The Science of Migraine: What Happens in the Brain During an Attack

chiropractor for migraines

Whether you're a science and health geek or someone wondering what to do with recurring migraines, surely you have wondered at one point what happens inside the brain during an episode. So, as your go-to authority in finding the best chiropractor for migraines in the USA, we will be tackling the science of migraines. Hopefully, this will enlighten you about the many complexities of the human brain and how frequent migraine attacks can affect its normal processes.


What Scientists Say About Migraines

Scientists and medical researchers have been trying to understand migraines for decades. Initially, they believed that the condition stems from a vascular disorder, suggesting that it only develops due to blood vessel changes. However, as it turns out, migraine is a neurological problem influenced by various factors, including lifestyle choices, genetics, and history of neck injuries. 

Over the years, they have tried to map out the usual pathway of a migraine episode. Here's a brief overview of how migraine usually progresses 

A trigger activates a reaction

Neuroimaging scans during a migraine attack suggest that the hypothalamus-brainstem network may be the key driver of an episode. When activated, this network of tissues transmits signals to the trigeminal nerve. From there, the signal travels to the face, sinuses, forehead, and eventually the blood vessels that supply your brain. 

This leads to dilation or expansion of your nerves and a sudden influx of blood to your brain tissues. Now, unfortunately, the activity doesn't stop there. Instead, it spreads back and forth to every brain section and causes abnormal brain tissue activities. Scientist refers to this exact phenomenon as cortical depression. And they believe this chain of events triggers the initial phases of migraine attacks, including the accompanying symptoms such as visual aura.

Chemical imbalance can make things worse for your brain

Brainstem activation and cortical depression can lead to chemical imbalances because they activate the release of neuropeptides. Unfortunately, once released, these chemicals travel to the brain's protective layers triggering inflammation and blood vessel dilation.

Researchers believe this may be why migraine headaches hurt so much, and the sensation can spread to various parts of the head, including the eyes, face, and sinuses. Studies also note that the leaked neuropeptides account for other migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. 

The attack progresses

After the initial phase, the second stage follows, especially if you don't take medications or seek a helpful remedy. At this point, the brain becomes hypersensitive to pain, and the episode continues to wreak havoc on your nervous system.


Migraine Triggers You Should Be Aware Of

Now that you know what likely happens during an attack, let's help you get acquainted with the usual triggers. Hopefully, you can manage your episodes better by learning more about these things. Notably, some of these triggers are quite manageable. You can potentially adjust your routine to forego things like drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or coffee. Additionally, you can work around your schedule to avoid doing activities while it's too hot or humid outside. 

Notably, migraine triggers vary significantly between people. So, you might find it helpful to know the typical triggers reported by patients who visit a chiropractor for migraines:

Lifestyle-related triggers

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Physical and mental overexertion
  • Sudden changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in hormonal levels
  • Airplane travel (air pressure fluctuation)

Dietary triggers

  • Excessive alcohol consumption 
  • Starvation 
  • Dehydration 
  • Excessive intake of products with tyramine 
  • Excessive or lack of caffeine intake
  • Changes in your sleep patterns

chiropractor for migraines






Environmental triggers

  • Pollution or smoke
  • Bright lights 
  • Loud sounds
  • Strong and pungent odors
  • Changing humidity levels
  • Low and high temperature 

Hormonal triggers

  • Pregnancy
  • Menstruation
  • Menopause
  • Oral contraception
  • Hormone therapy


Things That Might Help Your Cope Better During an Attack

Getting acquainted with migraine's fundamental mechanisms and triggers is one thing. Understanding how you can move forward is an entirely different matter. Hence, we rounded up a few things you can try to manage your symptoms and possibly reduce the severity of your attacks. 

Take your go-to medication

Migraine medications can help prevent an attack from progressing, causing pain and harm to your nervous system. So, you might find it helpful to take drugs like NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, and triptans. If you're not sure which specific medicines to take, we strongly recommend consulting with your physician. 

Limit exposure to additional triggers

Naturally, it would help if you avoid additional exposure to triggers. Remember all the migraine triggers we shared above, so you don't end up aggravating your condition or setting off a series of episodes. During an attack, you might find it helpful to stay in a calm area, free from bright lights, strong scents, and loud noise. 

Additionally, we suggest keeping track of your migraine episodes and the specific triggers that set off your symptoms. Doing so will help you avoid another attack or prepare better the next time an episode starts. 

Upper Cervical Care

Countless patients who seek a chiropractor for migraines attest to the effectiveness of Upper Cervical Care. That's why more and more people have started taking advantage of this technique. Essentially, seeking an Upper Cervical doctor means getting the neck bones checked for structural discrepancies. 

This will allow you to address even the tiniest changes in your C1 and C2 vertebra and ensure that they don't interfere with the normal function of your brainstem and other parts of the nervous system. It's a painless and highly accurate process that has helped thousands of patients experience significant migraine relief.


Visit the Nearest Chiropractor for Migraines 

Migraine attacks are unpleasant, especially if you have no clue why they happen. Hopefully, with our comprehensive discussion above, you now understand what happens in the brain during an episode. We hope you start seeking helpful remedies like Upper Cervical Chiropractic as soon as possible. 

Not sure if getting neck bone adjustments would help relieve your recurring migraine headaches? We suggest speaking with an Upper Cervical Doctor. This will help you check if you have misaligned neck bones and how long it might take to restore your spine to its original curvature. Connect with a local Upper Cervical chiropractor 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.