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Migraines and Chiropractic Care

What is a Migraine Headache?

Migraine headaches cause intense throbbing or pulsating pain in one area of the head. Typically, nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound accompanies migraines. Migraine attacks can cause severe pain for hours to days, sometimes preceded by warning symptoms known as aura (See definition below in Stage 2). Migraine headaches usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood and have four stages of progression, though you may not experience all stages.

Stages and Symptoms of Migraines

Migraine headache with auraStage 1: Prodrome
One or two days before a migraine, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Food cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Uncontrollable yawning

Stage 2: Aura
Aura may occur before or during migraine headaches. Auras are nervous system symptoms that are usually visual disturbances, however auras can also be touching sensations (sensory), movement (motor) or speech (verbal) disturbances.
Examples of aura include:

  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
  • Speech or language problems (aphasia)

Less commonly, an aura may be associated with limb weakness (hemiplegic migraine). Most people do not experience aura during or prior to a migraine attack.

Stage 3: Migraine Attack
When untreated, a migraine usually lasts from four to 72 hours, but the frequency with which headaches occur varies from person to person.
During a migraine, you may experience:

  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Pain that has a pulsating, throbbing quality
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds and sometimes smells
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting

Stage 4: Postdrome
The final phase, known as postdrome, occurs after a migraine attack. During this time you may feel drained and washed out, though some people report feeling mildly euphoric.

Man with a migraine headache

Tips on Dealing with Migraine Headaches

  1. See a chiropractor as soon as possible so the cause can be found and corrected.
  2. 9 out of 10 headaches originate in the neck.
  3. Never take medications that are not prescribed by a doctor.
  4. Quit smoking. Not only can smoking bring on a headache, it can make any headache worse.
  5. Avoid emotional stress by learning skills that will calm you (such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing), and step away from stressful situations.
  6. Lower physical stress through proper sleep and rest.
  7. If you stand a lot of time sitting, get up and stretch on a regular basis.
  8. Regular exercise can help reduce migraines. Try to exercise for 30 minutes on a daily basis.

Remember: Headaches are NOT normal.

Causes of Migraine Headaches

The cause of migraine headaches is not completely understood, however there are a number of factors that appear to play a role, including genetics, environmental factors, changes in the brainstem (the transition between the brain and the spinal cord), serotonin which helps regulate pain signals within the nervous system. Many people understand they have certain triggers that exacerbate migraine attacks.

Migraine headache triggers

  • Hormonal changes in women.
  • Foods. Aged cheeses, salty foods and processed foods. Skipping meals or fasting also can trigger attacks.
  • Food additives. Aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Drinks. Alcohol, especially wine, and highly caffeinated beverages.
  • Stress.
  • Sensory stimuli. Bright lights, sun glare, loud sounds or unusual smells.
  • Changes in wake-sleep pattern. Missing sleep or getting too much or even jet lag.
  • Physical factors. Intense physical exertion.
  • Changes in the environment. A change of weather or barometric pressure.
  • Medications. Oral contraceptives and vasodilators.

Risk factors for migraine headaches

  • Family history.
  • Age. Most people who have migraines have had their first migraine by 40 years old.
  • Sex. Women are three times more likely to have migraines.
  • Hormonal changes.

Chiropractic Treatment for Migraine Headaches and Lifestyle Changes

Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to have significant impact and improvement on the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches. Studies have shown chiropractic to be as effective as taking certain types of medication to prevent the onset of migraines. Additionally, one study showed that 22% of those who received chiropractic adjustments reported more than a 90% reduction of attacks and 49% reported a significant reduction of the intensity of each migraine. When your chiropractor delivers an adjustment to relieve the pressure from the nervous system, it allows the nervous system to function the way it was designed. Your nervous system controls and coordinates every single function of the body, when interference exists cause by pressure, the result can be pain and dysfunctions like migraines. In addition, changes to your lifestyle such as improving your diet and exercise habits can have a positive impact on your migraine attacks as well as overall improvement in your health.

At Kempsville Chiropractic, we get great results for those suffering from migraine headaches. Our initial approach will be to identify the root cause of your pain and work to correct the underlying cause. If you do not find and correct the source of your migraines, they will continue and may even get worse. Misalignments of the spinal bones (subluxations) put pressure on the nerves and can cause pain as well as interfere with the nervous system.

If you are experiencing migraines, and are looking for alternatives to medications, please contact the doctors of Kempsville Chiropractic at 757.467.5258, and arrange for a consultation. If you know of others who can benefit from this article, please share and recommend this article.



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These articles are the property of Kempsville Chiropractic. They may not be reused without permission. You are welcome to link to this article. Kempsville Chiropractic has been proudly serving Virginia Beach, Virginia; Chesapeake, Virginia; and Norfolk, Virginia since 1996.

The contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Lombardozzi. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience and research of Dr. Lombardozzi and his staff. Dr. Lombardozzi recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.

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