If you suffer from migraines, you’ll know how badly they can affect you. It’s not ‘just a headache’, which is what those who’ve never experienced a migraine often say. A migraine often has an element of throbbing head pain, but there are many other symptoms that go together to create what can be a debilitating condition.
What is a migraine?
The word comes from the Greek for half crania, reflecting the previously held belief that migraines affect one side of the head at a time. This is now acknowledged to be untrue, as the pain can be felt on either side of the head, or both. The headache part of a migraine takes the form of throbbing or pulsating pain and is usually accompanied by any number of other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness and increased sensitivity to light or sound.
The National Migraine Centre describes 4 stages of a migraine:
- Prodrome – this is often mistaken for being the trigger of the migraine as it can cause cravings for cheese or chocolate. This stage can also include mood changes, irritability, yawning and sensitivity to the environment (sounds, smells and noise).
- Aura – these occur just before a migraine hits and each symptom typically lasts up to an hour. They can include vision problems, numbness, difficulty in speaking coherently and dizziness. Visual auras usually start off-centre in both eyes and get larger. They can include areas of blackness, seeing zig-zags and lights or patterns.
- Pain – this is the headache part of the migraine and can feel like pressure in the head or neck. It’s often described as a thumping or pulsing pain. It can also feel like sinusitis and could last for hours or days.
- Recovery – this can take 1 or 2 days depending on the severity of the migraine, and the after-effects can include a general feeling of being unwell and a brain fog, where you have difficulty in thinking straight or forming coherent sentences.
So what causes migraines?
The causes of migraines are not fully understood, but it’s thought that changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain are a likely culprit. The National Migraine Centre compares it to a faulty alarm, where the pain nerves get switched on, even though nothing is wrong. This then leads to changes in blood vessel dilation and in the gut, which in turn lead to the other symptoms described above.
There are a number of common factors that are believed to lead to migraines including stress, an irregular routine, bad sleep hygiene, dehydration and missed meals. Changes in the weather have been reported to be a trigger as well as certain foods and drinks. About 3 times more women than men suffer from migraines, and hormonal or menstrual migraines are common.
How could Osteopathy help with migraines?
Osteopathy is a holistic form of treatment where the practitioner is concerned with treating the patient rather than the condition. Migraines are often triggered or worsened by stress, muscle tension, injuries, sinus pressure and incorrect posture. An Osteopath can help manage all of these issues.
A variety of techniques can help to improve circulation in both the vascular and lymphatic systems, and help to release muscle tension. This can help to prevent muscle spasms, restore lost mobility and promote your body’s natural healing processes. Have you ever massaged your temples when you have a headache? Now imagine how a trained Osteopath could help relieve migraines.
Of course, no Osteopath will ever tell you they can ‘cure’ your migraines; there are so many factors that contribute to the condition, some of which you can change yourself. But a study in 2010, carried out by the Department of Neurology at Ancona’s United Hospitals showed that Osteopathic Manual Treatment was more effective in treating migraines than the drug therapies used in the study.1
Do you suffer from migraines? Contact us using the form below and arrange an appointment where we’ll be happy to discuss your situation and what we can do to help.
1 As per the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, report dated 1 March 2013 – https://www.journalofosteopathicmedicine.com/article/S1746-0689(13)00002-3/fulltext