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Migraine Treatment: A Springfield, IL Chiropractor’s Perspective

As a Chiropractor in Springfield, IL we see cases of migraines on a daily basis. 50% of Americans will report having a headache at least once per year and one of the most common types of headaches that patients come to us with is migraine headaches. Migraines are a neurologic problem whose symptoms can be debilitating for many people. In fact, the estimated costs between healthcare and lost productivity due to migraines are around $36 BILLION per year! Nearly 1 in 4 households in the U.S. have someone who suffers from migraines, and a staggering 85% of chronic migraine sufferers are women.

Migraines typically present with a severe, throbbing pain that is usually on one side of the head. It is common to also feel pain behind the eye on the side of symptoms. Other migraine symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and numbness. Around 25% of migraine sufferers will experience a visual disturbance called an aura, which typically precedes the migraine episode. Migraines can last anywhere from 4-72 hours, making them a real obstacle for sufferers to live their lives normally.

With migraines, it is crucial to find the root cause of the problem. If there is a physical or mechanical problem with a bone, nerve, muscle, or disc, then that problem needs to be addressed. For example, if the vertebrae (spinal bones) in your neck are not properly aligned, it can cause pressure on the nerves at that level and cause these headaches. In order to fix the problem, proper spinal alignment needs to be restored. This is what our chiropractors specialize in. Whatever the trigger for the migraine, whether it be a physical problem, a hormonal imbalance, a specific food, or anything else, it needs to be identified and corrected in order to stop the problem from persisting.

How We Treat Migraines in Springfield, IL

Comprehensive Exam and Consultation

Every new patient in our office begins their pathway to healing with a thorough consultation and examination with one of our doctors. They want to hear your story in your own words about this problem. How long have you been dealing with migraines? How often do you get them? What impact has this had on your life? Truly understanding your condition and how it has affected your life helps us identify your goals and provide you our best recommendations for care.

After the consultation, the examination will begin. Orthopedic, neurologic, and functional movement testing will be performed in order to understand how your spine and nervous system are currently functioning. We will also check your spine for subluxation (a vertebra not moving properly or being out of alignment), which may be the root cause of your problem. We will also assess your posture, as this can be an underlying contributing factor for why problems like this tend to persist for long periods of time. All of these findings are communicated to you at your follow-up visit so that you may understand your condition and what needs to be done to address it.

Specific Chiropractic Care | Springfield IL

Chiropractic care is at the forefront of our treatment approach to migraines. We pay special attention to the 3 vertebrae at the top of the spine that are closest to the skull. The nerves at these levels leave the spine and travel up towards and around the head. When these vertebrae are subluxated (out of place) It can irritate these nerves and send pain signals along these nerve pathways into the head.

Chiropractic care restores proper spinal alignment, which takes pressure off the nerves and allows them to heal properly. With chronic problems, chiropractic can take time and multiple visits to address your problem correctly. Be patient with your body and give it the time it needs to heal. In many instances, this problem did not develop overnight, so we shouldn’t expect that it will be corrected overnight, either. That being said, many migraine sufferers begin to see positive results almost immediately.

Massage Therapy and Soft Tissue Work

In many migraine cases, tight muscles are a contributing factor. Muscles in the forehead, side of the head, or back of the head can all be chronically tight and tense, which can further increase the discomfort associated with migraines. At the Springfield Wellness Center, soft tissue work plays a primary role in the care we provide, and we have many methods for which this can be accomplished.

Massage Therapy is one great way to help decrease muscle tension in the neck and head areas. Our licensed massage therapists are experts at identifying adhesions and trigger points that can sometimes be the primary source for migraines and other types of headaches. If you don’t wish to receive massage as part of your care, our doctors are specially trained in soft tissue techniques such as Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, and Myofascial release. These are designed to restore muscles to normal function and remove adhesions that become symptomatic over time.

Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan

Many times with migraines, there are certain postural elements that need to be addressed in order for the body to be able to heal. The most commonly seen postural problem involved with headaches and neck pain is forward head posture. When the head is in front of the shoulders, it places a tremendous burden on the neck joints and muscles, which causes problems to develop over time.

We are fortunate to have a large gym space in our office that is dedicated to helping individuals improve their posture and functional movements. Your doctor and trainer will come up with a custom exercise plan for you to complete both at the office and also at home in between visits. Consistency is key. Through these programs, we are helping people teach their spines the right muscle balance to maintain good alignment and posture. This helps not only address problems like migraines but also helps to keep them away in the future.

Nutrition and Supplementation

With migraines, one key factor that needs to be discussed is nutrition. Some food types are common triggers for migraines so it is very important to identify and eliminate them. Foods such as chocolate, cheese, and red wine are some of the most common that can trigger migraines for people. If one of these is indeed the cause of your migraines, then eliminating it from your diet would be ideal to improve your quality of life.

Supplementation may also be an effective way to combat migraine headaches. Vitamin D, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), and Magnesium are common deficiencies associated with migraines. These can be found in whole food sources or supplement form. With supplements, however, you always want to consider the source. Some supplements on the market are not at all effective. You should check with your provider for recommendations on supplements to take.

Common Triggers for Migraines In Springfield, IL

Dysfunction in Your Spine (Subluxation)

When it comes to identifying the cause of migraine headaches, many times the answer isn’t even in the head, but rather in the neck! When a vertebra in your upper neck is not in the right position (subluxated) it can cause the nearby spinal nerves to be inflamed and irritated. When this happens, the nerves can shoot pain signals along those nerves. This results in migraine headaches for many people, and many have tried other forms of treatment for months or years without addressing the cause of the problem. This is because there is no pill or injection that can restore that vertebra to its proper place.

Chiropractors are experts in identifying and correcting subluxation in the spine. Chiropractic adjustments are a gentle, natural way to alleviate pain and restore function to your body’s nervous system. When your nervous system is working properly, your body can finally heal and get back to functioning at the level it should. This leads to more independence and a higher quality of life!

Stress

One of the most common causes of migraines is stress. In fact, it is a known trigger for about 70% of migraine sufferers. Everyday life is stressful enough. If you suffer from migraines, though, there is the added worry of when your next attack is going to happen. This becomes an exhausting cycle that takes a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. Over time, this emotional stress can have a damaging effect on your immune system, which can make you prone to getting sick more often.

Therefore, it is extremely important to identify the stressors in your life and work on managing them. Some common ways to manage stress include meditation, exercise, consistent sleep, and chiropractic adjustments. Ideally, incorporating all of these will not only help address your migraine issue but also improve your overall health in a significant way.

Irregular Sleep

One of the most overlooked aspects of our health is the quality and quantity of our sleep. When we sleep, our body is still hard at work renewing and repairing parts of our body – including our brain! Simply put, sleep is a time for the body to heal. Having an irregular sleep pattern is one common cause of migraines. In fact, half of migraine attacks occur between the hours of 4 AM and 9 AM. This puts those with sleep disorders at an even greater risk of experiencing migraine headaches.

Sleep irregularities and migraines can form a vicious cycle: Lack of good sleep can contribute to migraines, and migraines can be a barrier to getting good sleep. It can go on and on while having a harsh impact on a person’s quality of life. If you experience migraines, one of the best things you can do is sleep better. Limiting things like afternoon caffeine, evening screen time, and stimulating activities can promote better sleep patterns and potentially help your headache problem.

Hormones

Statistically, women are three times more likely to experience a migraine headache than men. Perhaps the main reason for this disparity is due to hormones and the manner in which they can fluctuate. For example, estrogen is a female hormone whose fluctuations have been linked with migraine headache episodes. When estrogen levels drop, it can trigger a migraine to occur or make an existing migraine worse.

While balancing hormone levels seems like the obvious solution, the reality is that hormones change for a variety of reasons. The menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause are three particular causes of hormonal changes that can contribute to the incidence of migraines. Because migraines are a complex issue, though, it is common to have other factors such as diet contributing to this issue. Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way you can balance your hormones naturally and help limit the number of migraines you have.

Diet and Dehydration

Your diet is one of the most powerful ways you can influence your health and well-being. If you eat well consistently, achieving optimum health is an eventuality. Conversely, if you eat poorly consistently, it can derail your health and lead to all kinds of problems. If you experience migraines, one of the first things you should consider is if the migraine is stemming from something you ate or drank. There are many different foods that can trigger migraines such as chocolate, cheese, cured meats, artificial sweeteners, red wine, and many others. It is important to identify your food triggers because this could be a significant step towards better management of your migraines.

Dehydration is another common cause of migraine headaches. In fact, ? of migraine sufferers cite dehydration as a trigger. Our body is dependent on adequate hydration levels to carry out countless bodily functions. Our bodies are primarily composed of water, so it is essential that we have enough to function properly. For example, the brain is 73% water! A good baseline target for daily consumption is half your body’s weight in ounces. So if you weigh 170 pounds, you should be aiming to consume around 85 oz. of water each day. If you are a more active individual, you should consume more than half your body’s weight to account for water loss through sweating.

Medication Overuse

There is a time and a place for medications – there is no question about that. However, the number of medications being taken by Americans is alarming. We make up 5% of the world’s population, yet take over 50% of the world’s prescription medications. That is a staggering statistic. Medications are designed to change the body’s physiology in order to accomplish its job. The changes that occur in the body, as a result, are what we know as side effects. One of the most common side effects of many medications is migraines.

We simply must ask ourselves if there are better, safer ways for us to be healthier and function better. From a pain standpoint, there are effective, natural options for addressing the source of your pain. Chiropractic, massage, and exercise are three wonderful modalities that are completely natural that can address the source of your pain and get you back to feeling the way you want to. The fewer medications you have to rely on, the less chance that they can cause those unwanted side effects such as migraines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can going to a chiropractor help with migraines?

Absolutely! Chiropractors are trained to identify misalignments in the spine, which commonly occur in the upper neck area. The nerves from this part of the spine travel throughout the head, and if they are irritated they can cause pain along those pathways. Chiropractic is a safe, gentle method for addressing migraines caused by spinal misalignment.

Are migraines bad for the brain?

Anything that causes chronic pain over weeks, months, or years of someone’s life is of course not good for the brain. Pain changes your brain, and over time it can become more difficult to overcome those changes. However, it is possible to overcome even chronic migraines by implementing the right health strategies. Chiropractic, proper nutrition and hydration, and stress management can all positively affect your health and reduce the incidence of migraines.

Does exercise help with migraines?

Definitely! Exercise is a fantastic way to help manage migraines. Exercise causes your brain to release dopamine, which is a powerful chemical in the brain that alleviates pain. Exercise is also part of a healthy lifestyle that can bring numerous health benefits to your life. Some of these benefits help to address other aspects of your health that may be contributing to your migraines (blood pressure, for example).

What foods to avoid during a migraine?

There are many different types of food triggers for migraines. Some of the most common ones are red wine, chocolate, and cheese because of their chemical composition. Other foods you may want to avoid are foods with added sugar and fast food in general. Anything that is going to promote inflammation in the body is best to avoid.

What is the quickest way to get rid of the migraine?

If your migraine is being caused by a misalignment in your spine, then getting adjusted by a chiropractor is the quickest way to address this issue. Many times there can be instant relief in this scenario. Another way to help get rid of a migraine would be to sleep, especially if you get light sensitivity with your migraine headache episodes.