Headaches are a common problem that 50% of people experience every year. Migraines are a severe form of headache that affects someone in 1 out of 4 households in the United States. Many people assume headaches and migraines are a normal part of life. Although headaches and migraines are COMMON, they are NOT NORMAL. They are a sign from our bodies that something is wrong.
Migraines are typically described as a severe throbbing sensation that typically occurs on one side of the head. Attacks are often accompanied by one or more of the following disabling symptoms:
- Visual disturbance
- Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and smell
- Tingling or numbness in the extremities or face
Approximately 25% of migraine sufferers experience a visual disturbance called an aura prior to or during the migraine attack, in addition to the other symptoms listed above. Symptoms typically last between 4-72 hours.
There are many different causes of migraines. One of the most common causes that we focus on in our office includes both physical stress on the neck and mental stress. Poor posture and repetitive motions are two of the most common causes of physical stress on the neck. This physical stress results in fixations and misalignments within the joints of the neck, which put pressure on the nerves that travel up into the head and lead to a migraine. Mental stress, including fear, worry, and anxiety, typically causes tightness in the muscles that connect to the bones of the neck, which again can put pressure on the nerves traveling into the head, leading to migraines.
In our office, we focus mainly on the mechanical and physical triggers that lead to migraines, but we can also help you with lifestyle changes for the other causes. This can include diet, hydration, exercise routine, sleep habits, and more. Our goal is to get to the root cause of the pain to ultimately resolve your migraines rather than just focusing on treating the symptoms.
How We Treat Migraines in Arlington Heights, IL
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How We Treat Migraines in Arlington Heights, IL
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
Before performing any sort of examination or treatment, you will first sit down with a doctor who will really listen to what you are experiencing. We want to make sure that we know exactly what is causing your pain before recommending an evaluation or treatment. Once we have a better idea of what has been going on, we will perform an in-depth examination, including palpation of the spine, posture analysis, orthopedic tests, computerized neurological scans, and digital X-rays (if needed). The goal at the end of the evaluation is to determine if dysfunction in the spine and nervous system is the root cause of your migraines. From there, we can determine the best course of treatment (including referral if we determine that chiropractic care is not the best approach for your migraines).
Specific Chiropractic Care in Arlington Heights, IL
A subluxation is a joint of the spine that is misaligned or fixated, meaning it is not able to function as it should. When this happens, it puts stress and pressure on the nervous system preventing the nerves from working how they should. The nerves in the neck are the nerves that are directly related to migraines.
Chiropractic adjustments are specific movements performed on areas of the spine where subluxations are present. This removes pressure on the nervous system allowing your nerves to function optimally. If your migraines are caused by a subluxation, they won’t get better until those misalignments are addressed.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
When spinal joints are misaligned or not functioning how they should, they can create muscle weakness, tightness, and imbalance. Muscle weakness can come from poor posture, typically resulting in the head shifting forward. This creates what we call upper cross syndrome. In upper cross syndrome, the trapezius and suboccipital muscles in the back of the neck and upper back become tight, and the muscles in the front of the neck become weak. For this reason, you will receive a customized therapy plan to be done at home to ensure proper healing and resolution of your migraines.
3 Exercises To Help Relieve A Migraine
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In addition to receiving chiropractic care, we often discuss lifestyle effects that may be leading to your migraines. Many times migraines can be triggered by the food we eat. We highly recommend keeping track of the foods you eat and if a migraine is triggered. We also provide supplementation recommendations if needed to support the healing process further.
Common Triggers of Migraines
Stress is one of the most common triggers of migraines, affecting almost 70% of people with migraines. When we experience stress, it typically creates tightness in the muscles of the neck, which can then lead to cervical subluxations. Subluxations are misalignments of the spinal vertebrae that cause compression of the spinal nerves. When the compressed nerves from the neck travel up into the head, migraines commonly result. It is crucial to identify what causes your stress and work on managing it through chiropractic adjustments, meditation, relaxation techniques, or exercise.
Changes In or An Irregular Sleep Schedule
Sleep is such an essential part of our daily routine. Sleep is the time in which our bodies renew and repair, including the brain. When we become sleep deprived, our brain and body are not able to function and heal optimally, which frequently leads to migraines. One way to avoid migraine headaches is to make sure you are getting enough sleep each night and sleeping in a position that is not putting stress on the spine. We recommend choosing a pillow that supports the neck but does not press your chin to your chest. Chiropractic adjustments are a great form of treatment for improving your sleep quality which can reduce the chance of developing migraines.
Women are three times more likely to experience migraines; the main reason is fluctuation in hormonal levels. Many women complain of migraines during or before their monthly menstrual cycle. The change of estrogen levels is a well-known cause of migraine attacks. Focusing on eating healthy foods, engaging in daily exercise, and getting adjusted regularly can help with hormonal imbalances.
Changes in the Weather
When the weather changes drastically or from season to season, there tends to be a change in atmospheric pressure. This change in pressure can cause many to experience migraines. Allergies and sinus pressure are also common when the seasons change, which can also trigger migraines. It is important to remember to drink plenty of water throughout the entire year to ensure proper hydration as the weather changes from cold and brisk to hot and humid. This will hopefully prevent migraines from occurring.
Diet and Dehydration
Diet and water consumption have a significant impact on the development of migraines. One-third of people experience migraines due to dehydration. Water is vital for optimal health and healing. Signs of dehydration can include dizziness, lightheadedness, and confusion. It is important to drink plenty of water throughout the entire year to ensure proper hydration, especially as the weather changes from cold and brisk to hot and humid. In general, we recommend drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. (If you weigh 100 pounds, you should drink 50 ounces of water per day.)
Foods are also a common trigger for many who experience migraines. We recommend keeping a food diary to help indicate which foods are your triggers. Foods typically associated with the onset of migraines include those containing histamine or MSG, chocolate, cheese, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, cured meats, and very pungent foods.
Light and Smell
Along with intense smells, sensitivity to lights (bright lights, fluorescent lights, flickering lights) and is another trigger of migraines for many people. We often hear complaints of migraines in those who tend to work long hours at a computer. Wearing blue light glasses and taking breaks from the computer can help reduce the onset of migraines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chiropractic care is excellent for patients with migraines. We know that the spinal nerves in the neck go to the head. When the joints of the neck are unable to move and function how they should, it can create stress and inflammation in these nerves, which can lead to migraines. Chiropractic adjustments focus on restoring motion in the spinal joints to take pressure off the nerves so your body can function as it should. Allowing the nervous system to function optimally can help resolve your migraines.
Neck alignment can absolutely cause migraines. When the bones of the upper neck are out of alignment or unable to function and move properly, it creates pressure on the nerves that travel up into the head, leading to migraines. Chiropractic adjustments remove those misalignments and restore motion into the joints, taking pressure off the nerves, reducing and resolving migraines.
We believe chiropractic care is the most effective treatment for migraines. The reason for this is that many times migraines arise from imbalance, misalignment, or restriction within the spine. Many medical professionals prescribe medications to help with migraines as the first form of treatment, but this is not actually resolving the underlying cause. Medications work to cover up the symptoms of the migraine, not correct the cause. Although medication may be needed in some cases, it is better to start with the most natural, least invasive option. Chiropractic care gets to the root cause of your migraines and resolves the actual problem rather than just focusing on resolving the symptoms. This is why we believe chiropractic should be your first stop when you have a migraine.
Exercise can help with migraines. Migraines can arise not just from the bones of the spine being out of alignment or not moving how they should but also from muscles in the neck and upper back being too tight. Exercises focusing on releasing the tension in the neck and upper back can be beneficial, especially when performed in addition to getting adjusted.
We recommend keeping a log of what food you eat and if a migraine was triggered to try and rule out which foods to avoid.