Migraine headaches can be a very severe, debilitating and ongoing with different symptoms to other headaches and are mostly considered to be a neurological disorder. Many people often report that something brings on a migraine such as certain foods, bright lights or loud noise, weather changes, stress, hormonal changes and poor or disturbed sleep.
Migraines are traditionally considered to be due to changes in blood flow within the head and neck. At the onset of a migraine blood flow is reduced due to narrowing of the blood vessels and then later increases with opening of the vessels. There is also a slow wave of neural activity, starting in the brain stem and spreading forwards.
Sensory nerve fibres from the Trigeminal nerve, the largest cranial nerve provide sensation to the blood vessels and surrounding layers of the brain. Other cranial nerves and nerves from the upper cervical spine also assist and together these nerves convey migraine pain to the brain.
French osteopaths Jean-Pierre Barral and Alain Croibier the founders of Neural Manipulation consider that the trigeminal nerve plays a huge role in migraines. Through their research they found that the trigeminal ganglion or cluster of nerve bodies can be overactive in many people causing the sensory nerves to the blood vessels and linings of the brain to be more sensitive to pain.
Gentle precise neural manipulation of the first division of the trigeminal nerve and its small branches and the upper cervical nerves have been found to have an immediate effect on blood vessels and may help settle down the nerves carrying pain messages to the brain. This can offer a new approach to treating migraines. The authors of this approach have found better affects in treating migraines that begin in the occipital upper cervical area and radiating forward. There are some self-help techniques that can be taught to clients that may reduce the intensity of an attack.
Other ways that osteopathy may help include
- Resolving muscle pain and spasm
- Improving tension in the upper back and ribs and neck.
- Helping with preventative exercises and stretches and posture.