Many migraine sufferers experience neck pain but don’t even associate it along with the neurological condition. We expect a migraine to include a severe headache, nausea and vomiting, sensory sensitivity, and other similar symptoms. But neck pain is often written off as being unrelated. Could neck pain actually be the most common migraine symptom? If so, why? Let’s take a closer look at the significant link between migraines and neck pain.
A Migraine Survey Sheds Light on Neck Pain
A study from a few years ago revealed that neck pain was more common for the 113 patients than nausea, which is considered one of the most common migraine symptoms. In another survey that involved 144 migraine patients, 75% experienced neck pain as a migraine symptom. That was equal to the number of responders who checked that they had top symptoms like nausea and light sensitivity. In fact, 3 in 5 patients acknowledged that neck pain usually started before the headache set in.
This research certainly helps to reveal how common it is for a migraine patient to experience neck pain as well. But why would a neurological condition frequently present with neck pain? Can finding the answer lead to a more effective form of care?
A Theory Involving Neck Pain and Migraines
Head and neck injuries commonly precede the onset of migraines. How common is this occurrence? According to a migraine study in Norway, 82% of males and 70% of females in the study revealed that head or neck trauma occurred before their first migraine. Clearly, injuries to the head and neck are related to this neurological condition. But why?
When a person suffers a head or neck injury, one of the most common and overlooked effects is that the atlas (C1 vertebra) becomes misaligned. This bone is located at the base of the skull. It protects the area where the brainstem meets the spinal cord. It also helps to facilitate blood flow to the brain thanks to the vertebral foramen (tiny loops of bone that provide room for the vertebral arteries to pass through). How could a misalignment affect vital processes and lead to migraines?
Restricted blood flow
One of the things researchers agree on is that blood flow to the brain is likely related to migraines. In fact, migraines are sometimes referred to as a neurovascular condition because of the important role of blood flow to certain parts of the brain in particular. If a misalignment inhibits this blood flow, migraines can result.
A misalignment of the atlas can put pressure on the brainstem, the vital part of the body that should protect it. This region is rich in nerves and plays a vital role in communication throughout the body. If pressure builds up or nerves are compressed, pain and other symptoms can result.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow
The upright MRI (an MRI taken with a person sitting or standing) has revealed that an upper cervical misalignment can affect proper cerebrospinal fluid drainage. This can lead to a buildup of fluid in the head and intracranial pressure. When CSF is not flowing properly, migraines can occur along with many other neurological symptoms.
Correcting Upper Cervical Misalignment to Care for Migraine
Clearly, this is an important part of the body. Why does a misalignment often occur during an injury or accident? The atlas is a bone with a unique shape and it helps provide about 50% of the head’s mobility. This allows you to look in many different directions, but it also comes with a catch. The bone is easily misaligned when subjected to trauma. For example, an atlas subluxation may occur during a:
- Car accident
- Sports injury
- Any concussion or another head injury
- Any whiplash-type injury
In fact, on some occasions, a misalignment can occur simply due to normal wear and tear, especially if a person has poor posture. Is there any way to safely correct this misalignment?
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Is Unique
If you’ve never heard of upper cervical chiropractic care, that’s because this is a very unique subspecialty in the field that only has a few thousand practitioners globally. What makes it different from general chiropractic?
Adjustments are gentle
If your big concern is that you don’t want to have your spine popped or twisted, we totally understand. Upper cervical adjustments are low force. Most consist of either gentle pressure or the use of an adjusting instrument.
Some chiropractors will go to work on a patient without even taking an x-ray, but upper cervical chiropractic involves very precise measurements in order to offer a tailored correction to each patient.
Most general chiropractors expect patients to return on a weekly basis. While you may need several upper cervical adjustments early on in the process, the longer your adjustments hold, the longer you can go between trips to the office. That also makes this a cost-effective option.
Natural Help for Migraine Patients
If you suffer from migraines, especially if you experience neck pain or have a history of head or neck trauma, this may be the natural form of care that you have been searching for. To learn if upper cervical chiropractic is the right option for you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with a nearby practitioner. You may be about to take the first step down the path of better overall health and well-being.