Migraines are severely painful, recurrent headaches that are sometimes accompanied by other symptoms such as visual disturbances (aura) or nausea.
There are two types of migraine – migraine with aura (formerly called common migraines) and migraine without aura (formerly called classic migraines).
If you have a migraine with aura, you may experience a visual disturbance (like seeing stars or zigzag lines or a temporary blind spot) about 30 minutes before the headache starts. Even if you don't experience an aura, you may have other warning signs in the period before the headaches starts (called prodrome), such as a craving for sweets, thirst, sleepiness, or depression.
Although there is no cure for migraines, you can manage the condition by reducing the frequency of attacks and lessening pain once an attack starts.
Researchers aren't sure what causes a migraine, although they know it involves changes in the blood flow in the brain.
Initially, blood vessels constrict (narrow), reducing blood flow and leading to visual disturbances, difficulty speaking, weakness, numbness, or tingling sensation in one area of the body, or other similar symptoms.
Later, the blood vessels dilate (enlarge) leading to increased blood flow and a severe headache. There also seems to be a genetic link to migraine headaches.
Over half of migraine patients have an affected family member. Migraine triggers can include the following: chocolate, red wine, processed meats, hormonal changes, bright light, depression, overexertion or too little sleep.
Several clinical trials indicate that gentle spinal manipulation therapy may help in the treatment of migraine headaches. In one recent study of people with migraines, 22% of those who received chiropractic manipulation reported more than a 90% reduction of attacks and 49% reported a significant reduction of the intensity of each migraine.
In another study, people with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to receive spinal manipulation, a daily medication (Amitriptyline), or a combination of both. Spinal manipulation was as effective as Amitriptyline in reducing migraines and had fewer side effects.
In addition, researchers reviewed 9 recent studies that tested spinal manipulative therapy for tension or migraine headaches and found that it was as effective as medications in preventing these headaches.*
Acupuncture has been studied as a treatment for migraine headache for more than 20 years. While not all studies have shown benefit with acupuncture, researchers do agree that acupuncture appears safe and that it may be effective for some people.
Results from a study published in 2003 suggest that receiving regular acupuncture treatment when migraine symptoms occur is as effective as taking the drug Amitriptyline (a low dose anti-depressant used here in the UK).*
In addition to needling treatment, acupuncturists may recommend lifestyle changes, such as suggestions for specific breathing techniques, and dietary modifications. All of the chiropractors Taunton Chiropractors Centre are members of the British Medical Acupuncture Society and have many years experience of combining Medical Acupuncture with Traditional Chiropractic Care.
* Please email us if you would like the references from this research material.