Migraines are quite debilitating and are known mostly for pounding and throbbing head pain often only on one side of the head. They may also be accompanied by:
- Supersensitivity to light, sounds, and certain odors
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual disturbances
The exact reason migraines happen is unclear and has long confused those in the medical field. For some time now, the conclusion has been that the cause had to do with problems of the blood vessels in the head. However, some new research has shed a different light on this theory. The fact is when blood vessels constrict, they can cause pain. Nonetheless, the pain of migraines seems to be originating with a malfunction of the central nervous system.
How Migraines Progress
It is little understood what processes take place in the brain leading to migraines. The progression of the physical and chemical events is unknown for now. What has been discovered is that a cascade of biochemical reactions happens to cause an inflammatory response and an overexcitement of the trigeminal nerve. What is the trigeminal nerve? It is a major pathway that controls pain sensations in the head and face. This overexcitement spreads to other nerves in the meninges (the protective membrane that covers the brain) and can cause pain and other symptoms of migraines.
Contributing Factors to Migraines
While research is still being done to find the exact cause of migraines, the following are some theories as to what may be underlying causes for migraines:
- Inflammation of the maxillary nerve – a branch of the trigeminal nerve that runs behind the cheekbone and is responsible for sensations in the mouth and nose
- Neuropeptides (small protein-like molecules) that cause pain receptors to activate due inflammation
- Low levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that controls sleep, appetite, and mood) causing a painful constriction of blood vessels
- Hormonal fluctuations, particularly of estrogen, in women
- A dietary deficiency in magnesium which is vital to nerve function
- The release of nitric oxide (a chemical that causes blood vessels to dilate) by overactive neurons
- An abnormality in the way cells transport calcium ions, which affects nerve signals
While each migraine is as unique as the person experiencing it, there are specific triggers that may make it likely for a migraine will occur. They usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Loud noises – construction work or loud music
- Hunger or dehydration
- Bright lights – direct sunlight or light from a movie screen
- Weather changes – barometric pressure, temperature changes, and humidity
- Strong odors – perfume, cologne, or air fresheners
- Hormone changes – menstruation, birth control pills, pregnancy, or hormone replacement therapy
- Physical activity – exercise or moving heavy objects
- Emotional stress levels either increasing or decreasing
- Certain foods and chemical additives – chocolate, alcohol, nuts, MSG, aged cheeses, processed meats (hot dogs or cold cuts), too much or too little caffeine, and artificial sweeteners
- Sleep pattern changes – too much or too little rest
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and migraines download our complimentary e-book by clicking the image below.
How Migraines with Aura Differ
Migraines with aura are basically the same thing as migraines without. The one major difference is the aura, a feeling or sensation you get before the actual head pain and other symptoms occur. This occurs in about a third of all migraines. In some cases, you may get an aura and never get the head pain to follow. The aura is believed to be connected to the part of your brain that processes signals from your senses and is activated by an electrical wave.
Some people begin to get warning signs days or hours before they experience a migraine. This is a pre-headache phase and can include:
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Stiff neck muscles
- Being cranky or hyper
- Craving certain foods
- Feeling tired
- Yawning repeatedly
- The urge to urinate more often
An aura begins about an hour or so before the head pain sets in. It is more than distorted vision. It can affect any of your senses and may include:
- Partial vision loss in one or both eyes
- Flashing lights
- Seeing, hearing, or smelling things not there
- Blind spots
- Seeing zigzag patterns
- Problem with speech
- Tingling, numbness, or prickling feeling
The aura generally lasts under an hour and may overlap with the head pain. Interestingly, those with migraines are at a higher risk of heart disease, especially if they have migraines accompanied by an aura. Stroke risk also increases with these patients. It is unknown why this is the case. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are also often seen in migraine sufferers.
Find the Right Way to Care for Migraines
For those who have to cope with migraines regularly, the approach taken to care for this is to try to stay ahead of the pain. This means taking medication as soon as the pain begins and resting in a cool, dark room. However, addressing the root cause of migraines may help to relieve the frequency and severity of them. It has been seen that a misalignment in the bones of the upper neck can be the cause of migraines. This is for a number of different reasons. For one thing, a misalignment in this part of the neck puts pressure on the brainstem and causes it to send improper signals to the brain. Another problem that can cause migraines is the hindering of proper blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow to and from the brain. The misalignment acts like a boulder in a stream blocking water flow. A misalignment here also can act as an irritant to nerves and muscles and lead to inflammation and head pain.
All of these problems can be corrected by visiting us here at 1st Place Chiropractic in St. Charles, Illinois. We will examine your neck to see if there is, in fact, a misalignment. We then employ a gentle technique using light pressure to help the bones of the neck to realign without the need to pop or crack them. This is a more natural way to realign the bones, and it often leads to an improvement in migraines. Some people see them go away and not return. Results are often seen in just a couple of adjustments.
To schedule a complimentary consultation call our St. Charles office at 630-584-5200 You can also click the button below.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.