Course Details

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints worldwide, effecting half the adult population every year. It is also the third most common condition presenting to chiropractors, with many patients having not been seen by any other healthcare professional, and with no diagnosis. Chiropractors have the skills and competencies to assess patients in order to diagnose most primary headaches, identify secondary headaches that require further investigation and, importantly, recognise the red flags that indicate a medical emergency. Chiropractors can also play an important public health role in providing support and advice to patients, signposting, and making appropriate referrals.

This module summarises the classification, incidence, and presentation of headaches. It also highlights the impact that they have on patients, and provides an evidence-based overview of the chiropractic assessment and management of patients with headache. It is based on the Royal College of Chiropractors’ Quality Standard on Headache which includes a practical flowchart and presents new chiropractic-specific guides on patient history taking, red flags, and the differential diagnosis of all the primary headaches, cervicogenic headache and medication-overuse headache. Best practice is described throughout the patient journey, with an emphasis on evidence-based, patient-centred care and interprofessional collaboration.

There are a wide range of different patient presentations associated with headache and the management of every patient will be different, requiring an individualised approach. However, this module provides the evidence, and descriptions of best practice, in order to be able to deliver high quality, evidence-informed care.

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    Adult Headaches - An Overview of Chiropractic Assessment and Management

    • Adult Headaches - An Overview of Chiropractic Assessment and Management CPD [1pt\hr]

    • Assessment: Adult Headaches - An Overview of Chiropractic Assessment and Management

    • RCC Chiropractic Quality Standards - Adult Headaches

    • RCC Headache - Chiropractic Assessment and Management Flowchart

Course Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course you will be able to

1) Understand the classification of headaches as well as the scale and impact that headaches have on those effected

2) Take a detailed case history of patients presenting with headaches, as well as understand the role of headache questionnaires and headache diaries

3) Consider a range of red flags to assess for signs and symptoms of potential serious pathology, and recognise when to make appropriate referrals

4) Recognise the clinical features, and be able to differentiate between, the main primary headaches, cervicogenic headaches and medication-overuse headache

5) Understand the evidence for the non-pharmacological care of patients presenting with primary headaches and cervicogenic headaches

6) Provide patient-centred care based on shared decision-making and promoting supportive self-management

CPD Hours/Points = 1



Stuart Smellie

Stuart is the Director of Academic Affairs for the Royal College of Chiropractors and has led a campaign to improve quality of care by promoting professional excellence, good clinical governance and the writing of the Royal College’s Quality Standards. He graduated from AECC in 1991 and has been involved in post-graduate education, in a number of different roles, for over 25 years. Stuart lectures in the UK and overseas on a variety of subjects including high quality evidence-based care, clinical governance, and professional standards. He is also involved with the EAC Special Interest Group for Clinical Chiropractic developing workshops in advanced practitioner skills. Stuart sits on the Professional Conduct Committee of the GCC and is also a chiropractic examiner. He has remained in clinical practice thought his career and has won multiple practice and personal awards.