A pain-free migraine may be a difficult concept for some to understand. Usually, the telltale sign of a migraine is a severe throbbing headache. However, for some migraine sufferers, any of the typical migraine symptoms can creep in without ever developing into the characteristic full-blown headache. Although ‘silent migraine’ is not an official migraine designation, the term is frequently used to describe a migraine episode that has all the relevant signs and symptoms without the accompanying head pain.
Understanding Migraine Phases
Though it’s associated with terrible headache pain, the term migraine describes a cascade of symptoms that unfold in phases. While there’s no such thing as a “textbook” migraine episode, the usual stages of a migraine attack include:
- Prodrome: this first potential migraine phase can begin hours to days before the others kick in. It is sometimes referred to as the premonitory or preheadache phase. Between 30-40% of migraine sufferers will experience prodrome symptoms which act as a warning sign that an attack is coming.
- Aura: approximately one-quarter of people living with migraine will have visual changes and disturbances that are called migraine aura.
- Headache: the most well-known and frequently the most debilitating phase of a migraine is the throbbing or pulsating headache. The headache phase can last between 4 and 72 hours.
- Postdrome: Aptly called the “migraine hangover” phase, the postdrome period can leave a migraine sufferer affected for hours or days following the culmination of the headache phase.
When thinking about the phases that make up a migraine attack, it is important to understand that not everyone will move through these phases in the same way. The same person may not even experience the same progression through these stages as they did during their prior episode. When it comes to silent migraines, a person can have any combination of migraine symptoms and not enter the headache phase.
Silent migraine facts
Now that you know that some people can have a migraine episode without the 3rd phase – the headache phase – here are some facts to help you understand silent migraine better:
- Other names for silent migraine include acephalgic migraine, amigranous migraine, migraine aura without headache, and migraine equivalent.
- Some migraine sufferers may experience only silent migraine attacks, while others may experience attacks both with and without head pain.
- Silent migraine can occur at any age.
- Silent migraines are more likely to affect people who suffered from migraines with aura when they were younger.
Signs and Symptoms of Silent Migraine
Simply because a migraine episode comes along without a headache doesn’t mean it’s pleasant to experience. If a person is having a migraine, but without the headache it is so well known for, then what are the possible symptoms?
- Vision changes – may be blurred, cloudy, double, or temporarily impaired
- Seeing flashes, shimmers, stars, spots, or flickering light
- Seeing wavy lines or zigzags
- Speech disturbances
- Cognitive changes – memory issues, confusion, forgetfulness
- Mood changes – feeling irritable, cranky, or hyper
- Nausea or vomiting
- Hearing loss
- Food cravings
- Abdominal pain, sometimes associated with constipation or diarrhea
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Jaw pain
- Experiencing strange smells or tastes
- Tingling, numbness, or “pins and needles” sensations in the arms or legs
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Runny or stuffy nose
Silent migraines can be triggered by the same things that might bring on an attack with a headache. The common triggers that migraine sufferers might want to either identify or steer clear of entirely include alcohol, caffeine, aged wines, cheeses, and meats (all contain tyramine, an amino acid), flickering lights, loud noises, stress, sleep deprivation, and changes in the weather.
Correcting the Root Cause of Migraine
There is still much research being conducted in the field of migraines. Migraines are now understood to be related to abnormal electrical activity in the brain and central nervous system. This explains the symptoms that characterize a silent migraine – different areas of the brain that are responsible for vision, hearing, smell, and sensation are being triggered during a migraine episode and producing symptoms.
Upper cervical chiropractic care recognizes the intimate connection between migraines, the central nervous system (CNS), and the vertebrae that are responsible for protecting the delicate tissues of the CNS. The brain, brainstem, and spinal cord are so critical to our lives that they are totally protected by bone. The vertebrae that form a junction between the skull and neck are tasked with a challenging blend of jobs: to keep the head balanced and upright while accommodating a wide range of movements. This area is particularly vulnerable to misaligning because of its unique function and increased mobility. When a misalignment happens in the upper neck, it can disturb normal neurological function as well as hinder the flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid between the head and neck. These factors can easily contribute to the formation of silent migraines or migraines with headache.
The benefits of upper cervical chiropractic care are many. We take great care to deliver the most precise, gentle corrections in order to yield long-lasting results. If you’ve experienced upper cervical chiropractic care, you’ll know that we are extremely thorough in our analysis and that each adjustment we give is customized for that patient. If the upper cervical spine is aligned correctly, your body has the opportunity to experience the return of healthy communication of signals traveling between the brain and body over the nerves. This can result in the reduction or even complete resolution of migraine symptoms as the body heals naturally. If you’re interested in learning more about upper cervical chiropractic care, browse the other blogs on our website and schedule an in-person consultation.