Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Can a Chiropractor Treat Migraine?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I am 29 years old. I have been suffering from migraines since I was 15 or 16 years old. Sometimes I have neck pain. Recently, I visited a well-advertised chiropractor. After an exam and x-rays, she told me that I have really serious problems: eight subluxations, my shoulders and legs are not even, and my spine is curved the wrong way. She also said that she can fix my problems and suggested 18 months of treatment at a cost of almost $3,000. I can get a 20% discount if I pay right away. She said my migraine will go away and I will feel like a baby after the treatment.

I really want to get rid of my migraines, but I feel pressured in terms of making a fast financial decision. The doctor is obviously too money oriented, which scares me. Could you please help me with advice?

Answer

There is no scientific evidence that "subluxated vertebrae" or a curved spine can cause migraine. Simple physical treatment methods will often relieve neck pain, tension headaches, and some of the symptoms that accompany migraine, such as tightness around the neck and shoulders. But when migraine is suspected, it's important to see a medical doctor for a definitive diagnosis.

As far as your "subluxations" are concerned, I would disregard what you were told. Some chiropractors diagnose multiple "subluxations" and recommend prolonged treatment for virtually every person they see. This is one of practices that gives chiropractic a bad reputation.

A cervicogenic headache triggered by a neck problem can benefit from massage, manipulation, neck traction, and other physical treatment methods, but you can rest assured that you do not have "8 subluxations" that need 18 months of neck manipulation.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This page was posted on August 27, 2002.