What Happens to the Brain During a Migraine?


Every one of us has likely experienced migraines. However, migraines are more than just terrible headaches. Migraines are neurological disorders that involve brain chemicals and nerve pathways. A bad headache is only one of its symptoms. It includes the following neurological signs:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Headaches 
  • Pounding and throbbing headache on one side of the head 
  • Attacks that last from four to seventy-two hours
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Extreme sensitivity to sound, touch, light, and certain scents
  • Numbness or tingling in the face or extremities

These symptoms, as well as its severity and frequency, vary from person to person. Every migraineur experiences migraines differently.

What Triggers a Migraine Headache? 

Triggers can be confusing and different for every individual. It is essential to understand that triggers do NOT cause migraines. Instead, they set off a migraine attack. 

Each individual must figure out what his or her migraine triggers are. What sets off your sister’s migraines may be entirely different for you. Think of migraine triggers as risk factors. In short, several risk factors can bring about an attack. Also, the more risk factors you have, the more likely you get to experience migraine attacks. 

Here’s a list of some common migraine triggers:

  • Dehydration 
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Changes in your sleep patterns
  • Skipping meals or fasting
  • High altitude (on high ground, thin air)
  • Air pressure changes (airplane travel)
  • Over-exertion
  • Certain exercises 
  • Pungent odors
  • Pollution or smoke
  • Bright or flickering lights
  • Motion sickness
  • Low and high humidity
  • Sudden changes in temperature
  • Barometric pressure changes
  • Changes in hormone levels
  • Pregnancy
  • Bright sunlight
  • Menstruation
  • Menopause
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Pain medications overuse
  • Side effects of medication
  • MSG
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Nitrates
  • Tyramines
  • Caffeine

If you deal with migraines, doctors and upper cervical chiropractors suggest that every patient keep a migraine diary. Then, start writing down your risk factors or migraine triggers. Include your activities before a migraine attack commenced as well as the types of food you ate, what the weather was like, and the exercises you did. Also, put your stress level.

The more details you write down, the better. This diary would allow you to see personal patterns that can help you identify your specific triggers. Finally, once you determine your triggers, you can plan to avoid them as much as possible. Therefore, it can lead to fewer migraines and less intense ones.

What is the Main Cause of Migraines?

Researchers and doctors are trying to understand more about how our brain and nervous system work. Migraines are still mysterious. In the early days, medications only targeted the blood vessels, aiming to minimize the pain. Then, new data comes into the light, allowing the medical community to understand that migraines also involve the nerve pathways and the chemicals in the brain.

In addition, migraines have a genetic link, as proven by at least half of migraine patients who have family members with the condition. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The other 50% of migraineurs do not have a genetic link. What might their migraine source be then? It means the environment plays a critical role in migraines as well.

How Does Migraine Affect The Brain?

Now that we have an idea of how migraines work and how they affect people, let’s look at how it can affect the brain. A study tried to know how migraine attacks affect the specific parts of the brain. Its objective was to see the difference between the brains of people with migraines and those without migraines. They used the upright MRI machine invented by Dr. Raymond Damadian. Were there any abnormalities in the brains of people with migraines? 

According to the research, migraines are possibly progressive brain diseases. What happens to the brain during a migraine? There was an increase in white matter hyperintensities discovered with each migraine attack.

They observed 28 patients and identified specific regions of brain abnormalities in each individual with migraines. These particular brain regions included:

  • The brainstem
  • Frontal lobes
  • Cerebellum

They also found that both migraine duration and attack frequency are indicators of damage in people with migraines. 

Can Spinal Misalignment Cause Migraines?

Dealing with migraines can be a severe matter. No wonder many are seeking a better way of relieving their migraine attacks as soon as possible. Fortunately, migraineurs can depend on upper cervical chiropractic. It has proven itself effective and successful for many decades. It is more than enough to help people with migraines. How so? 

According to studies, migraines have a link to a misalignment in the top bones of the upper cervical spine or the neck. The atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae are vulnerable to misaligning due to their location and high mobility. It does not take much force to move them out of their proper positions. These incidents can result in misalignments:

  • Car accidents
  • Sporting injuries
  • Slipping, tripping, and falling accidents
  • Whiplash
  • Concussion
  • Any head or neck injury or trauma

If any of these events occur, the brainstem may suffer. The atlas and axis vertebrae both protect the brainstem. But if they move out of proper position, they will cause the brainstem to malfunction. As a result, this can lead to delivering of improper signals to the brain. In addition, there can be a hindrance to the proper flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid that exits and reaches the brain. All of these factors lead to migraines and many of its accompanying symptoms.

Can Going to a Chiropractor Help With Migraines?

Upper cervical chiropractors use a gentle and precise procedure. It allows the upper cervical spine's bones to move back to their original position without excessive force. Therefore, we never resort to popping or cracking the neck or spine to produce results. Instead, we do it gently and precisely according to our patient's specific needs. After a few adjustments, many patients can experience a significant improvement in their migraine attacks. This can mean fewer migraine attacks and less severe headaches. Some patients even see their migraines go away completely and never return.

Find a trusted upper cervical chiropractor near you and experience long-term migraine relief!

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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.