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How Migraines Might Change Your Brain Anatomy

By Michael Cole

A study published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology has found that migraine headaches might lead to long-lasting changes in the structure of the brain itself. This goes against traditional views which saw migraines as painful but essentially benign occurrences that held no long-term consequences for the brain’s functioning. This research, however, contradicts the prior point of view and suggests that the brain’s anatomy might be changed on multiple levels by migraine headaches.

Brain lesions, white matter abnormalities, and altered brain volume are all risks found by the new study to be associated with migraine headaches.  For patients who had migraine with aura, these risks were even higher.

Breaking Down the Study

The study focused on magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brains of people with migraines and compared them to those without. The images showed that for participants with migraine headaches, the likelihood of experiencing brain lesions, silent abnormalities, and brain volume changes was much higher.

For the patients who had migraine with aura the risk increased for white matter brain lesions by 68 percent while migraine with no aura increased the risk by 34 percent, both in comparison to participants without migraines. Infarct-like abnormalities risk increased by 44 percent for those who displayed migraine with aura symptoms in comparison to those with migraines without aura. The changes in brain volume were much more common in both groups of migraine participants when compared to those without migraines. 

Ten to 15 percent of the general population suffer from migraine headaches which often lead to considerable burdens in terms of personal life, occupational life, and social costs. This new research hopes that its findings may contribute to innovative new developments in treating migraines. Knowing which areas of the brain are affected by migraine headache is a large step in this direction because it gives scientists target areas for future study. By understanding more deeply the nature of these structural changes in the brain, and how they relate to frequency and length of the migraine attacks, can uncover valuable insights. In addition, the details of migraine-related brain lesions and how they influence mental functioning requires deeper investigation.

Currently, migraines are treated with painkillers by traditional medical procedure. Alternative forms of therapy, such as chiropractic care, offer a drug-free option. Migraines are mysterious in that medical science has yet to discover their cause. The pain and sensitivity they cause is excruciating enough to warrant intense study.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in McKinney, Tex.

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