Migraines are neurological in origin and are caused by the brain becoming over-excitable in certain areas. This can result in throbbing, pounding head pain. However, in some cases, there is no head pain. You may experience the other common symptoms of migraines:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and certain smells
- Dizziness or vertigo
- An aura — a visual disturbance that comes on before the attack
- Blurry vision
- Pain on one or both sides of the head
As many as 39 million Americans have migraines, including men, women, and children. This number jumps to 1 billion worldwide. Most sufferers fall in the age range of 15 to 55. Migraines are 3 times more common in women than in men and are even identified in infants as young as 18 months old.
What Causes Migraines?
This is an age-old question. No one is really certain as to why migraines occur. Some theories are that they are inherited as they often run in families. As many as 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a family member who also suffers.
Migraines happen when excited brain cells trigger one of the five nerves located in the brain, the trigeminal nerve. This nerve releases chemicals which irritate and cause blood vessels located on the surface of the brain to swell. In turn, these blood vessels send pain signals to the brainstem. Pain is usually felt around the eyes or temples. Some people have pain in their face, sinuses, jaw, or neck. They might even have a sensitivity to anything touching their head. Shaving or combing their hair can be intolerable.
Triggers of Migraines
Causes and triggers of migraines are two different things. A cause is what makes you likely to get migraines. A trigger can bring on a migraine. Most people know what triggers their migraines. If you do not, keeping a migraine diary and recording what you ate, what the weather was like, and what activities you took part in just before a migraine hit can help you see a pattern developing. The National Headache Foundation gives the following list of common triggers for migraines:
- Changes in your wake/sleep cycle
- Missing a meal, leading to low blood sugar
- Medications that cause blood vessels to swell
- Overusing medications to relieve headache pain
- Watching TV and movies, bright lights, sunlight, or fluorescent lighting
- Excessive noise
- Certain foods
Types of Migraines
The type of a migraine you are experiencing often has to do with the accompanying symptoms.
- Silent migraines: These are actually classified due to a missing symptom. These are migraines that occur without head pain but have the other classic symptoms of migraines.
- Ocular, optical, or ophthalmic migraines: These terms are interchangeable. These migraines cause vision loss or blindness lasting less than an hour, accompanied by head pain. They are sometimes called retinal migraines. They are rare and should be checked out by your doctor as soon as possible.
- Atypical or complex migraines: Associated with extended or exaggerated visual auras
- Sporadic hemiplegic migraines: These are rare migraines causing fever, weakness, seizures, and coma. Neurological symptoms may also accompany them such as memory loss and concentration problems. This can linger for weeks or months after a migraine goes away. Some people develop permanent problems with coordination and nystagmus (involuntary eye movement). Mild to severe intellectual disability may also occur.
- Vestibular migraines: This is a migraine associated with vertigo. You may have dizziness or loss of balance and nausea and vomiting.
- Abdominal migraines: These migraines have nothing to do with the head. It is believed that some children who have sporadic abdominal pain may actually be having an abdominal migraine. It is rare but is seen in adults as well.
Caring for Migraines Can Be Dangerous
There are so many ways to care for migraines. New products are being developed continuously. One such product that came on the market in 2013 is the migraine patch called Zecuity. It was a battery-operated patch that you wore on your arm or thigh. It delivered a dose of a medication called Sumatriptan, a common migraine medicine known to cause nausea. By using a patch, the nausea was eliminated. However, shortly after the FDA approved the patch and it became available to the American consumer, people began complaining of getting serious burns and scarring. Shortly thereafter, the company that produced the patch recalled it from the market, and it is no longer available. So, the question now becomes, “Is there an effective and safe way to care for migraines?” Thankfully, it does exist.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care and Migraines
Here at New England Spinal Care in Norwood, Massachusetts, we understand the importance of caring for the underlying cause of migraines to provide our patients with long-lasting relief. Migraines have been linked to a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine, particularly the C1 and C2 vertebrae. If these bones are out of place, they put the brainstem under stress, causing it to send improper signals to the brain. The flow of cerebrospinal fluid and blood can also be hindered.
We use a method that is gentle and safe to help realign these bones. In fact, we do not even pop or crack the neck to get positive results. The technique we used is based on scientific measurements and gentle encouragement of the bones to realign themselves naturally without adding any more stress or shock to the body. But does it work?
One study of 100 migraine patients revealed that all of them saw an improvement in the severity and frequency of migraines in only a couple of adjustments. Most of them saw their migraines go away and not return.