Migraine headaches are a symptom of a larger neurological condition which may also cause nausea, visual disturbances, and dysfunctional bodily perceptions (such as numbness). When a migraine attack occurs, it can be disruptive, terrifying, and extremely painful. For some, living with this condition signifies an inability to perform consistently at work or to enjoy life. In many cases, medications are not the answer (more on this subject below).
Fortunately, chiropractic care is an extremely successful method of combating this neurological disease. Countless patients have benefitted from the use of chiropractic in the quest to start living without the pain and neurological symptoms of migraine.
Generally speaking, migraine attacks can last from four to 72 hours. Migraine is differentiated from other types of headaches in that the condition often presents as a four-stage process from start to finish. Not all migraineurs suffer from all four phases all of the time; a person who experiences all of them is considered a ‘classic’ migraineur.
These four stages begin with the prodrome, which may be experienced as changes in mood (depression or elation), sleepiness, digestive problems (diarrhea or constipation), and/or stiff muscles. The second stage is called the aura , which involves visual dysfunction such as flashes of white, black, or colored lights or blurred vision. Other neurological symptoms may also occur at this time, including olfactory or auditory hallucinations, numbness, or vertigo.
At some point, the migraine patient will begin to experience extreme pain on one side of the head (unilaterally). Sensitivity to light, odors, motion, and sounds may accompany this pain. Nausea is also common. The final stage is the prodrome, wherein the sufferer will begin to feel relief from pain and may be tired, depressed, and may continue to have some level of pain and/or stomach problems. Some patients experience a burst of energy or euphoria.
Migraine and Medicine
Generally speaking, when the medical community is unable to provide a definitive explanation of a condition (as is the case with migraine and other disorders, like fibromyalgia), the usual course of action is to treat symptoms as they appear. Hence, most of the drugs used to treat migraine were not designed for migraine.
The usual medications prescribed for migraine pain include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), butalbital combinations (sedative in combination with aspirin, acetaminophen, and/or caffeine) triptans, anti-nausea medications, and opiates. These drugs carry a number of risks, as outlined below:
- Addiction (Opiates);
- Gastrointestinal Bleeding (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, when taken long-term and in high doses);
- Kidney and Liver Damage (long-term NSAID usage); and
- Rebound Headaches (Opiates, Butalbital, and NSAIDs).
Neurologists also often prescribe preventive medications to subvert migraine attacks before they happen. Again, such drugs are, in many cases, not specifically designed for migraine and are not effective with all migraineurs. For example, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, antihistamines, and beta blockers are all prescribed to prevent migraine. Most migraine patients have experienced, in varying degrees, the damaging and unwanted side effects from drugs that were ineffective.
Chiropractic Treatment of Migraine Headaches
The cervical spine—the neck—was designed to have a C-shaped curve (known as a lordosis). This design is no accident of nature; it has a very specific purpose. The neck is responsible for bearing the considerable burden of the weight of the head. A subluxation , or misalignment in the neck can irritate the nerves that travel between the brain and the spine. Such a misalignment can interfere with the normal workings of the central nervous system and leave the body vulnerable to chemical imbalances in the brain.
A reverse curvature in the neck is often found in migraine sufferers. This is called a cervical kyphosis, and it can be caused by trauma or abnormal posture. Chiropractic care provides a long-term solution from pain and other symptoms by correcting this spinal misalignment. While a painkiller may provide a temporary solution, targeting the cause of migraine is obviously a more effective and intuitive choice. Chiropractic care also carries no side effects.