It’s estimated that over 36 million Americans suffer with chronic migraines each year, a condition that can be completely debilitating and destructive to quality of life. Many people don’t even realize that they are suffering with migraines—they may believe that they only experience severe headaches, eye strain, or digestive discomfort, all of which can manifest as symptoms of a migraine. A migraine can take many forms:
A classic migraine is often accompanied by aura, which refers to the changes that occur in sensory perception prior to the onset of the migraine. This feels like a severe headache, as well as potentially dizziness, ringing in the ears, visual disturbances (spots, lights, zigzag lines) and light sensitivity. Migraines without aura may feel like a severe headache with not sensory changes or disturbances, accompanied by lethargy, digestive distress (nausea and vomiting), or aphasia.
Relatively rare, ocular migraines cause a loss of eyesight in one eye for a short period of time (typically under 60 minutes). A regular migraine often affects eyesight, too, but in both eyes.
Silent migraines include the symptoms of a classic migraine, but without the accompanying headache that migraines are so commonly known for. A silent migraine can be hard to notice, especially if it occurs frequently and is believed to be “normal.” Silent migraines may appear as mood swings, intense food cravings, inexplicable exhaustion, stiffness in the neck, and digestive malfunction.
Hemiplegic migraines are rare, and its symptoms are known to be similar to that of a stroke. Hemiplegic migraines can cause extreme muscle weakness and temporary paralysis, severe, throbbing pain, numbness or tingling in the hand and arm, loss of balance and coordination, and dizziness. It may also be accompanied by digestive upset, including nausea and vomiting.
Vestibular migraines are characterized by the presence of vertigo and dizziness. A vestibular migraine may not include a headache (similarly to a silent migraine), but will differ in that the symptoms are centered on loss of balance, dizziness, disorientation and confusion, and digestive distress (including nausea and vomiting).
Typically linked to sudden changes in hormonal levels, menstrual migraines can occur as a result of hormonal birth control, hormone replacement therapy, menopause, pregnancy, or normal menstruation. Menstrual migraines may or may not include a headache, digestive distress, throbbing head pain, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Similarly to vestibular and silent migraines, abdominal migraines are rarely accompanied by a headache. Instead, the migraine is centralized to the abdominal area and includes nausea, stomach pain, cramps, lethargy and exhaustion, and a loss of appetite. Abdominal migraines are most common in children, and are often predictive of future migraines as an adult.
Unlike classic migraines, basilar migraines are accompanied by a brainstem aura. Brainstem auras affect vision and balance, and can create double vision, vertigo, and lack of coordination.
Cyclic migraines occur in regular cycles. Most people who experience cyclic migraines will suffer 10 attacks a month. Their migraines will persist for up to two days, and then disappear for 1 to 6 weeks.
The Role of Chiropractic Care
While it is not known exactly what causes migraines and migraine headaches, there is currently no medically recognized cure. Individuals who experience chronic migraines are often prescribed prescription medications or over-the-counter medication, and advised to utilize it when they sense the first symptoms that indicate a migraine may be impending (called premonitory symptoms). The premonitory phase of a migraine may not include pain at all, and chronic migraine sufferers may train themselves to recognize symptoms like stiffness in their neck, unusual lethargy, yawning, or more frequent urination days before the actual migraine manifests. Unfortunately, this can be a difficult burden to live with, causing chronic migraine sufferers to miss events, forfeit appointments and plans, and become absent from important parts of their daily lives to deal with the pain and discomfort that migraines produce.
This is where chiropractic care makes itself known as an invaluable resource for addressing migraine frequency and severity. While the exact mechanism by which chiropractic care delivers migraine relief is not fully known, it is known that chiropractic can provide significant relief for chronic migraine sufferers. Migraine treatment interventions utilizing chiropractic care may include postural correction (adjustments, spinal traction, Chiropractic BioPhysics®) or manual manipulation of muscle and tissue (craniosacral therapy, myofascial trigger point therapy, soft tissue release).
While some individuals are more prone to migraines than others, there are many triggers associated with the onset of a migraine. These include stress, medications, certain foods, hunger, hormonal changes, flickering and flashing lights, changes in air pressure and altitude, dehydration, sleep deprivation, alcohol, and strong food, chemical, and perfume smells.
Chiropractic care works as a holistic form of treatment to address several kinds of imbalances in the body. In addition to helping realign the spine, chiropractic care can also relieve muscles, ligaments, and tendons that are over-stressed and strained. Chiropractic care can regulate the central and peripheral nervous systems, both of which are highly implicated in headaches, sensory disturbances, and nerve pain. Chiropractic care can improve immune function by decreasing stagnation in the body and helping to circulate blood and lymph around the body, aiding in the detoxification and purging of waste. Chiropractic care can also boost the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which aids in supplying nutrients and oxygen to the brain, as well as removing cellular waste.
The holistic and comprehensive way in which chiropractic care addresses many imbalances in the body simultaneously makes it a powerful intervention for chronic migraine sufferers. Overall, chiropractic care helps to decrease inflammation in the body, restore optimal neuronal function and connectivity, release tight and over-stressed muscular regions of the body, and support mobility. If you or someone you love suffers from chronic migraines, consider seeking expert chiropractic treatment. Your expert chiropractor will complete a thorough assessment to fully understand your symptoms, lifestyle triggers, and the way that your body can best be supported to help restore your highest level of health, vitality, and comfort. Find your expert chiropractor today.