Migraine is one of the most common ailments afflicting people today. With about 39 million people coping with migraines in America alone, does that mean that this condition is wholly understood now? Not really. In fact, there is a shocking amount that is still unknown regarding what causes migraines or how to care for them. Some of the things we do understand are migraine triggers and risk factors.
Therefore, we will discuss these triggers and risk factors. We will also direct you toward a natural therapy that has helped some migraineurs in case studies.
Migraine Triggers: Three of the Main Culprits
We may not have a definitive answer as to what causes migraines, but we do know there are several migraine triggers that can set the next attack off. Since these triggers vary from patients to patient, you may need to maintain a migraine journal to determine your personal migraine triggers. Here are some of the most common ones to help you get started.
Stress is the number one migraine trigger. It may be due to the fact that stress causes the body to release hormones, such as cortisol, to allow you to deal with the stressful situation. Unfortunately, when stress hormone levels in the body spike suddenly or remain too high for a long time, it may trigger a migraine.
On the other hand, a sudden drop in stress hormones may also be responsible for the onset of a migraine. Therefore, you may get a migraine when you are relaxing from a stressful situation. This is called a letdown migraine, and they can really ruin a spa day or a vacation. It’s far better to work at reducing stress in the first place and having suitable coping mechanisms in place for when stress inevitably arises.
#2 Medication Overuse
Medication overuse headaches, also called rebound headaches, are at the heart of many cases of chronic migraines (15 or more migraine days per month). This trigger usually occurs due to self-medication with over the counter headache pills. Unfortunately, most people mistake “over the counter” as a synonym of “safe” and that can lead to problems. Most of these drugs are only intended for occasional use and taking them a couple of times per week seems to actually increase the frequency of the headaches that are associated with migraines.
If your migraines used to be less frequent and you take a lot of over the counter pain medicine, you may want to try coming off the pills for a few weeks to see if you get fewer headaches. If you think the problem results from prescription medication, talk to your doctor before changing anything.
#3 The Weather
When weather patterns change dramatically, this can result in a migraine. It’s one of the worst triggers because there is really nothing you can do except check the weather report and not schedule anything significant on the days your triggers will occur. Weather triggers include everything from extreme changes in barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity to nearby lightning strikes.
Migraine Risk Factors
Besides triggers, we also have to mention migraine risk factors. If any of the following apply to you, then you are at higher risk of getting migraines in the first place.
- You are female – Three women get migraines for every one man. It clearly has something to do with fluctuating hormones because the number of boys who get migraines outnumbers girls until puberty, and then the statistics flip. It also explains why women are more like to get migraines at certain times in their cycle, while pregnant, or during menopause.
- Your parents get migraines – Migraines are not genetic, but a propensity toward them may be. If even one of your parents gets migraines, you have a 50/50 chance of getting them too. If both your parents are migraineurs, that increases the risk to 75%.
- You’ve experienced a head or neck injury – Whether it is a sports injury, a slip and fall, a car accident, or any other type of head or neck injury, trauma increases the likelihood you will begin to get migraines. Since 75% of migraineurs also experience neck pain either before or during the attack, it makes sense that the neck is related.
The Connection Between the Neck and Migraines
When a head or neck injury occurs, this often leads to an upper cervical misalignment. Such a misalignment can undoubtedly lead to neck pain, but that is rarely where it stops. These bones balance the head, and that means the body will shift and make changes along the spine to maintain proper balance of the skull. Plus, the C1 (atlas) surrounds the brainstem and can have a significant impact on central nervous system function if it becomes misaligned.
Additionally, the cervical spine supports blood flow to the head. Diminished blood flow shares a link with migraines, so checking the neck for misalignments makes sense. An upper cervical misalignment can even increase intracranial pressure by inhibiting proper cerebrospinal fluid drainage. All of this combines to make the top two bones in the neck the first place to check if you suffer from migraines.
Upper cervical specific chiropractors focus on these two bones with precise and gentle corrections. Patients often find that symptoms they thought were unrelated begin to improve once the C1 and C2 are back in place. To learn more, contact a practitioner in your area to schedule an appointment.