Right now in the UK, over 190,000 people are suffering from a migraine attack. Despite the number of people affected by migraines, it’s still not know why they occur. It’s thought the genetics and environmental factors play a role. For those who suffer with migraines, you may not know that chiropractic care for migraines can help prevent you from suffering.
Quick facts about migraines:
- Migraines are a recurrent type of severe headache which, for some people, will happen throughout their lifetime.
- They’re most commonly described as episodes of disabling pain with headache, feeling or being sick, and sensitivity to normal levels of light and sounds.
- They can affect people of all ages (even young children).
- The head pain is usually one-sided, pulsating, and may worsen with normal physical activity (such as climbing the stairs).
- They can last from a few hours to a few days, and on average happen once or twice a month- for some people they have one a year, for others- one a week.
- Research has shown that in the USA and the UK, only half of people with a migraine had seen a doctor for this problem in the last twelve months, and only two-thirds of them had been diagnosed correctly. As a result, many migraine sufferers are reliant on over-the-counter medication and have poorly-managed migraine symptoms.
- Although migraine attacks affect a significant number of people the triggering processes for the headaches are not fully understood.
- At least 60% of people who suffer with migraine never consult their GP because they believe nothing can be done to help them. (Source)
- For many people the symptoms of migraine are a mixture of more than one type. This is why many specialists, including chiropractors, now talk about a “headache continuum”, with the less disabling mild tension headache at one end of the scale, and severely disabling migraines at the other.
What causes migraines?
The truth is- no one really knows what causes a migraine. It may be that abnormal brain activity affects the chemicals, nerve signals and blood vessels deep in the brain. The release of inflammatory substances around these structures may be what causes pain.
It’s possible that your genes also make you more likely to suffer. There are several possible triggers that can lead to a migraine attack, including hormonal, emotional, dietary, physical, environmental or chemical/medicinal factors. These can vary from person to person and as such, it’s important to find out what your triggers are and learn how to manage them. This may be by avoiding certain types of foods, keeping to a regular sleep pattern or reducing chemical stressors such as stopping smoking.
Types of migraine
There are seven different classes of migraines- and some of these have further subclasses. We’re going to focus on the main two:
Migraine with aura
This type of migraine accounts for around 10-30% of people with migraines. These type of migraines do not present with an aura. In this case, aura means neurological symptoms, most commonly visual disturbances. These can present up to an hour before or during the migraine, and you may experience:
- Blind spots
- Coloured spots
- Seeing sparkles, stars, flashing lights or zig-zags
- Tunnel vision
You might also experience:
- Numbness or tingling
- Pins and needles
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Dizziness or a feeling of spinning
Migraine without aura
These generally last for between 4 to 72 hours. Usually, you’ll feel a headache on one side of your head, which may throb or pulsate. They can affect your daily life and generally worsen with everyday exercise (such as walking or climbing stairs). Some people who suffer with these types of migraines also report feeling or being sick, having diarrhoea or being sensitive to light or sound.
This is the most common type of migraine accounting for 70-90% of attacks.
Chiropractic Treatment for Migraines: Prevention is better than cure
Chiropractic treatment has been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks, and is therefore recommended as a treatment for migraine prevention. One study of 127 migraine sufferers in Australia found that those that received chiropractic treatment had fewer attacks and needed to take less medication. More than 80% of the study participants blamed stress for leading to their migraine attacks. The researchers therefore suggest that chiropractic care might physically help reduce the body’s reaction to stress.
Recent research studies suggest that chiropractic treatment for migraines might also be as efficient as amitryptaline, propranolol and topiramate in the prophylactic management of migraine.
Your chiropractor will provide hands on care and advice across a range of areas. This includes nutritional support, lifestyle management, and exercise. As such, you can work with Philippa to determine a “Migraine Prevention Programme” that works for you. Your treatment programme will address many of the factors that may contribute to migraine. This includes postural issues, muscle tension in the upper back, neck and shoulders, and restriction of movement in the neck and upper spine. Chiropractic care for migraine prevention can include nutritional support, acupuncture or dry needling, manual therapy, soft tissue techniques and more- all your treatment is bespoke to your needs.
If you have any doubts about whether a specific treatment type is suitable for you, please consult your chiropractor or GP.
Ever wondered what it feels like to experience migraine? Watch the video below.
Bryans, R., Descarreaux, M., Duranleau, M., Marcoux, H., Potter, B., Ruegg, R., & White, E. (2011). Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 34(5), 274-289.
Chaibi A, Tuchin PJ, Russell MB. Manual therapies for migraine: a systematic review. J Headache Pain. 2011;12:127–133. doi: 10.1007/s10194-011-0296-6.
Nelson CF, Bronfort G, Evans R, Boline P, Goldsmith C, Anderson AV (1998) The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headaches. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 21: 511-519.