Many people think of a migraine simply as a terrible headache. While a severe, throbbing headache is its common characteristic, there are also many other symptoms that come along with migraines.
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 migraineurs looking for answers
- Anyone who wishes to understand more about this common neurological condition
A better understanding of this condition 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 it challenging to manage is that every person experiences an attack differently. In fact, underneath the migraine umbrella are many different types that can look different for each individual:
- 70%-90% of people have migraine without aura. The headache is usually on one side of the head and causes severe pulsing or throbbing pain. The head pain may get worse with physical activity. In addition, it also causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and heightened sensitivity to sound, light, and smell. Episodes can occur infrequently (once a year) or they can become chronic (several events per week).
- Migraine with aura affects approximately 15-20% of migraineurs. People with this will have many or all of the symptoms of a migraine without aura. However, they will have additional neurological symptoms that cause visual disturbances. An aura can include temporary blind spots or seeing flashing lights. Also, 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 it is known for head pain, it can also affect other areas such as the GI system (stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, etc.), neck pain, eye pain, and jaw pain.
3. Can a Migraine last for Days?
An episode can last anywhere from 4-72 hours. This means a person may feel the effects for up to 3 days. Many migraineurs also describe what they call the “migraine hangover,” or postdrome phase. It leaves a person feeling fatigued, “cloudy,” and confused after an attack.
4. Can They 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 an 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 experience a chronic one, you will typically have an awareness of what your range of “normal” symptoms feels like. However, if your 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 the condition better, some MRI studies are looking at changes to the structure of the brain that may occur in migraineurs. 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 it because of specific pre-existing brain differences.
Hope for Migraineurs 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. Besides that, it also affects 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.