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Anxiety or depression causing migraine headaches? Here’s what you can do!

Anxiety and depression are mental health issues that are growing more and more common in our fast-paced society. There are so many things to do and keep track of in day-to-day life and these can easily lead to feelings of worry or sadness about measuring up. The worst part is that these symptoms can be accompanied by draining physical symptoms that make it even harder to function. One widely seen physical consequence of anxiety and depression is extremely painful headaches that can drain anyone’s energy completely. Tension headaches and migraines can be debilitating and can make it difficult to work or go about a normal day, which is already tough. Migraines can include head pounding, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, the inability to focus, or even rest or sleep to get better. Plus, migraines can make emotional and mental health even worse than before because of all the pain they cause! So, what causes these migraine headaches? How can migraines be treated or prevented?


Where do migraines come from?


Migraines begin in the brain, so they can be caused by lots of different emotional or stressful situations and can easily be caused by anxiety and depression. During a migraine, abnormal there is abnormal blood flow inside the brain, which causes throbbing pain that normal pain medication can’t handle. This pain can lead to reactions like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and an inability to balance or think straight. Also, the nerves inside the brain control the body’s senses, so this is why migraines affect senses like sight and hearing. Migraine headaches will make anyone who gets them want to sit in a dark, quiet room to combat the pain from these symptoms.


Chiropractic spinal adjustment aligns the bones surrounding and protecting the central nervous system, which contains both the brain and the spinal cord. An adjustment in the chiropractor’s office to the upper cervical spine will also directly affect the brain, where all the migraine symptoms start. So, the chiropractor adjusts a patient’s spine and that treatment will work against the abnormal blood flow that happens during a migraine. The most effective point between the spine and the brain for the chiropractor to treat is the upper cervical spine, where the neck and head meet. Upper cervical spinal adjustments have a direct affect on what is happening in the brain!


When it comes to treating migraines, how is chiropractic adjustment any different from just getting a relaxing neck and back massage to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain levels? Let’s look at some studies!


Chiropractic care is better than just getting a massage.


One study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9200048) specifically compared chiropractic spinal adjustment to deep-tissue massage and tried to see which one worked better to improve these chronic migraine headache symptoms. One group of patients suffering from migraines got deep-tissue massages to the pressure points in and around their shoulders and upper back, while the other group of patients were treated with a chiropractic spinal adjustment. For the first group of patients, they may have gotten a relaxing massage and they did feel better, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a migraine from coming back.


The second group who got the spinal adjustment at the chiropractor’s office had longer lasting results. These patients got just one quick chiropractic adjustment to the back of the head and upper neck area, where the cervical spine connects the brain to the spinal cord. That one neck adjustment from the chiropractor gave them less intensity in their migraines, fewer hours suffering from the effects, and reduced the use of pain medication. The other patients who got a longer massage therapy treatment didn’t even stop using drugs for headache-related pain! Upper cervical spine chiropractic adjustments are clearly better than just going to the spa. (Hey! We love getting a massage and often recommend it- but the research shows that it isn't likely to help correct the underlying issues causing chronic headaches for the long term.)


Well, massage doesn’t measure up to chiropractic care when it comes to managing and reducing migraine suffering due to anxiety, but what about prescription pain medication? Surely that would be the best method for treating migraine symptoms, right?


Chiropractic care even worked better than drugs.


This study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8775024 ) looked at chiropractic care used to treat migraine headaches. Researchers compared chiropractic treatment to home remedies like using ice or doing movement exercises as well as to the use of prescription drugs. Spinal adjustment was proven to be better than the home remedies and was about the same as taking prescription medications for the pain, except that the beneficial effects of spinal adjustment were longer lasting.


Another study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7790794/) comparing chiropractic care and medications proved that prescription medications to treat migraines didn’t hold up in the long term when compared to chiropractic treatments. These prescription medications can also be used to treat anxiety and depression, as well as migraines. Remarkably, patients who received chiropractic spinal adjustments had a far better therapeutic outcome than patients who had only been taking these medications! Not only did the chiropractic patients do better than the prescription medication patients, these patients who had been to the chiropractor had less of a need for both prescription AND over-the-counter medication to treat their debilitating migraine symptoms. Not only did they not need a prescription, but also no more daily handfuls of ibuprofen to combat the severe symptoms of tension headache!


"no more daily handfuls of ibuprofen to combat the severe symptoms of tension headache!"

Chiropractic care cures 20 YEARS of migraines.


There have been a few studies done to see how chiropractic care can improve symptoms of migraines, even from those who have had them for years. One study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6440032/) followed three patients who underwent standard care of chronic headaches as well as chiropractic adjustments. The standard care included things like botox, steroid injections and pain medications. These patients had migraines, head and neck pain for years, with one patient having migraine headache symptoms for over 20 years! All these patients saw marked improvement after undergoing the chiropractic adjustments and their performing their prescribed exercises. They had more days without pain and used less pain medication to treat that pain. Overall these patients even slept better and had reduced levels of anxiety and depression! Clearly, going to a chiropractor can help get rid of your migraines and alter your brain chemistry for the better!


How do we know it wasn’t just the standard care treatments that made the majority of the difference in these patients? Let’s look at a more severe case of someone who suffered from migraines for years.


In one study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682939/) followed a 72-year-old woman who had a 60-year history of migraine headaches. This woman had nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound a minimum of one or two times a week for 60 years! That’s an average of 4,680 episodes of severe tension headaches! Immediately after her first chiropractic spinal adjustment, she reported that she had better neck and head movement, less pain, and her migraine episodes stopped completely. She continued to visit the chiropractor regularly and, over time, also saw improved head and neck movement and was able to become more mobile. All of this after being unable to make it through a full day without pain for decades! At the time the study finished up, this patient had been visiting the chiropractor’s office once a month for seven years and had completely stopped using pain medication for headaches. She had not suffered from a migraine attack for seven years, since her first chiropractic visit! This patient was absolutely convinced that chiropractic care was the reason for her migraine cure. Regular chiropractic treatment can cure years of chronic suffering from terrible migraine pain!


Chiropractic care prevents migraines from returning!


Chiropractors perform upper cervical spine adjustments, which will positively help your brain and your spinal cord. This method of chiropractic care improves migraine treatment and prevention by:


  • Reducing pain, intensity, and duration of a severe headache

  • Making it easier to move the head, neck, and upper spine

  • Removing a reliance on migraine pain medication to make it through the day

  • Keeping someone from needing to use ice or sit in a dark room frequently

  • Giving you a deeper sleep and reduced levels of anxiety and depression


As the studies have shown, return visits to the chiropractor can help with long-lasting results when it comes to migraine headaches. Some of the patients in the studies who suffered from stress, anxiety, and depression saw a clear improvement in both migraine symptoms and overall emotional and mental health.


Visit a chiropractor today!


Suffering from depression or anxiety-induced migraines? Can’t think or see straight, concentrate, or need to sit in a dark quiet room frequently? Have methods like ice, prescription drugs, Botox, steroids, or massages done nothing to help tension headaches? Chiropractic adjustments can change your brain chemistry for the better and have been proven to beat all these other methods every time!


Visit a local chiropractic wellness center and talk to a chiropractor about whether chiropractic care can help you!


Read more about the studies here:


1. Nilsson, N, et al. “The Effect of Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Cervicogenic Headache.” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 1997, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9200048/.


2. Vernon, H.T. “The Effectiveness of Chiropractic Manipulation in the Treatment of Headache: an Exploration in the Literature.” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK), 1995, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8775024.


3. Boline, P.D., et al. “Spinal Manipulation vs. Amitriptyline for the Treatment of Chronic Tension-Type Headaches: a Randomized Clinical Trial.” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1995, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7790794/.


4. Bernstein, Carolyn, et al. “Integrating Chiropractic Care Into the Treatment of Migraine Headaches in a Tertiary Care Hospital: A Case Series.” Global Advances in Health and Medicine, SAGE Publications, 28 Mar. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6440032/.



5. Tuchin, Peter J. “A Case of Chronic Migraine Remission after Chiropractic Care.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, Elsevier, June 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682939/.



HealthWorks: A Family Wellness center is a chiropractic and wellness center located in Plano, Texas. Our chiropractors, Dr. Christy Flick and Dr. Jennifer Taylor, have been helping patients function better since starting private practice in 2005. For information about this article or other chiropractic questions, please contact our office at 972-612-1800.