The Effect of Spinal Manipulation on Cervicogenic Headaches

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1997 Jun;20(5):326-30.

The effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of cervicogenic headache.

Nilsson N1, Christensen HW, Hartvigsen J.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

To study whether the isolated intervention of high-speed, low-amplitude spinal manipulation in the cervical spine has any effect on cervicogenic headache.

DESIGN:

Prospective randomized controlled trial with a blinded observer.

SETTING:

Ambulatory outpatient facility in an independent research institution.

PARTICIPANTS:

Fifty-three subjects suffering from frequent headaches who fulfilled the International Headache Society criteria for cervicogenic headache (excluding radiological criteria). These subjects were recruited from 450 headache sufferers who responded to newspaper advertisements.

INTERVENTION:

After randomization, 28 of the group received high-velocity, low-amplitude cervical manipulation twice a week for 3 wk. The remaining 25 received low-level laser in the upper cervical region and deep friction massage (including trigger points) in the lower cervical/upper thoracic region, also twice a week for 3 wk.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

The change from week 1 to week 5 in analgesic use per day, in headache intensity per episode and in number of headache hours per day, as registered in a headache diary.

RESULTS:

The use of analgesics decreased by 36% in the manipulation group, but was unchanged in the soft-tissue group; this difference was statistically significant (p = .04, chi 2 for trend). The number of headache hours per day decreased by 69% in the manipulation group, compared with 37% in the soft-tissue group; this was significant at p = .03 (Mann-Whitney). Finally, headache intensity per episode decreased by 36% in the manipulation group, compared with 17% in the soft-tissue group; this was significant at p = .04 (Mann-Whitney).

CONCLUSION:

Spinal manipulation has a significant positive effect in cases of cervicogenic headache.