Many people think of a migraine simply as a terrible headache.  While a severe, throbbing headache is undoubtedly the characteristic that a migraine attack is best known for, there are also many other neurological symptoms that come along with a migraine as its phases unfold.

This article can be helpful for many categories of people:

  • Those who have lived with chronic migraine
  • People who care for a loved one with migraine
  • Recently diagnosed migraine sufferers looking for answers
  • Anyone who wishes to understand more about this common neurological condition

In most cases, empowering yourself with a better understanding of what it’s like to live with migraines can help you move towards a sustainable solution and a better quality of life.

1. What Does a Migraine Look Like?

Part of what makes migraines challenging to manage is that every person experiences an attack differently.  Underneath the migraine umbrella are many different migraine types that can look different for each individual:

  • 70%-90% of people have migraine without aura (sometimes referred to as common migraine).  The headache is usually focused on one side of the head and causes severe pulsing or throbbing pain that is worsened with physical activity.  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and heightened sensitivity to sound, light, and smell are other common symptoms. Episodes can occur infrequently (once a year) or they can become chronic (several events per week).
  • Migraine with aura affects approximately 15-20% of migraine sufferers.  People with this migraine type will have many or all of the symptoms of a migraine without aura but will have additional neurological symptoms that cause visual disturbances.  An aura can include temporary blind spots, seeing flashing lights, colored spots, sparkles, stars, or zigzag lines, tunnel vision, and blurred vision. For these people, the aura may serve as an early warning sign that the headache phase is imminent.
  • Menstrual migraines affect women around the same time during their menstrual cycle each month connected with changes in hormone levels.  These episodes are most likely to occur in the two days leading up to a period and the first three days after it begins.

2. Where is Migraine Pain Located?

In its most traditional presentation, a migraine causes a throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head.  Though the pain of the headache phase of a migraine is most well-known, other areas that can be affected are the GI system (stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, etc.), neck pain, eye pain, and jaw pain.

3. Can a Migraine last for Days?

A migraine episode can last anywhere from 4-72 hours, which means a person may feel the effects for up to 3 days.  Many migraine sufferers also describe what they call the “migraine hangover,” or postdrome phase, which leaves a person feeling fatigued, “cloudy,” and confused after an attack.

4. Can Migraines Cause Eye Pain?

In the case of migraines, the pain can be felt behind one eye and is accompanied by pain elsewhere on that side of the head.  During a migraine episode, people are also more sensitive to light, and this can worsen head and eye pain, which is why resting in a darkened room is helpful.

5. When is Migraine Dangerous?

In and of themselves, migraines are debilitating but not inherently dangerous.  If you’re a chronic migraine sufferer, you will typically have an awareness of what your range of “normal” symptoms feels like.  However, if your migraine symptoms feel different, you’re recently diagnosed and aren’t sure if you’re experiencing a migraine or something more severe, or something doesn’t seem quite the same, it may be worth a visit to the hospital out of an abundance of caution.  Headaches that come on suddenly (thunderclap headache), fever, confusion, balance problems, and unusual changes in speech, vision, and movement can all be signs of something more serious.

6. Do Migraines Change Your Brain?

As more research is being done to understand migraines better, some MRI studies are looking at changes to the structure of the brain that may occur in migraine sufferers.  People who have migraines seem to be more likely to have changes in their brains than people who don’t, though the clinical significance of these findings still isn’t clear.  More studies are needed to determine if the migraines are causing the brain changes or if people develop migraines because of specific pre-existing brain differences.

Hope for Migraine Sufferers with Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

It is clear from looking at the answers to these commonly searched questions that migraines are a neurological condition.  Upper cervical chiropractors understand this critical connection and seek to optimize central nervous system function by correcting a specific misalignment that occurs at the junction between the head and neck.  This is where the atlas (C1) vertebra sits, and misalignment in this area can hurt normal neurological function, blood flow, and drainage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Any of these factors can contribute to ongoing migraine episodes.

Upper cervical chiropractors focus on this vital area of the spine and nervous system and use precise, gentle means of correcting even the most subtle misalignments.  The restoration of normal atlas position can also begin to normalize nerve function, blood flow, and CSF drainage. For migraine sufferers, this can mean a reduction in the severity and/or frequency of attacks, or even a complete resolution of symptoms.  If you’d like to learn more about how upper cervical care and see if it’s part of your migraine relief puzzle, locate a practitioner in your area and schedule an obligation-free consultation.


Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Areato schedule a consultation today.