Exercise vs Chiropractic for Cervicogenic Headache

One very common complaint following a whiplash injury is Cervicogenic headache.  Those are the headaches which start in the back of the head, usually in the early afternoon.  The pain spreads up and over the side of the head, and rests near the back of the eye.  Usually the headaches are helped temporarily helped by NSAIDs but there is a great risk of rebound headaches when using those pain meds.

Since a major part of my patient load and clinical emphasis is dealing with whiplash injuries, I see several cases of cervicogenic headaches each week.  In my 18 years as a chiropractor, I have developed a specific protocol for treating the injury and reducing the pain.  I focus on restoring motion to the joints as well as reducing inflammation, and  reducing muscle spasm.

A research study which I recently read reinforced my approach, and confirmed what I have long taught.  The research article was published in the respected journal Spine back in 2002.  The researchers are associated with the Department of Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

In the study, 200 patients

were randomly assigned to one of 4 groups; a chiropractic group, an exercise

group, a combined exercise-chiropractic group, and a control group.  Each group received specific therapies for 6 weeks.  There were follow up visits 3, 6 and 12 months.  The exercise and chiropractic groups each showed improvements in their headache patterns.  These two groups demonstrated significantly reduced headache frequency and intensity, and the neck pain and effects were maintained for months.

Interestingly, the combined group receiving both chiropractic and exercises did not do significantly better than the component groups.  Meaning, specific, targeted neck exercises, like those delivered by a physical therapist, and the chiropractic group showed about the same result.  But the combination was not better than the individual treatments.

If you or a friend have a headaches, please call my office and schedule an evaluation.  Let’s see what chiropractic can do to help you on your road to recovery.

Deep Posture Muscles

These deep muscles are involved with neck posture. They can be injured in a whiplash

Intermediate Muscles of the neck

These intermediate depth muscles contribute to cervicogenic headache pain.


Surface muscles of the neck and back

The surface muscles of the neck can be injured in a whiplash. Chiropractic care can help to heal them quicker.

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