Headache Study: Chiropractic Twice As Effective As Medication Alone, With Fewer Side Effects
They’re debilitating. They cost the U.S. billions. And science is finally starting to pay attention.
Any headache specialist in practice today will admit that we’re still in the stone ages in regards to understanding and treating headache disorders. Granted, the systems involved in headaches are incredibly complex and difficult to study, but headaches continue to be one of the world’s most misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and under-treated diseases.
It’s not because there’s a lack of need. Globally, over 50% of adults report suffering from headaches in the last year. Of those, more than 30% deal with migraines.
It’s also one of the most painful and debilitating conditions. Throbbing head pain can knock you out of commission, sometimes for days. Headaches run up more than $1 billion in health costs and more than $13 billion in absenteeism and reduced effectiveness at work every year.
No one is spared; headache disorders affect people of all ages, races, income levels and geographical regions relatively equally.
But while the World Health Organization places headaches among the leading causes of disability, it is, unfortunately, an afterthought in healthcare. The European Headache Federation and World Headache Alliance describe it as a “forgotten epidemic”. Part of the problem is that, on average, healthcare providers receive only 4 hours of education on headache disorders. Add to that the fact that headaches aren’t seen as serious health concerns by governments and the general public, since they’re mostly episodic and aren’t deadly or contagious.
It’s not a surprise, then, that nearly every medical treatment aimed at preventing these diabolical headaches — beta blockers, anti-epileptics, anti-depressants and other drugs — were researched, developed and designed for other diseases. They simply seemed to help some people with headaches, too, and so doctors went with them.
Then there’s the side effects to consider – many of the pharmocological treatments prescribed for headaches are known to commonly cause sleepiness and fatigue, nausea, and difficulty thinking.
The very first medications specifically approved to treat migraines, the Amgen/Novartis antibody treatments, have only been around since 2018. And while they’re effective at reducing migraine frequency for some sufferers, they’re a heartbreaking failure for others, and long-term side effects are unclear. They’re also not cures – patients must continue to take them consistently.
There’s reason to be optimistic
But for all the anguish, there’s good reason to be optimistic about the future. Greater awareness and better funding are leading to better therapeutic options. In March, patients and advocates made an appeal to Congress for additional funding for research and other headache treatment initiatives. Clinical trials for potential new pharmacological treatments — ranging from psilocybin to vitamin D — are currently in the works.
Research is accelerating in physical medicine, too. A new study out of Denmark published in Chiropractic & Manual Therapies Journal is one of the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study to examine the effects of cervical spinal manipulation (aka chiropractic treatment) on headache frequency.
The researchers recruited 200 adolescent participants who reported suffering from at least one headache per week and randomly assigned them to either a chiropractic treatment group or sham (placebo) treatment group. Both groups were instructed to administer headache medicine as prescribed by their primary care provider. After 16 weeks of treatment, both groups had a reduction in average symptomatic days, but the patients receiving chiropractic care had twice the improvement in headache-free days versus those receiving only sham treatment (placebo) with their normal medication.
Chiropractic spinal manipulation resulted in fewer headaches with only minor side effects. Since treatment is easily applicable, of low cost and with no or only mild side effects, chiropractic spinal manipulation might be considered as a valuable treatment option for those with recurrent headaches.
– Susanne Lynge et al, Chiropractic & Manual Therapies Journal
The researchers also noted improvements in global perceived effect, pain intensity, and medication use – all encouraging indicators that chiropractic care should be an important consideration in headache treatment and research going forward.
Share this with a friend or family member who deals with chronic headaches – we all know someone who does. Once they’re able to understand what’s really going on with their condition, and that treatment at Ascent Chiropractic might be their best option, it’s a lot easier to make a smart decision about their health!
At Ascent Chiropractic we’re committed to not just relieving your headaches but to correcting their cause and optimizing your body to function better than it ever has before. Don’t want chronic headaches to be part of your future? Schedule an appointment by calling us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling app.