Changes In Blood Flow To The Brain Are Related To Chiropractic Therapy for Migraine Headaches

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Chiropractic Therapy for Migraine Headaches

Migraine and similar vascular headaches affect more than 12% of the US population, and the medical and economic costs of migraine treatment are estimated to be more than $20 billion each year.

The etiological factors that lead to migraine headaches are not entirely clear, but many therapies have been developed because of the disabling effects of severe migraine headaches in some individuals. Migraine headaches are thought to be caused by vascular changes in the blood vessels that supply the head and neck area, resulting in increased production or release of certain neurotransmitters that alter the biochemical environment of the nervous tissue.

There are 2 common types of migraine. One of these is unilateral, pulsating and flashing, involving the visual eye fields but without aura. Another is classic migraine (15 to 20% prevalence), which is associated with aura or prodromal symptoms such as flashes of light, nausea and vomiting, and photosensitivity. Chiropractic therapy is effective in treating both types of migraine.

Migraine headaches are mostly vascular and the caliber of the blood vessels can be managed with spinal modulation. In individuals with a history of migraine headaches, conventional analgesic therapy is neither recommended nor effective. This is why chiropractic therapy is becoming extremely popular in the treatment of migraine headaches. Research and clinical trial results have shown that chiropractic therapy reduces the frequency and intensity of episodes.

In migraine headaches, certain triggers such as stress, chemicals, lack of sleep, or certain foods cause vasoconstriction in the vessels that supply the head area. Because of the low supply of oxygen and nutrients, ischemia causes the production of certain mediators that help signal the brain to increase its blood supply. Over time, increased blood supply to the brain is the main pathophysiological event that causes migraine headaches.

Chiropractic therapy helps relieve pressure and stress to reduce the production of chemicals and mediators that cause vasoconstriction in the first place. Sometimes nerves and blood vessels become especially sensitive to chemicals in the blood due to problems with the cervical vertebrae, such as subluxation, spondylosis, or asymptomatic cervical disc degeneration. Chiropractic therapy helps realign the vertebral bodies and reduces the intensity and frequency of migraine headaches. Chiropractic spinal stimulation also helps improve nerve irritation and reduces the sensitivity of spinal nerves and blood vessels to hormones and chemicals in the blood.

Chiropractors can use a variety of techniques to treat migraine headaches after a detailed history, physical exam, and musculoskeletal examination of the head and neck. A cervical neck adjustment is the most common technique performed by chiropractors to relieve neck stiffness to restore optimal blood flow to the head and neck area. Neck adjustments are performed manually by experienced chiropractors. Cervical neck adjustments are designed to reshape the vertebral bodies to reduce stress and inflammation. Neck adjustments also stabilize and support the neck ligaments, which help maintain optimal blood flow through the blood vessels.

Other strategies to help stabilize the neck musculature include massage, which helps detoxify the tissues by increasing blood flow through the neck tissues (thereby reducing toxins and chemicals that can trigger a migraine attack). In addition to the primary techniques, rehabilitation also helps in supporting and maintaining an optimal neck posture, which puts less strain on the neck musculature and blood vessels.

In addition to chiropractic therapy, many other interventions can help. Identifying and avoiding migraine headache triggers is important. Triggers vary from person to person and can include coffee, bright light, loud music, and lack of sleep. A healthy diet rich in micro- and macronutrients, which are necessary to maintain the patency of blood vessels, is also important in preventing migraines.

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