Winnipeg Chiropractor: What you need to know about a migraine

A migraine can take a lot out of you. Frequent migraines can negatively impact your quality of life. They affect the ability to maintain/develop fitness, the ability to work and the ability to enjoy relationships with family or friends.

So how do you know if you are experiencing a migraine?

The classic migraine is a migraine with aura. People who experience these migraines may experience warning signs hours or even days before the headache. These signs might be:

  • Food cravings
  • Feeling “hyper” or cranky
  • Experiencing fatigue and yawning more
  • Feeling stiff in your neck
  • Need to urinate more often
  • Get constipated or have diarrhea

If an aura occurs, not everyone experiences one, the aura tends to develop over time. The development of the aura is not quick. It typically takes more than 4 minutes to develop the aura. In addition, You may also experience more than one aura in succession.   Within 60 minutes after developing an aura the headache pain begins.

Examples of migraine aura include:

example of visual aura
  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
  • Weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hearing noises or music
  • Uncontrollable jerking or other movements

The Migraine headache

Migraine headaches tend to last between 4 and 72 hours.  Migraine sufferers may also experience nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound and they may experience at least two of the following: 

  • One sided headache pain
  • Headache is moderate to severe in intensity
  • The pain tends to be throbbing in nature
  • Symptoms may be aggravated with general physical activity

Migraine triggers

There are a number of different migraine triggers, including:

Drinks: alcohol, especially wine, and caffeine

Foods. Aged cheeses, salty and processed foods

Food additives. These include aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG), 

Skipping meals.

Stress.

Sensory stimuli. Bright lights and sun glare can induce migraines, as can loud sounds. Strong smells — including perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke and others — trigger migraines in some people.

Sleep changes. Missing sleep, getting too much sleep or jet lag can trigger migraines in some people.

Physical factors. Intense physical exertion

Medications. Oral contraceptives and vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin.

Hormonal changes in women. Fluctuations in estrogen, such as before or during menstrual periods, pregnancy and menopause, seem to trigger headaches in many women. 

Weather changes. A change of weather or barometric pressure can prompt a migraine.

Chiropractic examination

When a patient comes to see me with a headache that is migraine in nature my examination is to rule out more serious problems.

In office, I’ll perform an examination, which includes checking blood pressure and a neurological exam which would include:

  • Romberg’s test
  • Tandem walking
  • Drift of outstretched hands
  • Finger-nose test
  • Assessing the eye  for pupillary response and horner’s syndrome, eye movement, and vision
  • Assessing hearing, 
  • Checking the skin’s sensation to touch or pain
  • Muscle strength
  • Facial expressions
  • Reflexes.  

 MRI or CT scans are only suggested if the patient comes in with the worst headache ever, if they have a headache that is made worse with exertion or /coughing, if there are signs of brain lesions, a known malignancy or if it is a new headache for an older patient.  ER or GP are referred to in these cases 

How you can help yourself

Here are a few ways you can help reduce the frequency of your migraines

  • Develop better sleep hygiene: keep a sleep diary
  • Eat wisely: Don’t skip meals, keep a food journal, and avoid foods that cause your migraines
  • Exercise regularly:
  • Reduce stress: Simplify your life, delegate, take breaks, meditate, do something you enjoy on a regular basis
  • Keep a a migraine journal to help discover what causes your migraines. In some cases avoiding triggers is helpful. In other cases avoiding triggers may actually increase sensitivity to those triggers.

How I can help you

There is evidence that chiropractic adjustments or joint manipulations and joint mobilizations reduce both the frequency and intensity of migraines. Most of the research papers on this subject use a treatment frequency of two times a week for 8 to 12 weeks

There is evidence that people with migraines have more active trigger points in their muscles. Part of my treatment includes treating these trigger points with various myofascial release methods including acupuncture. Recent research as shown that treating trigger points can reduce the frequency of migraines to similar amounts to that of a common migraine medication. Improvements were seen over 6 to 8 visits over the course of 17 weeks.

Lastly, it is very common to have poor endurance in the neck muscles in female migraine suffers. During your treatments you will be given the appropriate exercises for homework to aid in improving your neck endurance.

When you are ready to get out of pain and back to enjoying your life book an appointment.

Dr Chirstopher Notley – Winnipeg Chiropractor and Athletic Therapist

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