensity. However, variation in study quality makes it difficult to determine the magnitude of this effect. Methodologically rigorous, large-scale RCTs are warranted to better inform the evidence base for the role of spinal manipulation in integrative models of care provided by chiropractors, physical therapists, and osteopathic physicians as a treatment for migraine.” 3

Chiropractic relief

While it is true that migraines may be devastating for your patients’ emotional and physical wellbeing, there is no need for them to suffer. Recent, exciting research has shown that spinal manipulation can reduce not only the pain from migraines, but also the number of migraine days for those who suffer from chronic migraines.


  1. Migraine Fact Sheet. Chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy for migraine: A three-armed, single-blinded, placebo, randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Neurology. 2017;24(1):143-153.
  2. Rist PM, Hernandez A, Bernstein C, et al. The impact of spinal manipulation on migraine pain and disability: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Headache. 2019 Apr;59(4):532-542meta-analysis. Headache. 2019 Apr;59(4)

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