Placebo effect is how chiropractic relieves migraines

Many chiropractors advertise their success in treating migraine headaches. Norwegian researchers conducted a scientific study of chiropractic manipulation for migraine headaches in 104 patients. They divided patients into three groups: one that received real chiropractic manipulation of the spine, one that received a sham treatment that consisted of just putting pressure over the shoulders and lower back, and one that continued their usual medication. The real and sham chiropractic groups received 12 treatment sessions over 12 weeks and all three groups were followed for a year. After 12 weeks patients in all three study groups reported improvement. However, a year later, only the two chiropractic groups still felt better. On average, they had about four migraine days a month, down from six to eight before the treatment started. Patients who just continued their medications lost all of their improvement and their migraine frequency was back where it was at the baseline.

The results published in the European Journal of Neurology suggest that chiropractic is indeed effective in reducing migraine frequency, however, it also suggests that any hands-on treatment is equally effective. This probably explains the popularity of chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, reflexology, Reiki, energy therapies, Feldenkreis, and all other hands-on treatments.

All these treatments are worth trying, but avoid high velocity adjustments when undergoing chiropractic treatment as it carries a small risk of serious side effects (see this previous post). I would also pick inexpensive treatments and pick therapists you feel a rapport with. The treatment should be pleasant and never painful. You should also combine these therapies with a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet, regular sleep, exercise, meditation, and supplements.

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