What Does a Vestibular Migraine Feel Like?


Migraine is one of the most crippling chronic conditions for a reason. They bring about harsh headaches and neurological symptoms that can be unbearable to migraineurs. However, the experience can get even worse if you have vestibular migraines.  To give you a clue what a vestibular migraine feels like, imagine dealing with a bout of migraine while having a vertigo attack at the same time. You definitely wouldn’t wish vestibular migraines on anyone.


Symptoms of Classic Migraines

Also known as “sick headaches,” classic migraines can cause these symptoms:

  • Unilateral head pain (but not always) 
  • Pounding or throbbing headache 
  • Severe and progressive pain
  • Sensitivity to sound, light, or odors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain that disrupts a person’s productivity
  • Aura: sensory disturbances such as blind spots, flashing lights, vision changes, or tingling in the face or hand


More About Vestibular Migraines

Vestibular migraines affect 1 percent of the population or 10% of all migraineurs. The hallmark symptom of a vestibular migraine is vertigo. Vestibular migraines are the most common source of spontaneous vertigo attacks. 

Symptoms of Vestibular Migraines

As mentioned earlier, in vestibular migraines, you’re dealing with two enemies. On top of the symptoms of classic migraine, vestibular migraines also involve the following symptoms:

  • Spontaneous vertigo attacks 
  • Dizziness from staring at moving objects like cars or running people
  • Motion sickness caused by moving the body, head, or eyes
  • Rocking feeling similar to when you’re riding a boat
  • Loss of balance
  • Inability to focus the eyes 
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tinnitus
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Neck pain

Triggers of Vestibular Migraines

Migraines and vestibular conditions share a couple of similarities. Both can come about due to environmental or food triggers. Factors such as weather changes and hormonal imbalance also play a role in their progression. Here’s a list of known triggers of vestibular migraines:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Stress
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Low blood sugar (often caused by skipping meals)
  • Changes in barometric pressure 
  • Certain medications
  • Food
    • Aged cheeses – parmesan, cheddar, feta, stilton, gouda, bleu
    • Cured or processed meat – hot dog, sausage, salami, ham, pepperoni, bacon
    • Yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk
    • Onions, pickles, olives
    • Peanut butter and other nuts
    • Peapods and broad beans
    • Doughnuts, fresh bread, raised coffee cake
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    • Some fruit – avocado, banana, figs, papaya, red plums, citrus, passion fruit
    • Alcohol – gin, Scotch, bourbon, red wine, port, sherry
    • Too much coffee, cola, or tea


A smart method to find out whether you have other migraines or vestibular migraines is to maintain a migraine diary. In this way, you can take note of your symptoms and other essential migraine factors, such as your feelings, the weather, and your activities before the attack. Doing so can reveal the patterns developing and help you prevent your triggers and potential future attacks. 


Managing Vestibular Migraines

Similar lifestyle changes and medications can care for vestibular migraines and other types of migraines. Vestibular migraineurs can use either abortive (to stop migraine symptoms) or preventive (to prevent an attack) medications, including:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Depakote and Topamax (anticonvulsants)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Effexor XR
  • Gabapentin or Neurontin
  • SSRIs – serotonergic agents
  • Klonopin or Clonazepam
  • Topamax or Topiramate
  • Diamox or Acetazolamide
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Trileptal or Oxcarbazepine 
  • Isometheptene mucate
  • Triptans – Imitrex and Relpax


Making some lifestyle modifications would also help to get relief from vestibular migraines. Things like stress management, trigger prevention, and regular exercise would also benefit patients. 


Your Next Step to Get Lasting Relief for Vestibular Migraines

Many patients suffering from vestibular migraines often express frustration over the endless chasing of symptoms, but no form of care seems to provide lasting relief. One important fact we need to consider when pursuing a form of care is that migraines will continue until the underlying cause is addressed. 

What is the underlying cause of vestibular migraines? Although the singular cause remains unclear, many professionals in the medical field recognize that vestibular migraines have a link to nerve irritation and blood flow problem. Why do they happen?

In several case studies, migraines come about due to a misalignment in the vertebrae of the upper cervical spine. The C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) are the topmost bones of the spine, and they are very prone to misaligning than any other bones in the spine. This is because they facilitate the movement of the head in different directions. Their function, shape, and mobility make them vulnerable. In fact, it only takes a slight misalignment to cause a problem within the central nervous system. A simple trip and fall or minor injury to the head can result in misalignment, then leading to symptoms. This is often the case in whiplash patients.

A misalignment in the upper cervical spine can have far-reaching impacts on the body. It can irritate nerves and impair blood flow to the brain. These are often the situations that lead to migraines. 

Upper cervical chiropractic encourages the bones of the neck to shift back in their positions more naturally without force. This is often all it takes to help migraine patients enjoy a reduction in the frequency and intensity of their migraine episodes. Thousands of patients see them disappear entirely and never occur again.

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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.