Given the statistics that 1 in 4 households in the US includes someone who suffers from these menacing headaches, it’s likely you do. Migraines are three times more likely to affect women than men, but they aren’t just the bane of adults—children can suffer from them as well.
Migraines are more than just a bad headache. Migrainous episodes are ignited deep within the base of the brain. Once activated, they set off a cascade of electrical and vascular changes across the brain which can result in a myriad of symptoms. Typical migraines present with moderate to severe, throbbing head pain. Additionally, as if throbbing head pain wasn’t enough, many migraineurs endure sensitivities to light, odors, sound, and touch, as well as experience various visual disturbances, nausea, and vomiting.
Migraineurs know “their” migraine patterns well, and because much has been written about food, smell, light, or noise triggers, they do their best to avoid their known triggers. Some will take preventative medications on a daily basis, which have been prescribed by their physicians—all in an attempt not to set off a migraine. When these preventative steps prove inadequate, and they sense a migraine beginning to brew, their last possible way to escape this “headache hurricane” is to take a prescribed, often times injectable, abortive medication. Sadly, if the abortive medication fails, a migraineur has no other choice but to cancel their plans for the day and seek the cover of a dark, quiet room to ride out the storm.
For decades now, managing migraines has been the best a migraineur can do. Copious books written on the subject discuss in great detail dietary and atmospheric triggers a migraineur would do best to avoid. Then, as a consolation, long lists of available medications, to be taken daily or abortively, are provided. But today, current research has revealed that there is a rarely-discussed, yet highly influential migraine trigger: the upper neck.
For 30+ years I have been treating head pain patients—many of them migraineurs—by using a hands-on (manual) physical therapy treatment approach. What I discovered long ago, and which has only recently been verified by neurologic research, is that muscle, joint, and disc dysfunction in the upper neck is a MAJOR migraine trigger!
To understand this better, think of potential head pain as a stick of dynamite. The length of the fuse depends on the individual. Researchers have discovered that a migraineur’s brain is more sensitive to stimuli than a non-migraine sufferer. This means a migraineur has an inherently shorter “fuse.” The “matches” in this analogy would be headache triggers such as stress, food sensitivities, surrounding noise levels, bright or flashing lights, low barometric pressure, and upper neck dysfunction. When enough of these matches are bundled together, they can flame up sufficiently enough to ignite the fuse. Then—KABOOM—a migraine explodes on the scene!
What I have seen, time and time again, is that by removing the “match stick” of upper neck dysfunction—which is a very large match when compared to the other triggers—the rest of the would-be triggers can’t build enough “heat” to the light the fuse. This method of head pain treatment has been successful even with those patients whose migraines are tied to their monthly hormonal cycles.
At last—you can quit managing your migraines, and instead, put an end to them!
So, what do you need to do to break free from a lifetime of migraines? Find yourself a healthcare practitioner who has the necessary keys to unlock your upper neck dysfunction. This person will need to be highly skilled; able to address joint, muscle and disc problems; and be knowledgeable in offering you guidance regarding the best postures (sleeping, sitting, and standing) and ergonomic sets ups to enhance the hands-on treatment they’re dispensing.
This approach sounds so much better than being married to medication, doesn’t it?
Lisa Morrone, PT is an orthopedic, manual, physical therapist and prolific author who practices privately in Forest, VA. Contact Lisa through her website: www.LisaMorrone.com and sign up for her Monday Morning Health Tips! Also check out her book, Overcoming Headaches and Migraines, available on Amazon.com.