Are Your Migraine Headaches Coming From Your Neck?
Migraine headaches are disabling to the person who suffers. Migraines are normally one sided, cause severe pain, vomiting and some people find it necessary to stay in a dark room until recovery. Migraine affects more women than men by a margin of 3 to 1. (1) The frequency of migraines varies. Some people suffer monthly, oftentimes associated with the menses, while others can suffer several times a week. Migraine is the the sixth most prevalent illness in the world.
What Causes Migraine Headaches?
Medical research indicates that migraine headaches are vascular in origin. There are many things that can trigger migraine headaches such as, chocolate, caffeine, cheese, alcohol, aspartame, bright lights, peanuts and other foods that the person may be allergic to. Weather changes , which cause swings in barometric pressure, have also been correlated to triggering migraines. While some people draw correlations to what triggers their headaches no solid underlying cause has been definitively discovered.
Research has shown that the brain-stem interacts with certain nerve pathways that are implicated in the underlying cause of migraine.(3) Later in this article we will discuss a little known natural procedure, called upper cervical chiropractic, that has been helping people recover from migraines. This natural procedure specifically targets the the brain-stem and the the craniocervical junction (ccj- skull, atlas-axis junction).
What is Upper Cervical Chiropractic And How Can It Help Brain-Stem Function And Migraine Headaches?
The upper Cervical spine is one of those most complex biomechanical areas of the body. It houses the bodies most important structure, the brain stem. There are many theories that explain how trauma to the upper neck can be an underlying cause for brain stem dysfunction which has been shown to cause migraines.
A recent discovery called the myodural bridge, a connection between a muscle at the base of the skull and the sheath (dura mater) covering the spinal cord. This becomes important following neck injury. Motor vehicle accidents, concussions, and other whiplash injuries can cause structural injury to the ligaments and soft tissues of the atlas axis skull region. This can cause tightening of the muscle that connects to the dura mater covering the spinal cord leading to torsional stress and irritation. Upper Cervical chiropractors have found by correcting this structural problem , migraine headaches in a high percentage of patients either markedly improve or disappear. It is thought that by restoring motion to the misaligned joints it thereby affects and improves brain stem function.
Dentate cord theory:
This theory was discovered by John F. Grostic and it maintains several anatomical relationships are responsible for torsional stress on the spinal cord. Two ligaments attach to the inside of the ring of the first cervical vertebrae(c-1 a atlas). They then also attach to the sheath (dura mater) that covers the spinal cord. When a trauma induced misalignment occurs its displacement produces a "pulling" on the dura mater and distorts the normal anatomy of spinal cord. This irritation disrupts function, causing postural distortion throughout the spine. To read in depth about this theory you can read more here.
“Upper Cervical practitioners hypothesize based on their success in addressing many health conditions that the misalignment of the atlas is blocking communication to various parts of the body and thereby affecting the body’s own ability to correct the problem. “
Dr. Seymour Diamond, Executive Director of the National Headache Foundation, recently shared new imaging techniques that allow scientists to show what they believe to be the cause of migraine headaches: a malfunctioning brain stem. Seymor, opines "when the brain stem, located near the top of the neck malfunctions, it increases the swelling of blood vessels surrounding the brain, setting up a chain reaction that results in a migraine headache." It is clear that many things can trigger migraine but the question remains what is the root cause?
What does An Upper Cervical Chiropractor Do?
Upper Cervical chiropractors run objective neurological tests to determine whether cord irritation exists in the upper cervical spine. Once it is determined that there is a problem affecting the brain stem precise articular( joint) X-rays are taken to determine exactly what direction the misalignment has displaced. Angles are then measured off of the problem joints and a precision spinal correction is made. No cracking, popping, or pulling of the neck is done during the correction. It is precise , gentle, and painless. Following the spinal correction the patient rests in a " recuperation " room to allow the body to relax and " regain" control of its proper spinal position. Follow up care is necessary to ensure progress is accruing. Each visit objective tests are done to determine whether another spinal correction is necessary or not. Overtime as the adjustment holds healing occurs throughout the body. Our adage in upper cervical circles is, " nature needs no help just no interference".
We hope this blog reaches those seeking natural alternative solutions to migraines and other chronic health conditions. Upper cervical chiropractic has one goal- restoration of function. When this is achieved it is possible that a host of health conditions may resolve as a natural by product of better body function.
Dr. Hall has been the president of the BLAIR Upper Cervical Chiropractic Society for nine years. He is a BLAIR technique instructor and has been practicing the procedure for 16 years seeing over 9000 patients. Dr. Hall runs two offices, one in Los Angeles the other in Carson.