Chiropractic Care And Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are high on the list of health problems that debilitate people around the world each year. Gender seems to be a key factor in determining who is most likely to suffer from this ailment, with statistics showing a breakdown of 15% prevalence for women compared to just 6% for men.

Migraines occur in unpredictable episodes that bring on a throbbing headache that is often times presaged by fuzzy eyesight, undue susceptibility to bright light or loud sounds, and sometimes vomiting. Causes are linked to stress, sudden changes in routine, and consumption of certain foods like chocolate, cheese, and wine. If it’s uncertain that a patient is suffering from migraines or some other ailment, a clue that can clear up the diagnosis is to check if sensitivity to light and sound increases any nauseous feelings. If so, migraine headaches are the most likely culprit.

Patients with migraine headaches commonly report the following attributes:

    • 75% report associated neck pain
    • 70% have a family history of migraine headaches
    • 50% report known triggers, like changes in weather, stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, and eating certain foods
    • 46% report nasal congestion

Here is a typical case of a patient suffering from migraine headaches:

A 31 year old male sought out chiropractic care for his recurring migraine headaches, which began in 2010 without any clear reason or traumatic cause. His headaches became worse and increased in frequency from 1 headache per month to 1 per week. The patient described the headaches as pulsating pressure behind the eyes, tightness in the neck, and a sensitivity to bright light that increased the intensity of the headache. His only recourse for relief was to try and sleep. Previously the patient visited a Naturopath who recommended a dietary increase in magnesium rich foods, which he felt had a positive effect on treating the migraine. 

Before chiropractic treatment, a physical examination was given to the patient to rule out potential crisis causes like tumors, vision disorders, and vascular problems. Afterwards, a chiropractic analysis was undertaken and several qualities were discovered, including:

  • Sensitive trigger points in the lower neck and upper back muscles
  • Reported pain with provocative palpitation of C 1/2 right-sided facets brought into left rotation

By stimulating these areas the migraine symptoms were actually induced. The diagnosis pointed towards the cervical spine and associated muscle palpitation as the cause of the migraine headache symptoms. Treatment included spinal manipulation 1-2 times per week for 8 weeks, specifically of the cervical spine.  Weekly massage therapy for post-isometric and trigger point pressure release of sub occipital and upper trapezius muscles followed. Finally, multimodal multidisciplinary care consisting of exercise, relaxation, stress and nutritional counseling concluded the treatment. This resulted in the patient reporting no migraine headaches after the first treatment and by the fifth, being able to return to the gym for workouts five times a week.

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