Migraines and Chiropractic Care

Migraines are extremely disruptive, and according to a study in 2016 have become a major cause of disability.

What is a Migraine Headache?

Lady experiencing a throbbing migraine headacheA migraine headache is distinguished from a standard headache by the pulsating or throbbing pain typically affecting one side of the head. Migraines are often accompanied by a sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, or even vomiting. Depending on the severity of the migraine, the throbbing pain can last for hours or even days. Sometimes migraine headaches are preceded by an aura (see Stage 2 below), which many identify as a warning symptom.

Some individuals experience frequent migraine headaches that may have started in childhood or as a young adult.

The 4 Stages and Symptoms of Migraines

There are 4 recognized stages of migraine headaches, but not everyone will experience all 4.

Stage 1: Prodrome

A prodrome is an early warning of an upcoming migraine. One or two days before a migraine, you may encounter symptoms such as:

  • Constipation
  • Feelings of depression
  • Food cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Uncontrollable yawning

Stage 2: Aura

An aura warning symptom of oncoming migraineAn aura is a warning sensation that may occur before or during migraine headaches. Auras are nervous system symptoms that are typically visual disturbances, however, auras can be touching sensations (sensory), movement (motor), or speech disturbances (verbal).

Examples of an aura include:

  • Visual phenomena: seeing various shapes, flashes or bright spots of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles sensations in your leg or arm
  • Speech or language difficulties (aphasia)

Less commonly, an aura may be correlated with limb weakness, known as a hemiplegic migraine. Most people will not experience an aura before or during a migraine headache attack.

Stage 3: Migraine Headache Attack

Left untreated, a migraine headache usually lasts from four to 72 hours. However, the frequency with which migraine headaches occur will vary from person to person.

During a migraine headache you may experience:

  • Pain on one or both sides of your head
  • Pain with a pulsating, throbbing quality
  • Sensitivity to sound, light, and sometimes smells
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness, sometimes accompanied by fainting

Stage 4: Postdrome

The final phase, known as postdrome, occurs after a migraine headache attack has passed. During this time you may feel physically drained, although some people report feeling mildly euphoric.

Causes of Migraine Headaches

The cause of migraine headaches is not completely understood, however, several factors appear to play a role, including genetics, environmental factors, changes in the brainstem (the transition between the brain and the spinal cord), serotonin which helps regulate pain signals within the nervous system. Many people understand they have certain triggers that exacerbate migraine attacks.

Triggers of Migraine Headaches

  • Changes in sleep patterns. Missing sleep or getting too much or even jet lag.
  • Changes in the environment. A change of weather or barometric pressure.
  • Drinks. Alcohol, especially wine, and highly caffeinated beverages.
  • Foods. Aged cheeses, salty foods, and processed foods. Skipping meals or fasting can also trigger attacks.
  • Food additives. Aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Hormonal changes in women.
  • Medications. Oral contraceptives and vasodilators (blood vessel dilation).
  • Physical factors. Intense physical exertion.
  • Sensory stimulation. Bright lights, sun glare, loud sounds or unusual smells.
  • Stress. Physical, emotional, or chemical stress.

Risk Factors for Migraine Headaches

  • Age. Most people who have migraines will have experienced their first migraine headache by 40 years old.
  • Family history.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • Sex. Women are 3 times more likely to have migraine headaches.

Chiropractic Treatment for Migraine Headaches

Chiropractic adjustments have a significant impact and improvement on the intensity and frequency of migraine headaches. According to studies, chiropractic care can prevent the onset of migraine headaches as effectively as certain types of medications. Additionally, a study reported that 22% of patients who received chiropractic adjustments had a greater than 90% reduction of attacks, and 49% reported a significant reduction in the intensity of their migraines.

Chiropractic adjustments relieve the pressure on the nervous system. This allows the nervous system to function properly. Since the nervous system controls every function of your body, interference to the nervous system caused by pressure on the nerves can result in pain and dysfunctions like migraine headaches.

Changes to your lifestyle, like better exercise habits and improving your diet, can also create a positive impact on your migraine attacks in addition to improving your health.

At World Class Chiropractic, we get great results for those experiencing migraine headaches. Dr. Silverston will work to identify the root cause of your pain and correct the underlying cause. If you allow the source of your migraine headaches to go untreated, they will continue and may even get worse. Subluxations (misalignments) of the spine will put pressure on the nerves, which can cause pain as well as interfere with the nervous system.

If you are experiencing migraine headaches and are looking for alternatives to medications, please contact Dr. Steve Silverston at 410.461.3435 and arrange for a consultation. You may also use our convenient online form to request an appointment. If you know of others who can benefit from this article, please share and recommend this article.