Can my chiropractor treat my migraines?
migraine, sinus, cluster, stress, ocular, tension, etc., and they are all terrible. I have had my fair share of them myself. I remember before I became a chiropractor going for a drop-in appointment and telling the staff my head hurt and they would turn off the light but leave the door to the room cracked just enough so that I could see if I needed to move around. Then they would put a sign on the door telling the doctor I had one of my migraines. He would slowly open the door and adjust me in the dark. My goal in writing this is to give you a little background and insight as to WHY people get migraines and of course, a few tips on how to either get rid of them or at least manage them effectively with chiropractic care.
Migraine Headaches: They are horrible. Migraines are typically accompanied by light sensitivity, dizziness, visual disturbance, nausea, neck pain, and your head usually feels like it’s in a vice. For me it felt like my eyelashes hurt. They can last for hours or even days.
So, what is a Migraine Headache?
A migraine headache is rooted in the brain. It is a specific type of headache that causes severe, throbbing, or pulsating pain (usually on one side of the head) as well as nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
According to research by the Migraine Research Foundation:
Migraines are the third most prevalent illness in the world.
Approximately one out of every eight people worldwide suffer from migraine headaches.
The most common age at which people develop migraine headaches is between 18 and 44.
Close to 90 percent of people who suffer from a migraine have at least one family member who suffers from them as well.
This is why it is so important for everyone to understand their treatment options. This includes chiropractic care.
Signs of a Migraine Headache
There are two separate types of migraine headaches.
The first one is called a migraine headache without aura, meaning that people suffer a migraine headache without realizing it is coming. The second is called a migraine with aura. A Migraine aura can include but not limited to flashes of light, blind spots, or a tingling in the hands or face. Some have described auras as small holes of light or geographic lines in the visual field that move and grow.
What can trigger a Migraine?
Triggers vary from person to person. The most common triggers include stress, flashing or bright lights, loud noises and strong smells. Smoking, hormonal fluctuation, crying, certain medications, or even a smaller sinus or cervicogenic headache can morph into a migraine if left untreated. Food can also be a trigger such as alcohol (red wine especially), chocolate, caffeine, dairy, cheese, MSG, artificial sweeteners, bacon, hot dogs, and fermented or pickled food. Gender also plays into the equation of triggers. Females are three times more likely to get migraines over men.
Migraines can be debilitating and interfere with daily life. Traditional treatments often involve taking medication and these medications just do not touch these debilitating headaches. They can leave those who prefer not to risk the side effects of pain medicine without much recourse.
Fortunately, chiropractic care can provide relief for some who suffer from migraines and headaches without the use of drugs. Usually, the adjustment will allow the person just barely get enough relief to sleep, which then takes care of the migraine. A chiropractic adjustment does usually break this cycle, and at times there has been the patient that walks out of the office after a four- or five-day migraine with literally zero pain.
Chiropractic has also been clinically shown to help PREVENT migraines very successfully. One study showed chiropractic care to be as effective as Elavil (a migraine medication) in preventing migraine, with obviously fewer side effects.
Many medical professionals believe that migraine headaches involve issues related to nerve signals and blood flow. That is where a chiropractor can be helpful.
Some migraines and severe headaches can be caused by spinal misalignment known as cervicogenic headaches and tension headaches. Cervicogenic headaches are often confused with migraines as their symptoms can be so similar. The major difference lies in the root cause: migraines stem from the brain whereas cervicogenic headaches stem from the cervical spine. That’s what makes chiropractic treatment so successful for them. Essentially, when the top two bones in the neck are not functioning how they should, that will cause increased tension in the area around it. So, those muscles tighten up and become tense and you get the pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion associated with cervicogenic headaches.
An adjustment can ensure the bones are sitting and functioning the way they’re supposed to. Chiropractic adjustments reduce joint restrictions or misalignments in the spine and other joints in the body to reduce inflammation and improve function of both the affected joint and nervous system. By increasing joint mobility and improving your nervous system function and spinal health, your body has the ability to better manage the pain caused by migraines and tension headaches. Addressing the pain and its cause is important but treatment should not stop there. A holistic approach where we identify possible triggers. Any chiropractor treating chronic pain conditions should be looking at the big picture of the patient’s wellness.