Migraine headaches are a special type of headache – a vascular headache (as opposed to the more common tension headache). They include a collection of symptoms that appear before the headache pain itself starts, such as light sensitivity or auras, spots or lines, pressure in the head (usually one sided), muscle contractions in the neck, and nausea or vomiting. Migraines range in severity from minor discomfort to agonizing pain that can last as long as a few days. They are different from tension headaches because tension headaches usually involve muscle tightness which starts in the neck and moves up into the head, and only include nausea and vomiting if it becomes very severe.
Although migraine headaches commonly run in families, no direct hereditary link has been found. (Genes usually give us tendencies, not the condition itself!) Other important factors to consider include patterns learned from our parents – such as how we deal with stress, anger, and tension; as well as how we hold our body (posture).
Treatment for headaches depends on what has caused it. Commonly they are treated with painkillers, with millions of dollars spent each year on everything from over-the-counter (OTC) products to prescription narcotics. While pills may provide relief, do they really correct the underlying cause? Millions of headache sufferers have turned to a natural, drugless chiropractic approach with the objective of identifying and treating the cause of the headache. Using physical examination findings, chiropractors determine if there is a subluxation present in the neck, and perform a spinal adjustment to remove the nerve and spinal stress caused by the subluxation. The body of literature supporting a spinal origin of headaches is substantial (Vernon, H.T. Spinal manipulation and headaches of cervical origin, JMPT, 1989), as well as the efficacy of chiropractic care (Turk, Z. & Ratkolb, O. Mobilization of the cervical spine in chronic headaches, Manual Medicine, 1987).