Migraines and upper cervical chiropractic care
If Migraines are a new experience, what can you do?
You’ve likely heard of people experiencing migraines. However, if you suddenly find yourself experiencing migraines for the first time in your life, you suddenly realize how debilitating they truly are.
More than even a severe headache, there’s also the blurry vision, the dysequilibrium, the brain fog and nausea to top it off.
You may be experiencing all these symptoms of classic migraines. Or you may be experiencing only some of these symptoms.
Either way, because it is such a new and unpleasant experience, you are now looking for answers. If you aren’t a person who experiences migraines, you want it to go back that way!
So let me ask you: what’s changed?
You’ve likely seen a migraine specialist who has done a series of tests to identify the type of migraines that you are experiencing. They’ve likely advised you to take a certain medication
You’ve likely also done a bit of research online and maybe even seen a few healthcare practitioners such as a naturopath, physiotherapist, chiropractor or massage therapist see if they can provide you relief from these migraines.
You’ve very likely considered your diet as a potential contributing factor. However, if you still can’t just put your finger on what’s changed and what is causing your migraines, you find yourself feeling FRUSTRATED looking for answers!
In this article, I want to share with you the possibility that your migraines may, in part, be connected with a physical problem with your neck. Maybe it isn’t even a new problem, but one that has simply accumulated over months or even years to the point that it has finally appeared for the first time in the form of migraines.
In this article, I also want to show you how addressing these underlying issues with your upper neck, in particular, may be able to help you in your search for answers for your migraines, and also to offer a potential solution that you may never have realized before.
If you are looking for more information about the link between your upper neck and migraines - and a potential natural approach - read on.
Why do Migraines feel so painful?
Migraines are believed to be the result of irritation to the blood vessels and nerves that supply the base of your brain and top of your spinal cord. These particular structures represent a part of the connective tissue around your brain called the dura and arachnoid matter.
The nerves that supply these structures is a particular branch of the vagus nerve, which is responsible also for the health of all of your organs: heart, lungs, digestive system, etc. There may also be certain branches associated with the C1 or the C2 spinal nerves.
Nerve messages from your brain are transmitted to a sensory processing center called the spinal trigeminothalamic nucleus (that’s quite a mouthful). In brief, it is a cluster of cells in your brainstem and upper spinal cord that process sensory and information about your face and brain.
These types of signals are particularly sensitive to mechanical or physical pressures that can affect either the connective tissue around your brain OR the sensory processing area.
You can actually give yourself a mini-migraine by drinking a cold drink or eating too much ice cream to fast. The sensation of an “ice cream headache” or “brain freeze” actually triggers the exact same nerves that can provide the sensation of a migraine. You can also do the same thing by drinking way too much alcohol and having a hangover the next morning.
However, these are chemical means of producing a migraine. Even though chemicals have the ability to trigger migraines, they do not always explain why people who have never previously had chemical sensitivities develop migraines.
So consider instead the possibility of a physical source of irritation that affects the sensory processing area of your brain that is involved with migraines and may also overlap with visual, auditory, balance and also organ-health information.
A progressive, physical cause of Migraines?
Imagine that you have a car or house loan, but that you don’t pay interest. In the beginning, the interest won’t be that much. However, if you leave it alone for months, years or even decades, the compound interest effect will represent a massive amount!
You often hear about people involved in severe car accidents or other incidents where it is reported that “There were no serious injuries.” Many times, people experience injuries, but because there aren’t any broken bones, because any bleeding or bruising is minor, and because people “feel fine” in a few weeks they make a false conclusion that everything is fine!
Often, if an injury affects your spine - with particular emphasis on your upper neck, which is the most important but also most fragile area of your body - it may affect the alignment and motion of your vertebrae by only a few millimeters.
Not very much.
However, if you consider the types of tiny misalignments and then multiply them over time like compound interest, these little problems can become much bigger problems down the track!
Moreover, if you consider that even a 2-millimeter misalignment may represent a 10-20% disruption from the normal center of gravity between your brain and spine, that is no small amount.
Furthermore, it only takes the equivalent pressure to the weight of a 5 cent coin to decrease the function of a nerve by 50% in just 15 minutes! So can you imagine what could happen with even that little amount of pressure over a long enough period of time?
It is a process that migraine specialists and neurologists call increased neuromechanisensitivity. In other words, it is that physical tension on a nerve can increase its sensitivity to even normal stimuli with the end product of some type of nerve dysfunction …
… and when we are talking about disruptions to the vagus nerve, the spinothalamic-trigeminal nucleus, and the sensory nerves that contain pain and other information about your face and brain, a migraine may well be the end result!
So you see, migraines are not always as the result of chemical sensitivities. They may well be the result of a PHYSICAL PROBLEM.
If you don’t want to depend on medication for these migraines, what else can you do?
If you were healthy and lived a normal life without migraines, do you suppose it’s because your body suddenly ran out of Nurofen or Panadol just to keep you “feeling fine?”
It that question sounds absurd, then let me ask you: why on earth would you think that taking medication will be able to solve your problem and return you to normal health?
Indeed, medication is often a necessary part when it comes to migraine relief. However, you must also be aware that any such medication can only treat the symptoms and does not address the underlying cause.
Because if the cause of migraines is PHYSICAL, then a chemical solution will never permanently work. Your migraines would thus require a PHYSICAL solution also.
The Blair Technique and Migraines
Here we arrive in the realm of physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga, plates and so forth. Many of these therapies have a long history of being able to help people who suffer migraines.
Admittedly, if there was one magic cure for migraines, then it would work 100% of the time for 100% of people who suffer migraines. Healthcare has not yet evolved this far.
As a result, these methods work for many but not for all. Even I will not claim to have a cure-all for all migraines, because that would be preposterous!
What I can share with you is a unique approach to healthcare that considers the underlying relationship between your upper neck and your nerve system, which may be the key piece of the puzzle for being able to help people who experience migraines.
It is an approach to healthcare called Blair upper cervical chiropractic.
Unlike general chiropractic or other methods that use spinal manipulation, the Blair upper cervical does NOT involve any neck twisting or cracking.
The Blair technique is named after Dr. William Blair, a chiropractic doctor, and researcher who developed a unique approach to diagnosing and correcting misalignments of the upper neck. In brief, Dr. Blair recognized that no one who human beings are identical on the outside or on the inside.
As a result, it is necessary to take these individual differences into account in order to determine the most accurate course of action in correcting misalignments of the spine that can affect the nervous system.
Dr. Blair developed a unique method of x-ray analysis to measure these misalignments that are still not practiced by medical practitioners or even other chiropractors. These types of images called Blair Protractoviews allow practitioners to see the exact direction and degree of misalignments in the upper part of the neck that could be affecting the brainstem and may also be contributing towards migraines.
The key difference is customisation. Unlike standard x-rays, CT or even MRI scans, these specialized types of x-rays are truly tailored for your own bone structure. The result is that a Blair upper cervical chiropractic doctor is able to identify small but significant misalignments of the upper neck that no one else in the healthcare arena is looking for.
Worldwide - but especially in Australia - Blair upper cervical chiropractic remains relatively unknown. There are approximately 5000 chiropractors in Australia … but only 0.4% utilize any form of upper cervical specific care in practice (and that is being liberal)!
So if you have never heard of Blair upper cervical care, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Nevertheless, it may be a powerful approach to helping people who experience migraines: whether they are brand new, or especially if you’ve already tried everything else but to no avail.
A different approach to Migraines
The purpose of the Blair upper cervical chiropractic technique is to restore normal alignment and motion through the upper neck. Considering the relationship between the vertebrae of the upper neck - the C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) - and the brainstem, we believe that this correction can help to reduce tension on the nerve system, and thereby facilitate the normal healing functions of the body.
So in this way, the Blair technique is not a treatment for migraines per se, but a natural approach that enables your own body to better function, heal and express optimal health.
It is then the byproduct of healthy function that we believe we see so many people who experience migraines finally find relief.
We hope that you’ve found value in this article. And if it makes logical sense and resonates with you and you would like more information, we would like to invite you to have a chat with us.
Our office - Atlas Health Australia - is the premier upper cervical health center in Brisbane. Dr. Jeffrey Hannah is our principal upper cervical chiropractic doctor. He is advanced certified in the Blair technique and is an international speak, lecturer and author.
If you are looking for more information about your particular condition and to decide if Blair upper cervical care may be right for you, we are pleased to offer a 15-minute complimentary consolation with Dr. Hannah where you can privately discuss your condition and ask any questions you may have.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Hannah, you can click the Contact Us link at the top of this page, or call our main office at 07 3188 9329.
We appreciate your consideration of us with your health, and we look forward to hearing from you and helping to the best of our abilities.
Atlas Health Australia - “A passion for helping people enjoy a better quality of life.”
Castien R, De Hertogh W. A Neuroscience Perspective of Physical Treatment of Headache and Neck Pain. Front Neurol. 2019 Mar 26;10:276. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00276. eCollection 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30972008
Do TP, Heldarskard GF, Kolding LT, et al. Myofascial trigger points in migraine and tension-type headache. J Headache Pain. 2018 Sep 10;19(1):84. doi: 10.1186/s10194-018-0913-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30203398
Eriksen K. Upper Cervical Subluxation Complex: a review of the chiropractic and medical literature. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins. Baltimore (MD). 2004.
Luedtke K, Adamczyk W, Mehrtens K, et al. Upper cervical two-point discrimination thresholds in migraine patients and headache-free controls. J Headache Pain. 2018 Jun 26;19(1):47. doi: 10.1186/s10194-018-0873-z. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29943146
Oliveira-Souza AIS, Florencio LL, Carvalho GF, et al. Reduced flexion rotation test in women with chronic and episodic migraine. Braz J Phys Ther. 2019 Sep-Oct;23(5):387-394. doi: 10.1016/j.bjpt.2019.01.001. Epub 2019 Jan 16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30679019
Probyn K, Bowers H, Mistry D, et al. Non-pharmacological self-management for people living with migraine or tension-type headache: a systematic review including an analysis of intervention components. BMJ Open. 2017 Aug 11;7(8):e016670. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016670. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28801425
Watson DH, Drummond PD. Head pain referral during an examination of the neck in migraine and tension-type headache. Headache. 2012 Sep;52(8):1226-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2012.02169.x. Epub 2012 May 18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22607581
Watson DH, Drummond PD. Cervical referral of head pain in migraineurs: effects on the nociceptive blink reflex. Headache. 2014 Jun;54(6):1035-45. doi: 10.1111/head.12336. Epub 2014 Mar 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24666216
Varatharajan S, Ferguson B, Chrobak K, et al. Are non-invasive interventions effective for the management of headaches associated with neck pain? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. Eur Spine J. 2016 Jul;25(7):1971-99. doi: 10.1007/s00586-016-4376-9. Epub 2016 Feb 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26851953
Westersund CD, Scholten J, Turner RJ. Relationship between craniocervical orientation and the center of force of occlusion in adults. Cranio. 2016 Oct 20:1-7. doi: 10.1080/08869634.2016.1235254. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27760504
Wong JJ, Shearer HM, Mior S, et al. Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration. Spine J. 2016 Dec;16(12):1598-1630. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.024. Epub 2015 Dec 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26707074 Chiropractic care may benefit severe TMJ sufferers