Migraines are the number one neurological condition in the world with about 40 million sufferers in the US alone. By comparison, epilepsy (which is one of the next most common neurological disorders) affects about 3 million people in the US. Yes, about 12% of adults are dealing with migraines. What do you need to know if you are a part of that 12%? Here are 8 important migraine facts.
#1 The Underlying Cause Is a Mystery
There is no single migraine cause that has been identified. However, there are a few places that researchers are looking for answers. For example, there seems to be some connection between proper brainstem function and migraines. Blood flow to the brain also may play a role. Intracranial pressure, caused by cerebrospinal fluid drainage issues, may also be related.
#2 There Is No Migraine Cure-All
There’s no drug or treatment approved by the FDA to cure migraines. There are several medications that are viewed as treatment. However, these primarily affect the symptoms, not the underlying cause (which is unknown, so that’s understandable). Fad diets and supplements abound, and there are also many home remedies that people try. We’ll look at one natural therapy that has helped many patients at the conclusion of our article.
#3 Many Migraines Go Undiagnosed
Some people confuse their migraines for regular headaches and just pop an over-the-counter pain reliever when one springs up. They are unlikely to receive a proper diagnosis until the migraines progress to the point where they affect work or normal day-to-day activities. Others confuse migraines for sinus issues. This is because migraines can have sinus problems as a symptom. Most people assume the sinus pressure is the source of the problem and the headache is the symptom, but it is possible for both to be symptoms of the same condition – migraines.
#4 You Don’t Have to Get a Headache for It to Be a Migraine
Migraine headaches usually present with two or more of the following symptoms:
- Moderate to severe pain
- Pulsing or throbbing pain
- One-sided pain
- Pain that grows worse with exertion
The problem with using this as the criteria to diagnose migraines is that headaches only occur for about 85-90% of patients. Other symptoms can include nausea, sensory sensitivity, visual symptoms, neck pain, and more. In layman’s terms, the phrase “silent migraine” is used to describe a migraine that does not present with the most common symptom – a headache.
#5 Migraines Affect 3 Times as Many Woman as Men
There are a few hypotheses on why this is the case. For one thing, hormone fluctuations are a common trigger for migraines. However, hormones are not the underlying cause of migraines, so that alone should not create such a discrepancy. Another thought is that men suffer through migraines without getting a diagnosis because it is a long process, they prefer not to go to the doctor, and they are more concerned about the stigma of migraines (especially at work).
#6 Medication Overuse Is Common Among Migraineurs
When migraines become chronic, more and more medication may be used to try and control the condition. There’s a major flaw in that thinking. The issue is that medication overuse, particularly the medications people take for migraines, can cause headaches. If you take some type of over the counter pain reliever multiple times per week. You may be suffering from rebound headaches (headaches due to medication overuse). The only way to find out is to come off the medication and see if you experience fewer migraines without it.
#7 Stress May Be the Biggest Migraine Trigger
Anything that stresses the central nervous system is going to make a neurological condition worse. That’s just common sense. Emotional stress is one of the biggest stressors on the CNS in the hectic and chaotic modern world. While you can’t avoid all stress, and not all forms of stress are necessarily bad, you should find some positive coping mechanisms. Cigarettes and alcohol are bad coping mechanisms because they can make migraines worse (among other things).
#8 Your Neck Pain May Be Telling You Something About Your Migraines
According to research performed by surveying migraine patients, it was revealed that about 75% of migraineurs suffer from neck pain. An Italian study revealed that out of 64% of patients in a study who were diagnosing themselves with neck problems, 90% of those patients actually were getting migraines with neck pain as a symptom. What is the link between the neck and migraines?
The Upper Cervical Spine and Migraines
Consider the following three ways that an upper cervical misalignment could lead to a migraine:
- Blood flow – The cervical spine controls blood flow to the head. A misalignment can lead to reduced blood flow to certain critical parts of the brain.
- Brainstem – The C1 (top bone in the neck) houses the brainstem. Therefore, even the slightest misalignment can put pressure on the brainstem and inhibit proper function.
- Intracranial pressure – Misalignments of the top two bones in the neck can lead to issues with cerebrospinal fluid drainage. This, in turn, can be at the root of increased intracranial pressure.
An upper cervical chiropractor can see if you are suffering from a misalignment in this sensitive area of the body. If so, a gentle adjustment that is customized to your precise misalignment may be exactly what you need to experience fewer or less severe migraines. Some patients even find complete relief.