What is it when light acts as a headache amplifier?

Posted in Head Pain Disorders on Sep 14, 2021

Light and sun exposure is one of the most common triggers that acts like a headache and migraine amplifier. But why is that? The short answer is that “No one completely knows.” However, I would like to make the case that when light acts as a headache or migraine amplifier that it can be related to mechanical tension or irritation of the connective tissue around the brain. How does that work?

Well, the connective tissue around your brain (called the dura mater) contains a huge network of blood vessels and nerves (called the subarachnoid membrane). If you have ever experienced a hangover, then you can appreciate how a chemical substance (i.e., alcohol) can produce not just a strong headache, but a skull-ripping apart migraine.

The reason is that the alcohol acts as a blood vessel irritant in the dura, which triggers the pain-detecting nerves in the brain, and which you perceive as a migraine. So how is this related to when light acts as a headache or migraine amplifier?

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Quite simple: not just alcohol, but any type of irritation such as heat, sun exposure, mechanical jarring, or chemical toxicity … if any of these things irritate the dura, they have the potential to produce or aggravate a headache into a migraine.

Why does light act as a headache amplifier?

The white part of the eye (known as the sclera) is a continuation of the dura mater. Have you ever noticed that when you are out in the sun for a long period of time that your eyes get red? Part of the reason is that the sun warms up the blood vessels in the eyes, causing them to dilate.

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And as we just stated, when there is dilation and irritation of the blood vessels in the eyes, that can irritate the surrounding nerves. Thus, it may be entirely possible for light and sun exposure to act as a headache or migraine amplifier!

Of course, dehydration can also have something to do with it. That said if you are CERTAIN that you are staying properly hydrated and yet sun exposure and light stillest as a headache amplifier, then very likely there is SOMETHING ELSE that is actually going on.

Think of it this way: if you have a bit of stress in your life, you can usually handle it without it causing a headache or a migraine. However, if you haven’t slept well last night and then you encounter the same level of stress, it is very likely that the stress will produce a headache or even a migraine.

In other words, if there are pre-existing conditions that mean that you are more susceptible to experience a headache or a migraine, then all it takes is that “little extra something” to push you over the edge. Frequently, it just so happens to be that sun exposure and light are those things that push you over the edge and act as a headache or migraine amplifier. The question then is, “What is the pre-existing condition?”

What if you have a problem with your neck and THEN light acts as a headache amplifier?

One of the single most common but often overlooked reasons that people experience headaches or migraines is a mechanical problem with the alignment in their neck. Specifically, the top three vertebrae in your neck - C1 (atlas), C3 (axis), and C3 - have physical connections (known as myodural bridges) that anchor the dura mater of the brainstem directly onto these bones.

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Therefore, if there is ever a problem with the mechanical movement of these vertebrae, they can exert direct physical tension that may have the potential to pre-tension the dura. If so, it may not take as much stress to produce a headache or even a migraine. Therefore, something like light may only act as the trigger that amplifies the headache or migraine, but may not actually be the true underlying cause.

People who experience photosensitivity where light acts like a headache or migraine amplifier frequently also experience neck pain. Alas, many of these same people never think that the two pieces are actually connected. However, how that you know that the connective tissue in your eyes and at the base of your skull is actually the exact same structure, there way be a different approach that you can take in order to help find relief!

Certainly, sunglasses are going to be important. As is seeing a neuro-optometrist. However, it may be just as important to also see an upper cervical specific chiropractor: i.e., a healthcare professional who focuses on the specific alignment of the top bones in your neck and how they can be linked to neurological conditions including headaches and migraines.

Unlike general spinal manipulation, there is no neck twisting or cracking with an upper cervical chiropractor. The process involves a detailed physical and neurological examination to identify first if there is a mechanical issue with the alignment of your upper neck that would be linked with your light sensitivity and how light is acting like a headache or migraine amplifier. If so, an upper cervical chiropractor doesn’t leave things to chance, but will instead recommend a series of precise articular 3D x-rays that help show the exact location, direction, and degree of any mechanical alignment issues in your upper neck … and thus how they can be treated.

From there, you will receive a personalised care recommendation in order to help you achieve the best possible long-term outcomes so that you can get back to enjoying the things in life that matter most to you.

Upper Cervical Chiropractor Brisbane

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Atlas Health Australia is the premier upper cervical chiropractic health centre in Brisbane. Our principal is Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, who is an advanced certified instructor with the Blair upper cervical society. If you would like to schedule a consultation with our practice here in North Lakes, we would be delighted to assist you. Simply contact our office at 07 3188 9329 or click the Contact Us link through this page, and we will get back to you as soon as possible, Atlas Health Australia - “Hope healing and wellbeing from above-down, inside-out.”


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