Why Migraines and Vertigo Go Hand in Hand

December 10, 2017

Why Migraine and Vertigo are related

When a person experiences dizziness or vertigo along with a migraine, it is referred to as a vestibular migraine. This is a more common occurrence than most people think. It is estimated that as much as 40% of migraines feature some sort of vestibular symptom. Why do migraines and vertigo seem to go hand in hand? Is there a possible underlying cause that can result in both of these conditions? If so, is there a natural way to relieve this underlying problem? We’re going to address the answers to these questions and provide hope that migraines with vertigo can be relieved with a safe and natural procedure. Read on to learn more.

What Is a Migraine?

Contrary to popular belief, a migraine is not simply a bad headache. It is a neurological condition and has many other symptoms besides head pain. These symptoms often include (but are not limited to):

  • Sensory sensitivity including light, sound, smell, and even touch
  • Neck pain that begins before or during the headache
  • Nausea and potentially vomiting
  • Vision disturbances

Other symptoms that are fairly common but experienced by fewer than half of patients include aura and vertigo.

What Are the Symptoms of a Vestibular Migraine?

Vestibular migraines come along with many of the symptoms noted above. While a headache is the most common symptom, it is important to note that headaches only occur about 85% of the time during a migraine episode. Neck pain is nearly as common with about 75% of patients experiencing this symptom. Additionally, you may experience some of these other less common symptoms during a vestibular migraine:

  • Discomfort when turning the head from side to side or looking up
  • Feeling pressure in one or both ears
  • Tinnitus – a ringing, buzzing, or rushing sound in the ear
  • Temporary vision loss (partial or total)
  • Blurred vision or seeing flashes of light

Common Migraine Triggers

Your doctor may have recommended that you keep a diary to discern events that lead up to your migraines. Some triggers are environmental or lifestyle in nature, and you may be able to avoid these triggers to reduce the frequency of your migraines.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, the following triggers are the most common:

  • Lifestyle – Everything from stress and lack of sleep to skipping meals and overexerting yourself can lead to migraines. As a result, you may be able to reduce the frequency of migraines through things such as stress relief techniques and maintaining a regular schedule for sleeping and eating.
  • Environmental – Sensory triggers are common such as loud noise, strong smells, or bright flickering lights. Try to avoid cigarette smoke and other forms of pollution. Travel may also be a trigger due to motion sickness and pressure changes.
  • Medication – Certain medications, even ones that are supposed to help with headaches, can trigger migraines. For some, this has led to a pattern of medication overuse and chronic migraines (more than 15 migraine days per month).
  • Weather – These are the toughest triggers to avoid. Changes in weather conditions such as an incoming storm or even fluctuations in humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure trigger migraines for some. Migraines also seem to increase when lightning is in the area.

You may have noticed that foods and drinks are not on this list. That is because there is little evidence to support these as actual triggers. However, if you have an allergy or sensitivity to a particular type of food or additive, be sure to avoid these.

Migraines, Vertigo, and the Neck

How could that pain in your head be caused by your neck? Consider the following three underlying causes of migraines and vertigo that are all linked to the upper cervical spine (the top two neck bones).

  • Lack of blood flow – Insufficient blood flow to the head can cause both migraines and vertigo. Since the cervical spine facilitates this flow of blood by means of the vertebral foramen, it makes sense that even a slight misalignment may cause the proper flow to be inhibited. This can affect both the brain as well as the ears.
  • Inhibited brainstem function – The brainstem connects the brain to the spinal cord and is responsible for passing just about every internal message that travels through the body. As a result, the inhibited function can cause a wide range of issues including migraines and vertigo.
  • Reduced cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage – When the top bones of the spine are misaligned, it can affect how well CSF drains. This has been observed using an upright MRI. This process can lead to intracranial pressure, a potential contributing factor for migraines.

As you can see, the proper alignment of the C1 and C2 vertebrae are integral when it comes to both migraines and vertigo. It is no wonder then that neck pain is such a common symptom and that many cases of migraines, including vestibular migraines, begin following an accident or injury that affects the head or neck. Is there anything you can do to find relief besides just avoiding triggers?

Upper Cervical Chiropractic and Migraines

Many migraineurs are finding that upper cervical chiropractic care helps reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Some have even found complete relief once this underlying issue was corrected. This natural form of care is a safe and effective subspecialty of the chiropractic field. The focus is on the top two bones of the spine, and adjustments are extremely gentle.

If you would like to learn more about upper cervical chiropractic care and what it may be able to do for you, contact a nearby practitioner today. A no-obligation consultation may be your first step on the path to greater whole-body wellness.

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Areato schedule a consultation 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.