A tension headache is one of the most common types of headaches. Pain can be mild to severe, and muscle tension, poor posture, and stress are the biggest contributing factors.  Chiropractic care can provide long-term relief, especially for those experiencing chronic tension-type headaches (TTH).

Chiropractors treat tension headaches by performing spinal alignment, which relieves the pressure on the nerves and muscles connected to your neck, face, and head. A chiropractor can identify and diagnosis the common triggers and effective treatment for chronic headaches. 

Learn more about the alternative therapy’s chiropractors can offer for tension headaches without the use of pain medications.

Is chiropractic care good for tension headaches?

Can a chiropractor help with tension headachesMultiple studies have shown that chiropractic treatments help improve tension headaches, stress headaches, migraine headaches, and cervicogenic headaches. Manipulative therapy employed by chiropractors specifically targets spinal misalignment – a leading cause of episodic or chronic tension headaches.

As a result, relief from the condition is not just immediate but often permanent. Aside from the efficacy of chiropractic care against severe headaches, it also costs less than other standard medical treatments.

How chiropractors treat tension headaches

To help patients with tension headaches, chiropractors evaluate and diagnose the condition first. Then cervical adjustments are made through manual therapy. After which, the chiropractor recommends changes relating to habits of bad posture and relaxation techniques that reduce headache pain in general.   

Diagnosing Tension Headache Due to Misalignment

Like any other medical condition, treatment for tension, stress, and chronic headaches can only begin after it’s properly diagnosed.

Chiropractors are trained to detect tension headaches based on the symptoms presented like sensitivity to light, visual disturbances, limited range of motion, and tight neck muscles. Likewise, they are skilled in isolating the condition and understanding the possibility of underlying contributing factors to tension-type headaches.

Tension headaches can happen in response to a stimulator or trigger. Those experiencing this pain can feel muscle tightness around the head, scalp, and neck. It could be a response to stress, whiplash, anxiety, depression, and other physical activities leading to muscle tension above the shoulders.

On the other hand, a tension headache could also become episodic or chronic – meaning it happens too frequently for a simple response to a trigger. This could be attributed to alcohol use, dental problems, overexertion, eye strain, and physical stress. TTH can also be linked to conditions requiring chiropractic care, specifically misalignment.

Addressing headache triggers

The services provided by chiropractors go beyond applying the correct chiropractic adjustment technique for headaches. Even after spinal alignment is restored, your chiropractor will help you determine what factors and activities trigger headaches.

These triggers can range from poor posture, caffeine intake, and alcohol consumption to emotional distress, prolonged sitting, and lack of eye moisture. Then, your chiropractor will prepare suggestions for lifestyle changes to eliminate these triggers.

Recommending preventive measures against tension headaches

Chiropractic treatment for headaches doesn’t stop after the alignment is performed and the triggers are identified. Your chiropractor will also provide recommendations on how to prevent tension headaches in the future by addressing your triggers.

For example, if stress and anxiety stimulate tension-type headaches, you may be given stress relief tips and a management plan. Likewise, if there are symptoms of underlying conditions, your chiropractor will also recommend medical consultation with specific healthcare providers.

Can your neck being out of alignment cause headaches?

A misalignment in the vertebra located in the neck (clinically referred to as the cervical spine) leads to headaches. This is because misalignment causes pressure and irritation in the nerves, disrupting the delivery of signals to the brain. On top of that, the muscle becomes sore, activating pain receptors lining the neck and head.

With tense muscles, the cervical spine becomes aggravated. Plus, the head typically becomes tilted on one side, with the neck out of alignment, causing more pressure and pain.

A misaligned neck also causes migraines, fatigue, and numbness. But what are the symptoms that your neck is misaligned?

Symptoms of your neck being out of alignment

Not all headaches are linked to the misalignment of the neck. But you could associate tension headaches with your neck being out of alignment through these symptoms:

  1. Sharp pain in the neck
  2. Immobility of the head due to a stiff neck
  3. Pain, tingling, and numbness to the shoulders, arms, fingers
  4. Soreness and tenderness around the neck
  5. Problems with balance and coordination
  6. Difficulty lifting objects
  7. Joint pain

What are the risks of neck and spine misalignment?

If you have spinal misalignment, you may be risking more than just your comfort. Aside from headaches and recurring migraines, your risk for the following conditions also increases:

  1. Spinal fracture
  2. Bone and joint deformities
  3. Slouching and lumping all the time
  4. Persistent pain
  5. Decreased mobility
  6. Sciatica nerve pain
  7. Respiratory problem
  8. Trouble standing, sitting, or laying down
  9. Limited range of movement
  10. Stiff and painful joints

Tension headache frequently asked questions

Do tension headaches just go away?

A common tension headache can end on its own if it is not episodic. Typically, tension headaches last for 30 minutes or less. But for chronic headaches, the pain can recur within weeks or even months. If this is the case, you may consider chiropractic care if the trigger is a misaligned spine.

Taking over the counter medications and applying a hot and cold compress to the tense neck and shoulder will also help you get rid of tension and stress headaches.

Which is better for headaches: massage or chiropractic care?

When dealing with episodic tension headaches, it’s best to go to a chiropractor instead of a regular massage therapist. While traditional physical massages remain an effective form of stress relief, it’s far less localized than chiropractic techniques such as spinal manipulation and low-load craniocervical mobilization.

Chiropractors often treat the primary trigger of the headache, which is the neck being out of alignment. On the other hand, massages relieve muscle tension that may have only been a result of spinal misalignment.

How long does chiropractor adjustment last?

The duration of the chiropractic adjustment depends on the severity of the misalignment in the spine’s cervical region. Chiropractors typically spend 15 to 45 minutes performing the proper technique to relieve tension headaches.


With the effectiveness of chiropractic care resonating across the medical field, more people turn to this drug-free treatment for chronic conditions. Since its popularity, it was only a matter of time until patients suffering from persistent TTH discovered how proper spinal alignment treats the condition more permanently.

So, if you’re looking for a non-pharmaceutical, safe, effective, and long-term solution for tension headaches, contact ProHealth Chiropractic Wellness Center today!