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Migraine Headaches

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is a type of headache that can be classified into two types, classic (with aura) and common (without aura). Classic migraine is preceded by an aura, which is a group of warning symptoms that indicates a pending migraine headache. Common migraines do not have an aura.

Cause: The cause of migraine headaches is still unknown. There have been many theories that are now being studied to determine the true cause of Migraine headaches.

Theories:

  1. A stimulating factor or trigger starts the process. This could be a particular food, or physical activity for example.
  2. Vascular Theory. Constriction of blood vessels causes the "aura" or prodrome. Vasoconstriction causes the body to release chemicals to reverse the constriction rapidly. The resulting dilation of the blood vessels causes increased pressure resulting in a headache.
  3. Nervous system malfunction. An unstable autonomic nervous system (which is responsible for unconscious processes in the body) can cause abnormal brain activity

4. Restricted and /or painful movement or misalignment of the cervical spine. This is a cause that is receiving much attention recently because of the correlation between proper biomechanics of the neck and the proximity of blood vessels and nerves. Misalignment or decreased range of motion can interrupt blood flow and nerve function, which in turn can trigger the processes responsible for the mechanisms mentioned above. Closely related to this theory is the idea that a tension headache can progress into a migraine headache. Tension headaches can also be caused by misalignment or restricted movement of the cervical spine.

Risk factors: They include a strong family history of migraine, some medical conditions, and the use of certain medications (such as birth control pills). Migraines affect females (17.6%) more than males (6%).

Patient History: A migraine can occur without warning or provocation, but most often occurs after a particular triggering event. Triggers can range from a stressful time or traumatic event, physical exertion, rapid hormonal changes (like puberty or menopause), rapid blood sugar changes from missed meals, fasting etc., or foods that cause blood vessel dilation or constriction. Seasonal allergies or environmental allergies along with certain prescription medications such as estrogen or nitroglycerin can also trigger migraine headaches. Recently, studies have shown a close correlation between cervical spine biomechanical dysfunction (misalignment, reduced or restricted movement of the spine) and migraine headaches.

Symptoms:

  • Headache
    • throbbing, pulsating
    • usually worst on the sides of the head
    • may be on only one side of the head
    • may be severe or dull ∑ commonly lasts 6 to 48 hours
  • Stiffness or soreness in the neck. Decreased range of motion in the neck or pain with movement of the neck can be an indicator that your migraine headaches originate somewhere in the cervical spine.
  • Presence of these associated symptoms distinguish migraine from other types of headache:
    • nausea, vomiting
    • sensitivity to light and/or sound
    • anorexia (no desire to eat)
  • An aura, which is any of various symptoms that indicate an impending migraine, may precede the headache. This may include visual phenomena like zig-zag patterns in a visual field. In a complicated migraine, there may also be numbness or weakness on one side of the body, affecting the arm, leg, or face over the course of minutes.
  • Various neurologic symptoms may be present during the headache and disappear after the headache is relieved (dizziness, tingling or other symptoms).

Treatment: Treatment strategies are most successful when a multi-disciplinary approach is taken. Remedies such as:

  • Stress reduction through exercise and relaxation techniques is appropriate.
  • Identifying and avoiding triggering events or substances is important in preventing future migraine episodes.
  • Chiropractic adjusting of the cervical and thoracic spines has been an effective way to reduce frequency, duration and severity of migraine headaches. This approach is most effective when applied early on in a migraine episode. Along with chiropractic adjusting, soft tissue massage and electrotherapies to reduce tension in the musculature are also effective tools to treat migraine headaches.
  • Acupressure points over the muscles between the thumb and the first digit. Also pressure applied with the thumb to the point on the forehead between the eyebrows.
  • Nutrition:
    • 1. Foods to avoid:
      • Red wine, beer, cheese, nuts, chocolate, citrus juice, coffee, tea, alcohol, niacin, processed foods, preservatives and MSG. Do not skip meals. Some migraine sufferers have a blood sugar regulation abnormality called reactive hypoglycemia, which can be minimized with frequent, small meals. 2.
    • Supplementation:
      • Herbs: Feverfew ( tanacetum parthenium), and Petadolex‚ (butter root- petasites hybridus)
      • Vitamins and minerals: calcium, vit. D, B2, B6, magnesium, 5-HTP (hydroxy-troptophan), omega-3 oils (EPA, DHA) Supplements have the most effect when taken regularly and as a preventative measure.

Another helpful thing to try while having a migraine headache is lying down in a quiet, dark room. Applying a cold wash cloth over the eyes and hot packs on the hands can also help alleviate some of the symptoms.

Follow our wellness recomendations for absolute health.

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