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Before you reach for your pain-reliever of choice the next time a headache or migraine sneaks up on you, consider the following information on the efficacy of chiropractic care for head pain.
A study conducted in Minnesota, the effectiveness of spinal adjustment relative to the administration of an antidepressant drug (amitriptyline) for patients with chronic tension-type headaches was investigated. The researchers included doctors of chiropractic, a doctor of medicine, and another professionals from Northwestern College of Chiropractic and the Pain Assessment and Rehabilitation Center, Ltd. They determined that, after four weeks of treatment, patients receiving spinal adjustment therapy experienced a continued lack of symptoms, whereas patients taking the medication returned to original, baseline conditions.
Another study, published by doctors of medicine and doctors of chiropractic at the University of Odense and the Nordic Institute of Chiropractic and Clinical Biomechanics in Denmark, compared spinal adjustment and soft tissue therapy such as massage, for the treatment of benign, chronic headaches. They found that both methods of therapy allowed for significant improvement, and there were no side effects or signs of worsening associated with either method.
In this study compared the relative effectiveness of treating migraines by with chiropractic care alone, with the antidepressant/antianxiety drug amitriptyline (best known under the brand name Elavil); and with a combination of both the drug therapy and chiropractic care. Patients who received only chiropractic showed significant improvement, on a par with those given the powerful prescription drug (though without the side effects). The headache index, from a diary kept by each patient, showed chiropractic to have reduced the severity and frequency of headaches as well or better than the combined therapy or amitriptyline alone at each stage of the study. Nelson CF, Bronfort G, Evans R, et al. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1998 (Oct); 21 (8): 511-519
The effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of headache Results: The use of analgesics decreased by 36% in the manipulation group, but was unchanged in the soft-tissue group; this difference was statistically significant. The number of headache hours per day decreased by 69% in the manipulation group compared with 37% in the soft-tissue group; this was significant. Finally, the headache intensity per episode decreased by 36% in the manipulation group, compared with 17% in the soft-tissue group; this was significant. Nilsson N, Christensen HW, Hartvigsen J. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1997 (Jun); 20 (5): 326-330
Chronic tension-type headaches Six weeks of drug therapy were compared to six weeks of chiropractic adjustments. The drug therapy was considered slightly more effective than chiropractic however 82% of the patients had side effects which included drowsiness, weight gain and dry mouth. Cardiac problems and glaucoma were also associated with amitriptyline use. Chiropractic patients had no side effects (apart from slight neck stiffness in the first two weeks of the study that 5% of the patients reported). After four weeks, chiropractic and drug therapy was halted in both groups. The patients who used drugs began having headaches again while the chiropractic group continued to express headache relief, as well as higher levels of energy and vitality than the drug therapy group. Boline PD, Kasaak K, Bronfort G, Nelson C, Anderson AV. Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 (Mar-Apr); 18 (3): 148-154
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