The cause of migraines may not be fully understood by the medical field, but the sensation and effect of these debilitating headaches are all too familiar to those who suffer from them regularly. The severe throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and even nausea or vomiting that characterize a migraine attack can make it impossible to carry on your regular daily activities.
Whether you experience migraines regularly or rarely, finding relief may be difficult, as multiple factors can contribute to triggering them. A fuller understanding of what differentiates a migraine headache from other types of headaches can help patients find effective treatments. In addition, patients can also learn to avoid triggers and identify therapies that may reduce the number of migraines they suffer.
What Is a Migraine?
Migraines are severe headaches that usually occur on one side of the head, rather than being felt symmetrically. They can affect patients of any age from children to adults. However, most people experience their first migraine sometime in adolescence; the frequency and intensity tend to peak in a person’s thirties and then decline as they get older. Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men. Migraines also tend to run in families—if you have a family member who gets migraines, the risk of you developing them too increases.
Migraines can be characterized by four stages, although not everybody who gets migraines goes through all stages. Prodrome occurs one or two days before a migraine, with subtle symptoms that can include mood changes, food cravings, neck stiffness, fluid retention, frequent yawning, increased urination, and/or constipation. Auras, reversible symptoms of the nervous system, might happen before a migraine attack or during one. An aura can include seeing bright spots or flashes of light, temporary vision loss, difficulty speaking, pins and needles in an arm or leg, and weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body. These effects tend to build up gradually over a several minutes and last up to an hour. Visual disturbances are the most common type of migraine aura.
The migraine attack, or the throbbing head pain we usually think of, can last four to 72 hours if left untreated. In addition to the pain, you may feel sensitivity to sensory stimuli such as light, sound, smell, and touch. Some patients are also affected by nausea and vomiting. If you feel drained and confused for up to a day after a migraine, you’re experiencing post-drome. At this point, sudden head movement may briefly bring the pain back.
What Causes Migraines?
While researchers are studying many promising avenues to pinpoint what causes migraines, the fact is that the phenomenon is poorly understood. However, many factors can trigger migraines in those who are susceptible to them. These include:
- Hormonal changes
- Alcohol (especially wine)
- Bright or flashing lights, loud noises, and strong smells
- Too little or too much sleep
- Intense physical exertion
- Changes in weather or barometric pressure
- Certain medications
- Certain foods or food additives
Checking the cervical spine for issues contributing to migraines is very commonly missed. Some patients are prescribed medication to either stop migraine attacks after they have occurred (known as acute or abortive treatment) or to be taken on an ongoing basis to prevent migraine onset. Patients are also usually advised to try lifestyle changes such as staying hydrated, keeping a headache diary to track frequency and identify triggers, sticking to a sleep and eating routine, and exercising regularly.
Finding a treatment that works for you can be a frustrating process of trial and error, and many medications given to migraine patients come with unpleasant side effects of their own. For those looking to treat their migraines naturally, chiropractic care is a promising alternative that can reduce both the frequency and severity of migraines.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help with Migraines
Chiropractic treatment is focused on restoring the proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system. At Divine Spine, we’ve found that dysfunction of the cervical spine (the neck) is a common contributing cause to headaches, including migraines. Correcting the misalignment addresses the root cause of tension and irritation, rather than masking it. Our gentle care is especially suited to migraine patients seeking relief from pain because our computerized technology delivers precise adjustments without twisting or popping the spine. If you’re looking for a long-term solution that doesn’t involve drugs, we can help.
We start with a comprehensive exam that includes digital X-rays of the neck and upper back and a computerized posture analysis. Based on our findings, we then create an individualized treatment plan to gently restore free movement, fix alignment, and support ongoing wellness with exercise and stretches to build strength and stability. Migraines don’t have to be a constant in your life. Divine Spine can help you live pain-free. To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us here today.