Matt Blackburn

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches are a debilitating and serious daily problem for many people. It is a condition suffered by 14 percent of the population worldwide

Symptoms of migraines include:

  • frontal head pain that is, diffuse with moderate to severe pain, that comes on gradually.
  • nausea and vomiting and neck pain.
  • Lasts between 4 and 72 hours.
  • Made worse by exercise, light and noise.
  •  Other  symptoms such as vision problems, numbness  in the arms, difficulty speaking and clumsiness.
  • needing  to lie down in a quiet dark place, feeling  wiped out the next day.
  • They are commonly associated with  depression, anxiety, seizures, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

There are many factors known to provoke migraines including:

  • Stress (70%) and physical exertion
  • Caffeine (soft drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate, OTC drugs, prescription drugs)
  • Hormonal changes: oral contraceptives, menstruation,
  • Skipping meals
  • Weather changes
  • Poor or disturbed sleep.

Migraines were traditionally considered to be due to changes in blood flow within the head and neck.

However new research supports a more likely cause of sensitization or a heightened sensitivity to pain of the sensory nerves and nerve bodies of the  Trigeminal nerve complex, a process found in other chronic pain syndromes.

The Trigeminal nerve  is the  largest cranial nerve in the head that provides sensation to the blood vessels and surrounding layers of the brain. Upper neck pain is believed to contribute to headaches due to a connection between the cervical sensory nerves and the Trigeminal nerve system. Additionally there are inflammatory pathways activated that contribute to the sensitization process through provoking factors as mentioned above and in people who have a tendency to get migraines.

Triggers as outlined above along with having a tendency to get migraines activates the Trigeminal pain receptors and initiates  release of inflammatory mediators causing an, inflammatory response.

Though migraines are a complex condition Osteopaths may help migraine sufferers by:

Taking a comprehensive case history and assisting clients understand and manage  migraine triggers.

Work gently using manual therapy on  your body to:

  • Improve joint mobility, especially in the cervical spine and thorax (or rib cage.)
  • Reduce muscular tension in the upper back and ribs and neck.

  • Reduce nerve irritation particularly the upper cervical nerves.

  • Improve blood supply and drainage to and from the neck

  • Provide  advice on posture, preventative exercises and stretching

  • help with alignment of the head, neck and upper back in daily life.