Migraines are a neurological condition that affects over a billion people worldwide, making it the 3rd most prevalent illness across the globe. If you suffer from migraine attacks, you know all too well the signs that signal that an episode is on its way. More than just a bad headache, a migraine can be a disabling combination of severe head pain, vertigo, nausea, extreme light sensitivity and more.
The Many Faces of a Migraine
Migraines are complicated for many reasons. You might be surprised to learn that there are different migraine types that come along with their own subset of symptoms. Knowing which type of migraine you experience can help to point you in the right direction of receiving the proper care. Some of the migraine types below are official migraine types as classified by the International Headache Society and others simply describe in common language when the migraine occurs or what triggers it.
- Migraine without aura (common migraine) – Migraines that occur without the aura phase are the most common type of migraine. An attack can last from 4-72 hours and is characterized by pulsating or throbbing headache pain usually on one side of the head that can range from moderate to severe. Other symptoms include nausea or vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, smells, and sound, fatigue, mood changes, blurry vision, and cognitive changes. This migraine type can occur infrequently (a few times a year) or chronically (a few times a week).
- Migraine with aura (classic/complicated migraine) – A migraine attack that presents with an aura can feel similar to one without but with the addition of visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms that occur from 10 minutes to an hour before the onset of the headache. An aura can be experienced in several different ways; it has been described as blind spots, temporary loss of vision, wavy lines, flashes of light, or floaters across the visual field. Though less frequent, the aura phase can also include numbness, tingling, or other abnormal sensations on one side of the body, difficulty with speech, confusion, or muscle weakness.
- Chronic migraine – when migraines occur on 15 or more days in a month for more than 3 months it is considered a chronic condition. Chronic migraines can present with or without aura and can be debilitating.
- Migraine without headache – when most people hear the word migraine, the first thing that comes to mind is the headache. However, it is possible to experience a migraine episode without the headache at all. Aura symptoms, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and other unexplained pain can all be a part of a migraine that happens without the development of the headache phase.
- Basilar migraine (migraine with brainstem aura) – this migraine type most frequently affects children and adolescents, usually teenage girls in conjunction with their menstrual cycle. Symptoms include vertigo, vision changes or temporary loss of vision, tinnitus, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. Throbbing headache pain can be sudden and severe and, unlike other migraine types, is usually experienced on both sides at the back of the head and neck.
- Stress migraine – although not an officially recognized migraine type, stress is often the number one trigger of migraines. Stress can influence migraines in many ways. A major stressful event such as divorce or death of a loved one can be the cause of someone’s first migraine episode. Stress can also make a migraine worse, last longer, or occur more frequently. Migraines are also known to occur in the window of time following the end of a stressful event – these are sometimes referred to as ”weekend migraines”.
- Hormonal migraine – fluctuating hormones during a female’s menstrual cycle can be a big migraine trigger for some. For women who suffer from hormonal migraines, they are most likely to hit either right before your period begins or right after it ends. At the start of your period, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, which can trigger a migraine episode around the same time each month.
- Weather-related migraine – drops in barometric pressure, lightning, dry conditions, bright sunlight, storms, and high humidity are all weather events that can trigger migraines for some people.
Natural Migraine Care No Matter the Type
Medications, whether taken on a regular basis as a preventative measure or when you feel an attack coming on, are typically the go-to treatment option for migraines. Because of the risk of potential side-effects of long-term use or the risk of developing rebound (medication overuse) headaches, many migraine sufferers are seeking out natural means to address their condition and have found their answer in upper cervical chiropractic care.
Upper cervical chiropractors focus on a very particular region of the spine – the junction where the head and neck meet. The vertebra that sits there, the atlas (C1), plays a vital role in protecting the brainstem. The brainstem is a critical component of the central nervous system. If the atlas becomes misaligned, which can happen as a result of an injury (I.e. sports or motor vehicle accident) or wear and tear (I.e. years of poor posture sitting at a desk), it can hinder normal neurological function and contribute to the onset of migraines.
The goal of upper cervical chiropractic care is to gently and precisely realign the atlas so that normal central nervous system function can be restored. Proper upper cervical spinal alignment is necessary to ensure that brain-body communication is occurring optimally. Regardless of what type of migraines you experience, you can stand to benefit from upper cervical chiropractic care. Many migraine patients report a significant reduction in the severity and/or frequency of their episodes, and some even call their migraines a thing of the past. Use the search function on our website to locate an upper cervical chiropractor in your area. Most will offer a complimentary, obligation-free consultation to learn more about this unique approach.