Musculoskeletal disorders are common source of headaches. One type of headache is often called a cervicogenic headache, because it arises in the cervical spine (the neck). Often, doctors recommend conservative treatments, particularly if the patient does not have chronic headaches. However, little research has been done on which treatments are the most effective for cervicogenic headaches. The options include physical therapy and exercise sessions as well as chiropractic adjustments.
In 2002, a team of researchers sought to investigate the cervicogenic headache treatment options to determine whether an exercise program, chiropractic adjustments, or a combination treatment plan was most effective. The study involved 200 patients with chronic cervicogenic headaches typically of moderate intensity. Each patient was assigned to one group: exercise therapy, spinal adjustments, combination treatments, and a control group. Each group received six weeks of the assigned treatment.
Over the course of the study period, each participant recorded their headache frequency, duration, intensity, and pain level, along with their medication intake and their satisfaction with the prescribed treatment. Physical outcomes such as posture and neck movement ability were also measured.
Compared to the control group, all three active treatments (exercise, chiropractic care, and the combination treatment) resulted in improvement of cervicogenic headache symptoms. These benefits lasted at least 12 months after the last treatment session. The researchers did not find statistical evidence of an additive effect when the combination treatment was used. Patients receiving both treatments experienced the same benefits as patients receiving either chiropractic or exercise therapy. However, a greater overall percentage of these patients experienced excellent or good outcomes, suggesting that there may be some benefit to combined treatment of chiropractic and exercise.
Previous studies have found that combining chiropractic approaches with exercise therapy can help alleviate symptoms in patients with back or neck pain. Florham Park residents who are interested in using this approach to ease their pain should contact Dr. Rivano at Chiropractic Health Center today.
Jull G, Trott P, Potter H, et al. A randomized controlled trail of exercise and manipulative therapy for cervicogenic headache. Spine 2002; 27(17):1835-1843.