Chronic Headache Syndrome: True or False?

chronic headache syndrome

By  Dr. Michelle Kmiec

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

Chronic Headache Syndrome is a fairly new “syndrome” as classified by modern medicine… or should I say, as classified by pharmaceutical companies.

As a chiropractor, I have had too many patients complaining about neck and/or low back pain, and when I ask them if they experience headaches, I am always shocked to hear the response, “…well, sure I have headaches…  but that’s normal for me”.

“Normal” Headaches?

Sadly, people often visit a chiropractor to seek relief from their headaches only after exhausting the route of pharmaceuticals drugs and becoming concerned with the negative side effects of long-term use.  Often the cause of headaches is very simply; spinal ‘misalignments’ along with muscle spasms in the neck, usually due to stress. Chiropractic care naturally remedies headaches by removing the interference of the nerve roots, which is the principal reason for the pain, and by recommending lifestyle changes to support the body.

I honestly don’t know of a chiropractor who doesn’t report improvement of these so-called “normal” headaches in their patients, thus, allowing them to discontinue the use of pain medications.  However, there are many skeptics of chiropractic care who claim there is little to no research regarding cervical adjustments and its effectiveness in eliminating pain.

This  couldn’t  be farther from the truth.

There has, in fact, been much research regarding chiropractic cervical (neck) adjustments, and the reduction of many types of headaches. The increasing body of evidence strongly supports the fact that headaches can be safely diminished without the dangerous side effects of NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and/or the other pain-relieving medications that are too often prescribed by medical doctors.

Types of Headaches

Basically, there are two types of “common” headaches: tension and migraine. And both types are blamed for the development of the “Chronic Headache Syndrome”.

Sadly, most medical doctors prescribe headache medications without even knowing the  actual cause  of the headaches, regardless of what type it is!

Tension headaches (cervicogenic headaches) are the most common resulting from contraction of head, neck and upper back muscles. Though they can occur in isolated incidents, the probable causes of the chronic muscle contraction associated with tension headaches is prolong  stress and fatigue.

Although migraine headaches are not as common as tension headaches, they can be extremely debilitating to those who suffer from them. This type of headache occurs when blood vessels of the head and neck constrict, resulting in a decrease in blood flow to those vessels. The consequential throbbing pain, most often on one side of the head, is frequently accompanied with nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.

The cause of migraines is more a mystery than tension headaches (so the medical profession claim) but nonetheless, is considered to be a result of prolonged muscle tension, triggered by allergic reactions, and/or  hormonal changes, but more commonly, due to  stress and fatigue.

It should be noted that, too often, tension headaches are  misdiagnosed  as migraines.

Chiropractic Adjustments

One of the principal tools used by a chiropractor to establish the vertebral level that requires the cervical adjustment is  manual palpation. Simply, the doctor moves the patients neck slowly to determine the ROM (range of motion), pain, muscle tenderness and inflammation.

The question here would be the  effectiveness of the manual palpation.

A study done by Dr. Hanten et al. found that palpation is a more than a  “reliable tool in identifying the area of misalignment of the spine, but also proves to be a good indicator of establishing a diagnosis of a tension/cervicogenic headache”  in symptomatic patients. After the diagnosis of the subluxated (misaligned) vertebra(s), the chiropractic adjustment will be performed. This can be executed by many different styles of techniques.

The most widely used technique, as well as most popular, is the diversified approach. This adjustment is done by a high-speed, low-amplitude thrust (HSLAT) to the segment identified as subluxated. Most patients recognize this technique by the “crack or popping” sound they hear, which is often associated with the adjustment.

Does the adjustment actually have an effect at reducing the headaches?

To help answer this question, let’s refer to the study done by Dr. Nilsson et al. (1997). The conclusion indicates that the adjustment done as HSLAT had  “significant reduction in the intensity of pain, as well as, a reduction of the duration of the headache”.  This study substantiates another study done earlier by Dr. Nilsson (1995), who wanted to establish whether HSLAT adjustments are an effective treatment on cervicogenic headaches. He determined that the adjustments had possible positive effects, but his methodology was skewed thus resulting in this later 1997 study.

How about comparing the effectiveness of chiropractic adjustments to pain medications?

Another study was done by Dr. Boline et al. which did just that! It compared the effectiveness of chiropractic treatments with  Amitriptyline  — a pharmaceutical treatment prescribed mainly for depression, but which is also used for chronic pain syndromes.

They found  Amitriptyline  slightly more effective in reducing the pain,  but Amitriptyline  was also associated with adverse side-effects after treatment which lasted for a six-week period.

Some common side-effects range from dizziness; drowsiness, dryness of mouth,  headache, increased appetite (may include craving for sweets), nausea, tiredness or weakness, unpleasant taste, and weight gain.


Did you notice that “headache” is part of the side-effects list!? Headaches are not an uncommon side-effect of most “pain” medications!

In contrast to the Amitriptyline, those who received the spinal manipulative therapy experienced  sustained therapeutic benefit without the negative side-effects, and especially, no headaches.

Thank goodness!  

So just how many visits to the chiropractor does it take for headaches to go away?

Dr. Haas et al. asked the same question and found there was relief from headache pain within  nine to twelve visits, although more than twelve visits  may be required for some, for maximum relief. It has also been reported that for some patients, pain was resolved after a  single visit!  (Of course all patients are  unique, and results vary).

There is also the question of the patient’s nutritional health. Although this is a subject that is actually very controversial in the chiropractic world today,  if this component is overlooked, it is technically no different than the medical doctor overlooking the effectiveness of chiropractic care in  lieu  of a drug.

Holistic care requires many factors to be considered, and one such nutritional component in this area is  Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin).  Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) has  proven to be extremely effective in relieving  migraine headaches with no side-effects!  A 2004 study published in the  European Journal of Neurology  also explored the usage of “high dose” riboflavin on the frequency, duration and intensity of migraine sufferers aged from twenty to sixty-five. They found that “…  riboflavin is a safe and well-tolerated alternative in migraine prophylaxis”.  These results really should come as no big surprise since nearly all types of headaches can be linked to stress, and stress is associated with depletion of vital nutrients,  especially B vitamins  and Vitamin C.

[For more information check out  STRESS!! Could Vitamin B5 be the Solution?]

Chiropractic care has come a long way since its entrance in 1895 by founder D. D. Palmer. For many years what chiropractic lacked was the research to prove the efficacy of this new system of healthcare.  However this has been steadily changing.  As time has passed, more and more research has been done to validate the effectiveness of chiropractic care, and this  research into its  effectiveness on headaches has proved positive. This certainly warrants more research – including more long-term studies!  Although progress is starting to be made, the tip of the iceberg has barely been scraped.


  • Rasmussen B. “The epidemiology of headache.” Cephalgia, 1995. 15. 45-68.
  • Hanten W., Olson S., Ludwig G.M. “Reliability of Manual Mobility Testing of the Upper Cervical Spine in subjects with Cervicogenic Headache.” The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 2002. 10(2). 76-82.
  • Nilsson N., Christensen H.W., Hartvigsen J. “The effect of Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Cervicogenic Headache.” JMPT, 1997. 20(5). 326-330.
  • Nilsson N. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of the Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Cervicogenic Headache.” JMPT, 1995. 18(7). 435-440.
  • Sinnott R.; Chiropractic Books: “The Green Books”, 1997. Chapter 7. 117-118.
  • Phongphua C., Hawk C., Long C., Young C., Gran D.F. “Feasibility Study for a Clinical Trail of Chiropractic Care for Patients with Migraine
  • Headaches Using Different Chiropractic Techniques.” The Journal of Chiropractic Education, 1999. 13(1). 75.
  • Boline P.D., Kassak K., Bromfort G., Nelson C., Anderson A.V. “Spinal Manipulation vs. Amitriptyline for the Treatment of Chronic Tension-type Headaches: A Randomized Clinical Trail” JMPT, 1995. 18(3). 148-154.
  • Vernon H., Jansz G., Goldsmith C., McDermaid C.”A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trail of Chiropractic and Medical Prophylactic Treatment of Adult Tension-type Headache.” Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 2003. 8(4). 548.
  • Haas M., Groupp E., Aickin M., Fairweather A., Ganger B., Attwood M., Cummins C., Baffes L. “Dose Response for Chiropractic Care of Chronic Cervicogenic Headache and Associated Neck Pain: A Randomized Pilot Study.” JMPT, 2004. Nov/Dec. 547-552.

Healthcare Freedom Revolution

From the editor….

In the age of big-pharma, Dr. Michelle Kmiec’s take on health and healthcare is refreshing – to say the least. And her book  Healthcare Freedom Revolution: Exposing the Lies, Deceit and Greed of the Medical Profession  is a unique publication that busts long-standing health myths in a straight forward way, and reveals how you can regain control of your health… regardless of what “they” may have told you.

healthcare freedom revolutionIn telling her story, Dr. Kmiec doesn’t pull any punches. And why should she? Ten years ago she  was desperately sick with autoimmune and neurological symptoms, and the medical profession offered her nothing but prescription drugs and outrageous “healthcare” bills. Not willing to accept that as her future, Dr. Kmiec decided that if she was going to be healthy again, she would have to find the answers herself. That’s when her amazing journey began.

Despite all her struggles and fears, Dr. Kmiec regained her health completely – a result of natural means and  sheer perseverance. And in the process, her research led her to discover just how corrupt the medical profession has become — in industry she describes as a ‘Big Pharma monopoly’.  Dr. Kmiec has now made it her mission in life to share her story, and hopes to help people find real answers to their healthcare needs as well as offering something very valuable to those in ill health… hope.

For more information, please visit  and check out  Dr. Kmiec’s previous articles  on Wake Up World.

Previous articles by Dr. Kmiec:

About the author:

dr michelle kmiecDr. Michelle Kmiec  is a licensed chiropractor who also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology. She is life-long athlete who after curing herself 100% naturally from autoimmune neurological symptoms and anxiety, became an avid nutrition health researcher/promoter, author of  Healthcare Freedom Revolution: Exposing the Lies, Deceit and Greed of the Medical Profession, and Founder of the website  Online Holistic Health.

You can follow Online Holistic Health on  Facebook,  Twitter  and  LinkedIn.


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