Basilar Migraine: A Rare and Dangerous Type of Headache

basilar migraine, upper cervical

If you have ever experienced a migraine, then you know how debilitating it can be. Migraines are often categorized into three general categories: basilar, hemiplegic, and common. However, there are many subtypes of migraines that fall under each main category. In this article, we want to cover one such subtype: basilar migraines, and how the upper neck may be the key to helping you manage this debilitating headache.


Basilar migraine is one type of migraine that occurs when the blood vessels in the basilar artery become constricted.

The basilar artery supplies oxygenated blood to parts of your brain, including your cerebellum and pons (which control balance), as well as parts of your cerebrum (the part of your brain responsible for thinking). The blood flow through these arteries can be reduced during an attack of basilar migraine, causing symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. 

This condition sometimes resembles hemiplegic migraine because many people who experience it also have paralysis on one side of their body at some point during an episode. It is more common in young women and occurs less frequently in children, though it is still possible to find young people diagnosed with this condition.

How is Basilar Migraine Different from Other Kinds of Migraine?

Migraines are a common condition that affects millions of people every year. There are many types of migraines, but one of the rare types is basilar migraine, which can be challenging to differentiate from other types of migraines.

Basilar migraines are characterized by an aura, which means they cause sensory disturbances like visual disturbances or numbness in your extremities before the headache itself starts. Hemiplegic migraines also have an aura, but with this type of migraine, the symptoms can include weakness on one side of your body. 

Other types of migraines include common migraines and complicated migraines. Common migraines have no aura and generally last between 4-72 hours without treatment. Complicated migraines are more severe than common migraines and may require hospitalization for pain management during an attack.

How does basilar migraine happen?

Basilar migraines are caused by blood vessels in your brain that narrow and become constricted, which can cause a headache. It affects a specific region of the brain called the brainstem, located in your upper cervical region. The brainstem is responsible for regulating many vital functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and sleep—not surprisingly, it also controls sensory perception to a large degree. 

This means that when the brainstem is affected by a basilar migraine attack, patients may experience sensory disturbances like vertigo or dizziness (which could be vertigo itself or an inability to stand still without feeling like they're falling over). If left poorly managed, these symptoms can be very dangerous due to their impact on balance and stability.

Additionally, patients may experience other symptoms related to malfunctioning in other parts of their bodies. These include the following: 

  • Migraine pain can radiate anywhere from one side of your head down through your neck;
  • Hearing loss or ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting; motor weakness when walking or numbness and tingling sensations in certain areas of your body.

Diagnosis and Symptoms of Basilar Migraine

Basilar migraine can be difficult to diagnose. It’s not always easy to tell how migraine headaches differ from other types. The symptoms of basilar migraine usually differ from those of other headaches because they affect several body parts. The most common symptoms are:

  • Headache 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia
  • Phonophobia
basilar migraine, upper cervical

Common Causes of Basilar Migraine

Basilar migraine is caused by constriction of blood vessels in the basilar artery, which is located at the base of your brain or your upper cervical region. It supplies blood to your cerebellum – the part of your brain that helps control balance. The symptoms are usually triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Imbalanced Diet
  • Upper Neck Misalignment

Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care for Basilar Migraines

If you are suffering from basilar migraines, upper cervical chiropractic care may be a good option for you. Upper cervical chiropractic care is an effective technique and source of relief for many conditions. It also makes an excellent solution to your basilar headaches. Upper cervical chiropractors are trained to help patients manage basilar migraine, as well as other types of headaches, including tension and migraine headaches with the help of carefully planned neck bone adjustments.  

Cervical chiropractors often use holistic techniques and provide helpful lifestyle tips to provide comprehensive care for patients with acute and chronic conditions like migraines. Many people find relief from their symptoms through chiropractic care and learn that it is possible to address these conditions without drugs or surgery!

How Can Upper Cervical Care Help With Basilar Migraines?

The upper cervical spine is the area of your neck where your skull meets your vertebral column. Chiropractic adjustments focused on this specific area can help with many symptoms associated with basilar migraines like vertigo, dizziness, and balance problems by addressing present nerve compression and poor blood flow and fluid drainage. In addition to helping clear away headaches and neck pain associated with basilar migraines, chiropractic care may also relieve many other symptoms of other health conditions.

Upper Cervical and Migraine Research

Upper cervical chiropractic care has shown promise in providing relief for migraine headaches. Several studies and case reports have found the following:

  • A case series of 3 patients with migraines treated with integrated neurological and chiropractic care showed improvements in pain scores, increase in pain-free days, decreased medication usage, and reduced anxiety/depression.
  • A pilot study of 11 patients diagnosed with migraines by a neurologist found statistically significant improvements in migraine-specific outcome measures after receiving NUCCA upper cervical chiropractic care over 8 weeks.
  • Multiple case studies have reported improvements in migraine frequency, intensity, and associated symptoms like Meniere's disease and essential tremor after upper cervical chiropractic adjustments.

Upper Cervical Awareness: Your Partner in Relieving Headaches

You can find a chiropractor near you through our directory, you can easily use the Find a Doctor Tool on the page to find an upper cervical specialist near you! This is an online directory of doctors specializing in upper cervical care. Chances are, there's one located within driving distance from where you live! So what are you waiting for? Visit our online directory now!

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

Find an Upper Cervical Specialist In Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.