What Does a Migraine Aura Look Like?


A migraine episode is a debilitating combination of symptoms that can include a severe headache, nausea, heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, vision disturbances, and cognitive changes.  A migraine episode is due to changes that occur in the nervous system. Because of these nervous system changes, approximately 25-30% of migraine sufferers will experience an aura before the onset of a headache.  A migraine attack will typically progress in four stages, though not everyone will experience all of them:

  1. Prodrome
  2. Aura
  3. Headache
  4. Postdrome

Those who go through the aura phase often view it as a warning sign of what is to come.  Some people may only experience aura along with many other migraine symptoms except for the severe headache.  These episodes are called silent migraines.

What is a Migraine Aura?

Aura is a set of sensory disturbances that occur shortly before the headache phase of a migraine attack and can last from 5 to 60 minutes.  Visual auras are the most common, but they can also be motor, verbal, or sensory. A visual aura affects the vision cortex of your brain, which processes optical signals.  During an aura, electrical nerve impulses across the vision cortex cause visual hallucinations. Similarly, when other areas of the brain endure impairement, it can create a sensory aura that can cause numbness and tingling in the limbs or face.  Speech and language issues are also possible. These auras are temporary phenomena that will subside when the migraine attack is over.

What Does a Visual Aura Look Like?

Visual disturbances can appear vastly different from person to person as well as from episode to episode.  There are many ways that migraine sufferers have described the things they report seeing during the aura phase:

  • Double vision
  • Flashes of light similar to a camera flash going off
  • Blind spots in the field of vision
  • Sparklers
  • Seeing stars
  • Tunnel vision
  • Colored spots
  • Bright geometrical lines
  • Zigzag lines
  • Walls closing in
  • TV channel “fuzz”
  • Temporary blindness

Are Migraine Auras Dangerous?

It isn’t completely apparent whether a migraine aura poses a danger to those who experience it.  If there is a restriction of blood supply to the areas of the brain impacted by an aura, it may potentially cause damage to those cells.  Migraine sufferers may have an increased risk of developing changes to the white matter in the brain and a higher likelihood of experiencing  a stroke. People who experience aura regularly during a migraine attack should stay aware of the presence of other signs of a migraine, as symptoms of a TIA (transient ischemic attack, or “mini-stroke”) can sometimes be confused with an aura.

Natural Care for Migraine Sufferers

Migraine solutions can be difficult to come by, especially those that utilize natural methods. Short-term relief is possible by addressing individual symptoms such as headache and nausea.  But, when it comes to migraines, it is beneficial to dig a few layers deeper to understand what root causes are at play.  The atlas vertebra, which is at the junction of the head and neck, can be a contributing factor to the abnormal neurological changes that occur during a migraine episode.

Many migraine sufferers have been choosing upper cervical chiropractic as part of their migraine care regimen.  Upper cervical chiropractic care for those who experience migraines makes sense for several reasons:

An atlas misalignment can alter normal neurological function

Migraines are a neurological condition.  Auras, severe headaches, and other migraine symptoms are caused when abnormal signals are being sent and received within the brain and central nervous system.  When the atlas misaligns, it can irritate the nerves and tissues surrounding the brainstem. The atlas may be particularly vulnerable to misaligning because of its unique shape and its greater range of movement.

Normal fluid dynamics can also be interrupted

Blood flow and the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) are continually occurring between the head and neck.  Proper movement of these fluids ensures that the tissues of the brain and nervous system are receiving the oxygen and nutrients required for optimal function.  When the atlas is misaligned, it can create a chokepoint for the flow of these vital fluids and can contribute to the development of migraine symptoms.

Adjustments are customized for the patient

When you visit an upper cervical chiropractor, a thorough examination is done to measure the extent of your misalignment.  Not everyone who comes into our office requires the same adjustment. Based on your individualized measurements, the adjustment you receive at an upper cervical chiropractic clinic will be tailor-built for you.  The obvious benefits of such a specific adjustment are that they require very little force and may hold in place for longer.

If you live with the unpredictable nature of migraines, then having your neck and atlas alignment checked by an upper cervical chiropractor is an essential step.  As you work with your doctor of chiropractic to achieve healthy head and neck positioning, the improvement of your alignment can also benefit neurological communication and blood/CSF flow.  Migraine sufferers who participated in several upper cervical chiropractic care studies reported a significant decrease in their symptoms and a subsequent increase in quality of life. Learning more is easy and obligation-free.  You may start by browsing our website content, which will also help you to locate an upper cervical practitioner near you.        




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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.