Migraines are such a headache

We are constantly absorbing medical research at The Arch Clinic and one subject particularly close to our hearts is migraines.  It’s a widespread condition with debilitating consequences, but one we treat daily with great results – so let’s talk migraines.

The sheer unpleasantness of a migraine

20 years.  That’s the average length of time that patients suffer with migraines in their lives according to one study. This condition is characterised by intense headaches and a throbbing sensation which worsens with movement – making it hard to carry out normal activities. Sufferers may additionally experience nausea, vomiting & diarrhoea, an acute sensitivity to light, problems with their vision and balance…the list goes on.  It’s no wonder that any migraine sufferer would be keen to eradicate these symptoms from their life.

Can anything be done about them? 

The NHS has a whole host of suggestions to help manage migraine symptoms and to find out what’s causing them – in the first instance please do visit their migraine page if you, or someone you know is suffering with migraines.

But what if you’ve tried these obvious routes.  Are there any other options?

Firstly, some not-so-good news: migraines are often the result of a combination of factors with no-one treatment necessarily providing all the answers.

However, there is hope and an intriguing tale of research over the years…

In the 1980s, two researchers (HV Langley and Alan Barlow) uncovered some compelling evidence that restrictions at the very top of the neck, and associated nerve and blood vessel issues, aggravate and cause many cases of migraine.

It is interesting to note that many migraine sufferers do report neck discomfort and stiffness before and during a migraine attack[1].

In the following decades, modern studies concluded something completely different – that migraines were caused by brain function disorders, with any neck issues the patient may have felt being a secondary manifestation of something that originated in the brain.

So, who was right?

It’s completely possible that both forms of research were correct as the cause(s) of migraines can be different from one person to the other and there isn’t always one definitive cause.

That’s all very interesting but knowing that doesn’t make anyone’s migraines any better… 

If you experience migraine headaches then it is worth having an osteopath evaluate and treat your upper back and neck as it is often restrictions in these areas which affect nerves and blood vessels and give rise to many of the symptoms that we associate with migraines.

Osteopathy is a healthcare system that can accurately evaluate dysfunctions within the neck and help return them to optimal function.  The methods that osteopaths use enhance the blood and nerve supply to tissues, this in turn aids the body’s own healing mechanism to reduce some of the symptoms.  Osteopathy has been shown to be particularly effective in younger migraine patients in their teens and 20s whose migraines are less established than older patients’.  That’s not to say osteopathy won’t have a positive effect for those suffering from migraines for many years, it will just take longer to see the results.[2]

An osteopathy will go through the following stages when treating a migraine patient:

  • Improve the structure and normal functioning of the neck
  • Relax the tissue
  • Encourage better posture and lifestyle habits
  • Reduce the irritability of nerves and tissue so they are less likely to trigger migraines.
  • Pain and symptom reduction making migraines much more manageable.

If you would like to discuss any of the points above with an osteopath please Contact us.

[1] Lampl, Rudolph et al 2015: Neck pain in episodic migraine: premonitory symptom or part of the attack?

[2] Clifford Lomas, Osteopathy Today 2011: Can Osteopathy help people with migraine?