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Chiropractic Research Review

Chiropractic Management of Migraines

According to the International Headache Society (IHS), diagnostic criteria for migraine with aura requires at least three of the following: one or more fully reversible aura symptoms indicating focal cerebral cortex dysfunction, brainstem dysfunction, or both; at least one aura symptom developing gradually over four or more minutes, or two symptoms occurring in succession; no aura symptoms lasting for more than 60 minutes; and headache after aura, with a free interval of less than 60 minutes.



The cervical spine has been reported to be involved in headache, dizziness and referred pain, with several studies demonstrating significant improvements after chiropractic manipulation. In the current study, half of 127 subjects classified with migraine by the IHS criteria (at least one migraine per month) underwent diversified chiropractic adjustment at chiropractic vertebral subluxations determined by the practitioner providing the manipulation.

The other half of the subjects were designated as a control group and received interferential therapy, in which electrodes were placed on each subject but no current was delivered. The study consisted of three stages: two months of data collection before treatment; two months of treatment (maximum of 16 treatments per subject); and two months of data collection after treatment.

Subjects completed headache diaries during the six-month period noting frequency, intensity, duration, disability, associated symptoms, and use of medication for each migraine episode. Subjects in the manipulation group demonstrated statistically significant improvement in migraine frequency, headache duration, disability and medication use. Twenty-two percent of the study participants reported more than a 90% reduction in migraines after two months of SMT, with approximately 50% more participants reporting significant improvement in severity of migraine episodes.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark


These results appear to support previous evidence suggesting significant improvements in specific subjects following chiropractic manipulation. The authors note that since "a high percentage (83%) of participants in this study reported stress as a major factor for their migraines... it appears probable that chiropractic care has an effect on the physical conditions related to stress and that in these people the effects of the migraine are reduced."

Tuchin PJ, Pollard H, Bonello R. A randomized controlled trial of chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy for migraine. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Feb. 2000:23(2), pp91-5. Reprints: Tel: (800) 325-4177 (ext. 4350); Fax: (314) 432-1380

Chiropractic Research Review

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