Explaining the Similar Symptoms Between Migraines and Stroke


Hemiplegic migraines can cause confusing and scary symptoms for a person. The symptoms of these migraines are like stroke in many ways. In fact, the world hemiplegic itself means experiencing paralysis on one side of the body. What are some of the other symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine? Are there other similarities between migraines and stroke? Will migraines cause a stroke to occur? Can you find natural help for your migraines? We will address the answers to these questions in our article. 

The Symptoms of Hemiplegic Migraines 

While some of the symptoms of hemiplegic migraines are the same as other forms of this neurological condition, others are unique to this specific type of migraine. 

General Migraine Symptoms 

The general migraine symptoms that a patient may experience include:

  • Headache – This is the most common migraine symptom. A migraine headache will be defined by two of the following four conditions: (1) Pain is moderate to severe in nature, (2) pain is isolated on one side of the head, (3) the headache pulses or throbs, or (4) the headache is made worse by exertion. 
  • Aura symptoms – About 20-25% of migraineurs experience aura symptoms within an hour of the attack. Aura includes visual symptoms such as seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines or experiencing temporary vision loss. Other symptoms can include numbness and tingling or difficulty speaking. Slurred speech is a symptom that migraines and stroke share in common. 
  • Nausea and possibly vomiting – Nausea is another of the most common migraine symptoms. Sometimes the pain and nausea are so great that vomiting occurs. 
  • Sensory sensitivities – Sensitivity to lights, sounds, smells, and even touch are all common.
  • Neck pain – This is another of the most common migraine symptoms affecting about 75% of migraineurs either before or during the attack.  

Symptoms Unique to Hemiplegic Migraines 

Here are some of the symptoms that set this rare form of migraine apart from the rest:

  • Weakness or complete loss of voluntary movement on one side of the body 
  • Impaired consciousness, in extremely rare cases resulting in coma
  • Ataxia – problems with muscle coordination or balance 
  • Confusion and slow or slurred speech

These are the symptoms that can be really worrying because this type of migraine is like stroke in many ways. Since stroke is an emergency medical condition and minutes can make the difference when it comes to survival and long-term effects for survivors, it is crucial to know the difference. Before we continue discussing migraines, let’s look at the symptoms of a stroke so you know when it is time to call 911. 

Stroke Symptoms: When to Call for Emergency Help

The medical community uses the acronym FAST to help people remember the symptoms to watch out for and how to respond to stroke:

  • Face – Ask the individual experiencing symptoms to smile and watch to see if one side of the smile is drooping.
  • Arms – Ask the individual to raise both arms and look to see if one arm is drifting down or failing to respond at all.
  • Speech – Have the individual repeat a few simple phrases. Look for slurred or slow speech that is difficult to understand. 
  • Time – At this point, you should call 911 for emergency help because time is of the essence if it actually is a stroke. 

Once again, this symptoms list highlights the similarities between a hemiplegic migraine and stroke. Thus, you may wonder, can a migraine cause a stroke? Let’s address this question next. 

Will Migraines Cause a Stroke

Can a person experience a stroke during a migraine? Yes. Is there any evidence that the migraine is what causes the stroke to occur? Very little, if any. It doesn’t seem that migraine triggers a stroke. Since there is a great deal of overlap in symptoms, it is up to each person to decide when it is time to call for medical assistance (or someone with you, if you are unable to call for help yourself). The main difference is that stroke symptoms come on suddenly and migraine symptoms usually begin gradually. 

If you are experiencing migraines regularly, especially if you have neck pain or a history of head or neck trauma, there may be a natural way to get some help. We will address this natural therapy next. 

Upper Cervical Chiropractic and Migraines 

Whether you suffer from hemiplegic migraines or a more common form of this neurological condition, upper cervical chiropractic may be able to provide some assistance. This specific form of chiropractic care focuses on the top two bones in the neck, the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Misalignments in this sensitive area can cause all sorts of neurological issues. 

For example, the cervical spine is responsible for facilitating blood flow to the brain. Even slight misalignments may affect the amount of oxygen your brain is receiving, and that can result in many different symptoms. Another impact can be inhibition of proper brainstem function. This is because the C1 (atlas) surrounds the brainstem, right at the sensitive area where it meets the spinal cord. Misalignments may even lead to increased intracranial pressure if they prevent cerebrospinal fluid from draining properly. 

Upper cervical chiropractors use diagnostic imaging to precisely measure upper cervical misalignments. Then we use gentle and safe adjustments to correct this underlying issue that can contribute to migraines. For some patients, this leads to fewer and less severe migraines or even a complete resolution of the problem. To learn if this is the right solution for you, contact a practitioner in your local area 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.