Anyone who suffers with migraines knows that a migraine is more than just a headache. It is an intense and throbbing pain which often occurs in one side of the head, although it can be more generalised. This is the classic migraine that people all over the world suffer with on a daily basis.
Initial tell-tale signs and symptoms include some or all of the following: wavy lines, oil blotches, spots or different coloured lights ‘dancing’ in front of your eyes. These symptoms develop into a whole range of more serious symptoms such as general irritability, sensitivity to light, hallucinations, depression, a sensation of numbness, gastrointestinal changes or discomfort. Finally the pain begins and may last for hours or even days. It can range from a mild pain through to more intense feelings of agony, which can leave the person exhausted.
Although the actual causes of migraines are not fully understood, there are a number of different theories.
Vascular Theory: It is thought that the initial constriction of the arterioles causes the visual symptoms in advance of the headache. The constriction leads to a lack of oxygen, which causes the localised release of serotonin. This release of serotonin causes vasodilation that causes the associated arteries to widen, leading to the headache. This constriction and dilation sensation is often associated with the ‘throbbing’ you may experience in the temples as the pain starts; as the arteries widen the pain gets worse and worse.
Nervous System: These theories suggest that rapid changes in activity of nerve cells in the brain cell and in particular the brain stem, have been associated with migraine in combination with a chemical messenger called serotonin. This reaction can be the result of an unstable autonomic nervous system and reduced magnesium levels, which results in destabilised nerve membranes or abnormal brain electrical activity (EEG).
Migraines appear at intervals with days, weeks or months between attacks rather than being a daily headache. Although migraine is not life threatening, we know how it can impact on your quality of life. Your Chiropractor will take an in-depth case history which will include questions on the exact location of your pain, probable causes, types of pain, exacerbating and relieving factors, referral pattern of pain, family history and your past medical history. A full physical examination will be made involving: postural observation, spinal palpation, soft tissue assessment, orthopaedic and neurological tests. X-rays may taken if deemed necessary.
Once a diagnosis has been confirmed then your Chiropractor will discuss specific treatment options with you. This will most likely include a few stages involving spinal adjustments to your neck to reduce the cause of joint restriction and inflammation. This will allow your body to regain movement and freedom, alleviating the migraine. Soft tissue work will take place to the tight/weak associated musculature which will reduce tension and minimise the chance of spinal misalignment re-occurence. The combination of spinal adjusting and soft tissue therapy will allow your joints and muscles to relax and function properly. To help minimise/prevent migraine re-occourence our Chiropractor will also recommend rest and the use of ice packs to reduce inflammation and then once healing is underway, rehabilitation exercises involving home stretching and strengthening exercises, will be prescribed to improve stability. Other supporting strategies your Chiropractor may include are:
- Stress Management
- Identifying and Avoiding/ Managing Triggers
- Soft Tissue Therapy
- Heat and Hot Pack Use
- Rest, Including Sleep
It is important to be patient with your care as it can take weeks, and sometimes months, of treatment to improve and correct. Continuity of care and attending your appointments is very important as the treatments work on retraining and strengthening the muscles and ligaments that support the joints. Each visit builds on the one before.