Spinal manipulation compares favorably to light massage when treating headaches that are primarily caused by the neck, according to a new randomized, controlled trial detailed in The Spine Journal.
In this study, researchers initially examined how different doses of spinal manipulation or light massage treatments affected patients with cervicogenic headaches, which refer to a group of headaches where the cervical spine (neck) is the primary structural source of pain.
Approximately 80 patients with chronic cervicogenic headaches were randomly assigned to receive either 8 or 16 treatments of spinal manipulation or light massage over an 8-week period.
After noting patient pain scores and headache frequency during and after the 8 weeks, the researchers found that the specific number of spinal manipulation or light massage treatments had small effects on the patients.
However, spinal manipulation appeared to be more advantageous than the light massage therapy at relieving the cervicogenic headaches.
According to the study's findings, the average number of cervicogenic headaches was reduced in half for the spinal manipulation patients.
The study also noted that the spinal manipulation patients were more likely to experience a 50% improvement on a headache pain scale.
Spinal manipulation is generally accepted as a treatment for not only cervicogenic headaches, which may be caused by tension, whiplash, disc disease or osteoarthritis in the cervical spine, but neck pain and back pain.
Patients with chronic headaches may consider seeing a chiropractor or osteopathic doctor to examine whether their pain is related to a condition in the neck and determine whether spinal manipulation is a viable treatment option.