Migraines are the number one neurological disorder in the world, affecting more than 37 million people in the United States alone. There are nearly 5 million people who have at least one monthly migraine episode and another 4 million who suffer chronically, experiencing at least 15 days of migraines each month. Women are much more likely to suffer from migraines. Of the 28 million female sufferers, 85% are chronic sufferers of this condition
Migraines are often considered really bad headaches, but they are actually more complex than that. In fact, in some cases the person may not even have the typical headache pain associated with a migraine episode. Migraines consist of a combination of neurologically-based symptoms that can include up to four different phases, with a unique set of symptoms possible for each phase. Each phase may not be experienced during an episode, as each episode can vary from the last.
While migraine episodes are not exactly predictable, there are four distinct stages or phases that a migraine sufferer could experience. Knowing about these different stages of migraine episodes can be helpful for migraine sufferers to properly diagnose or possibly prevent an attack from getting worse.
Migraine Phase 1: Prodrome/Premonitory Phase
The prodrome phase can serve as a warning that a migraine attack is coming, as it can begin hours or even days prior to the other phases. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of migraine sufferers experience the prodrome phase. Possible prodrome symptoms are as follows:
- food cravings or aversions
- mood changes
- feeling thirsty
- neck pain or stiffness
- difficulty concentrating
- diarrhea or constipation
Migraine Phase 2: Aura Phase
The aura phase is only experienced by about a quarter of migraine sufferers, but it is possibly the most commonly talked about phase associated with migraine attacks. The most well-known and easy-to-identify symptom of the aura phase is the visual changes that could happen. There are a number of other possible symptoms that can come with a migraine aura:
- hypersensitivity to touch
- hearing changes, including hearing sounds that aren’t actually there, or temporary loss of hearing
- heightened sensitivity to smells, or smelling odors that aren’t actually present
- vertigo and/or dizziness
- experiencing sensations of numbness, tingling, prickling, or stinging in the arms, legs, or face
- visual changes that can be experienced as blurred vision, blind spots, floaters, flashes of light, tunnel vision, or wavy lines
Migraine Phase 3: Headache Phase
Of all the phases in a migraine attack, the headache phase could be the most disabling. Although titled the headache phase, the symptoms are not only related to the head but can also include other parts of the body. Here are few other characteristics that can be involved with the headache phase of a migraine:
- headache that is typically localized to one side of the head (though it can shift from side to side or be on both sides), throbbing or pulsating, lasts between 4 and 72 hours, and is made worse by physical activity.
- pain around the eyes, sinuses, teeth, and jaw due to the involvement of the trigeminal nerve and its branches
- extreme light, sound, and smell sensitivities
- neck pain
- mood changes, particularly anxiety or panic
- nausea or vomiting
- chills or hot flashes
- runny nose or nasal congestion
- confusion or other cognitive changes
Migraine Phase 4: Postdrome/Recovery Phase
During the final phase of a migraine attack, the postdrome phase, the person begins the recovery process. This phase has earned the title of “migraine hang-over” since the migraine attack can leave a person feeling exhausted and worn out for a few days following an episode. Postdrome symptoms can be similar to the first phase, and could include:
- poor concentration
- reduced comprehension
- mood changes ranging from depression to euphoria
- changes in appetite
An Effective, Natural Solution for Migraines
It has been clearly confirmed from studies that there is a strong link between migraines and your neck. It is a fact that neck pain is a prevalent symptom among migraine sufferers. Migraines commonly follow head or neck injuries (even minor ones), though it can sometimes take months or even years before symptoms appear. This can make it difficult to identify a connection between the two. Head or neck injuries, as well as daily wear and tear that slowly causes damage to the neck over time, can cause the uppermost vertebra in the neck to misalign. A misalignment here in the atlas vertebra could cause a number of issues leading to a higher likelihood of migraine onset. Here are few reasons why this is true:
- The atlas bone houses the brainstem within itself, protecting this vital member of the body’s central nervous system. There is still a lot to learn about migraine disorders, but it is now understood to be a neurological condition. In situations where the atlas has misaligned, it can cause irritation to the brainstem and the tissues surrounding it, affecting its normal function.
- Healthy blood flow to and from the brain requires proper atlas positioning. Misalignments can slow regular blood flow to the brain, a contributing factor for migraine sufferers.
- Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage and flow can be disrupted by an atlas misalignment. CSF gets produced in the brain and then cushions the delicate tissues of the brain and spinal cord in addition to eliminating metabolic waste from these tissues.
Each of these can be a contributing factor in the development of migraines that could potentially become a chronic condition. If you are currently suffering from migraines, whether infrequent or chronic, getting your atlas alignment examined by an upper cervical doctor is an important part of finding a lasting solution, particularly if you have any history of head or neck injury. The goal of an upper cervical doctor is to restore proper atlas alignment, thereby correcting the underlying cause of migraines and similar headache-related conditions. Once an atlas misalignment is confirmed as a factor in your situation, we will apply a gentle and precise upper cervical chiropractic adjustment, specifically tailored to your problem. This helps to begin the body’s natural healing process, resulting in both short- and long-term benefits and improvements to the quality of your daily life.