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Migraines are extremely painful headaches that are sometimes accompanied by symptoms such as visual disturbances, auras, and nausea. An aura may be manifested by stars, zigzag lines, or temporary blind spots that occur before the migraine starts. Other warning signs may include such symptoms as a craving for sweets, thirst, depression, or aching at the base of the skull.

What causes a migraine?

Research still doesn’t give a specific cause for a migraine, although it is speculated that a migraine headache involves changes in the blood flow in the brain. Reduced blood flow to the brain may cause the symptoms of difficulty speaking, weakness, numbness or tingling along one side of the body, visual disturbances and other symptoms.

The most common migraine triggers include the following: Alcohol…especially red wine and beer, food allergies, hormonal changes, skipping meals, caffeine, sleep disturbances, certain odors, bright lights, physical and emotional stress, certain medications, and cervical spine disorders.

What is the relationship between the cervical spine and migraines headaches?

The nerves of the upper cervical spine radiate from the base of the skull to the forehead and eyes. Any misalignment of the upper cervical spine may cause foraminal stenosis (pinched nerve openings) and impairment of the vertebral artery. Cervical spine misalignment may cause pain over the back of the head and reduce blood flow to the brain. Recurring headaches may be the result of old cervical spine trauma; sports and head injuries, auto accidents, and childhood falls or accidents.

Can chiropractic treatment help migraine headaches?

A research article in the February, 2000, Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics, states: “It appears probable that chiropractic care has an effect on the physical conditions related to stress and that in these people the effects of the migraine are reduced.”

In a recent publication by the University of Maryland Medical Center, chiropractic treatment is being recommended as a conservative approach for treatment. Their clinical study “indicates that spinal manipulation may help treat migraine headaches.” In one study of people with migraines, 22% of those who received chiropractic manipulation reported more than a 90% reduction of attacks. Also, 49% reported a significant reduction of the intensity of each migraine.

In another study spinal manipulation worked as well as Elavil in reducing migraines with fewer side effects. Researches reviewed 9 studies that tested chiropractic for tension or migraines and found that it worked as well as medications in preventing these headaches.

How does a chiropractor treat migraine headaches?

If your migraines seem to be concentrated at the base of the skull and radiates into the forehead and eyes, there is a good probability that spinal adjustments may help. Imaging studies will be helpful to confirm cervical spine misalignment. Your chiropractor will be an excellent source of wisdom to advise you with a treatment protocol that will reduce recurring migraine headaches.

(Dr. Craig Brue is an author, lecturer and chiropractic provider in SaddleBrooke, AZ)