Migraines are the second most prevalent neurologic disorder (after tension headaches) and occur in approximately 36 million Americans. Migraines are often incapacitating and negatively impact work and social activities. As such, suffering from migraines easily can lead to significant consumption of drugs, which aren’t all that effective and may have dangerous side effects. Turning to a chiropractor for treatments can be a game changer for improving migraine patients’ quality of life.
Migraine headaches last 4–72 hours and are associated with nausea and/or vomiting as well as extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The throbbing pain is focused on one side of the head, is considered moderate (or worse) in severity, and intensifies with routine physical activity and/or particular head positioning. Attacks can be triggered by specific activities or eating certain foods, and relief often occurs with sleep. Migraines do become “chronic” when they occur at least 15 times per month.
The most common treatment for migraines is prescribing drugs to relieve the pain and symptoms (abortive medications) and to prevent further attacks (preventive medications).
Abortive medications aim at stopping a migraine when it is coming on or has begun. Sometimes people simply take over-the-counter pain medications. Others take triptans and ditans, which target serotonin levels to help allay nausea and vomiting. However, people with certain medical conditions should not take these. Some migraine sufferers resort to analgesics, narcotics, and barbiturates, but these can be habit forming and only should be used in extreme circumstances.
Preventive medications are considered if a patient’s migraines occur frequently (more than once per week) or are severe. They are used to lessen the frequency and severity of the attacks and can be taken daily. Medications include those that treat high blood pressure, antidepressants, antiseizures, and other inhibitors. Again, not all subsets of the population are safe taking these medications.
“In doing an online search for migraine treatments, all the medical websites suggest medications to reduce the current pain level or medications to reduce the chance of another migraine. They don’t seem to acknowledge complementary medicine,” notes Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic, but chiropractic treatments are quite effective for helping with migraines.
Chiropractic care aims at eliminating or lessening the need for pharmacological interventions for managing pain. In chiropractic, offers Dr. Gross, “We have great success in treatment of migraines without medications. We are looking for people who want the results but don’t want side effects or other issues with medications—groups like children, pregnant women, and people who commonly experience all the side effects.”
Multiple trials and studies have been done on the effectiveness of chiropractic interventions versus the use of drugs to alleviate and control the pain felt by sufferers of migraines.
One controlled trial (over six months with 85 patients) showed that migraine sufferers receiving chiropractic cervical manipulation reported a significantly greater reduction in pain associated with their attacks.
Another randomized controlled trial (over six months) studied the efficacy of chiropractic spinal manipulation for treating migraines and showed evidence that chiropractic care has a significant effect on the physical conditions related to stress, which in turn reduces migraines. Of the 123 subjects (83 receiving manipulation and 40 in the control), most had been experiencing chronic migraines for 18 years. The chiropractic treatment group “showed statistically significant improvement in migraine frequency, duration, disability, and medication use when compared with the control group.” The greatest area for improvement was in reduced medication use, some patients even stopping medications altogether by the end of the trial.
Yet another case study noted that integrating neurologic and chiropractic care for treating migraine headaches resulted in lessened pain scores, more pain-free days, decreased medication use, and reports of decreased anxiety.
The goal of chiropractic therapy is to optimize neuromusculoskeletal health and reduce a patient’s overall pain burden. At Quality Care Chiropractic, notes Dr. Gross, “Some of our treatments include chiropractic adjustments, MLS Laser, diet changes, and specific supplements. These all have minimal or zero side effects.”
If you are suffering from chronic migraines and want to understand the options beyond medications, contact Quality Care Chiropractic at (630) 499-2225 to learn how we can help.Schedule an Appointment