Migraine Headaches are one of the most common types of headaches in adults, and one in seven adults in the UK suffer from them. It can be difficult for you to decide what to do – sometimes a person with headaches may not realise that it is a migraine and may be unsure about what causes it or whether there is anything that they can do to help it go away. Migraines often occur regularly and can be very debilitating, causing a lack of enjoyment in day to day life, and even time off work.
Migraines – What are they?
Migraines are usually characterised by a throbbing headache, often on one side of the head only. They may or may not be preceded by an aura, which is like a warning sign that a migraine is coming! This can include visual disturbances, slurred speech, sensitivity to light, and nausea. Although getting an aura is common, you can have a migraine without having one.
What causes Migraine?
It is not fully understood exactly what creates a migraine, however it is known that it is primarily vascular(blood supply) in origin. The symptoms of a migraine seem to be caused by an initial constriction of the blood vessels of the head. There are many things that can cause this, they are known as migraine ‘triggers’.
Common triggers for migraines include foods such as cheese or chocolate (they contain tyramine), alcohol, stress, poor eating patterns, dehydration, certain smells, and fatigue. Hormonal stress can be another common cause of migraines, as women may get headaches at the time of menstruation, during pregnancy, or at menopause. Other causes of hormonal stress may be use of the contraceptive pill or hormone therapy.
A lack of good range of movement in the neck, poor posture, and sub-optimal muscle tone of related neck and shoulder muscles, can be both a cause and a symptom of migraine. This may be because it affects the blood supply to the brain, and because of referred pain from the nerves in your neck. These are factors that can be managed to reduce the occurrence and severity of headaches.
What can I do to manage migraine?
Management of migraine headaches should include identification and avoidance of any triggers or precipitating factors – there are often more than one! Particular care should be taken to address all areas of health; including diet, hydration, posture, and stress. Sometimes it can help to keep a diary of food intake, sleep patterns, menstrual cycle, and any other potential triggers.
It is also important to ensure that any physical factors such as increased muscle tone in the muscles affecting the cervical spine (neck), and range of movement of the cervical spine are addressed, as this is both a cause and effect of headaches. Research shows that chiropractic can help sufferers of migraine to address the causes of their symptoms by alleviating spinal pressure on the nerves that affect muscle tone and movement in the neck. A chiropractor is also able to give advice on postural factors that may be causing or aggravating poor cervical function.
By managing your potential triggers, and correcting some of the probable underlying causes, you may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches, or, to remove them completely. Good luck!