Migraines: 3 Common Causes & their Solutions

common causes of migraineMigraine headaches & their cousins can be some of the most debilitating conditions in our society today.  While the cause is still somewhat unclear, every health expert will agree that it is a neurological phenomenon.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Migraines may be caused by changes in the brain stem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway.  Imbalances in brain chemicals, including serotonin, also may be involved.”  Once we recognize that an imbalance in the nervous system is what creates the symptoms of these headaches, the question becomes: what causes the neurological imbalance in the first place?

In most cases there are 3 potential categories of causes:

Hormonal – since 70% of migraine sufferers are female, hormones are thought to play a significant role.

  • Natural treatments include:

Aromatherapy (peppermint, lavender, rosemary, basil); Butterbur extract: if taken preventatively can have anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic benefits; Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium): helps to prevent migraines but not stop them once they have already started; Hormonal imbalance diagnosis and treatment: certain M.D.’s, N.D.’s, and D.C.’s can provide this specialized care if indicated.

Nutritional – there are many triggers of migraines including dehydration, hypoglycemia, food allergies & intolerances, medications, and certain foods & additives such as coffee, wine, cheese, chocolate, MSG, & sugar.

  • Natural treatments include:

Food allergy testing, Staying hydrated, Avoiding known food triggers, Regulating blood-sugar levels with diet (low-carb, low-sugar, high protein & vegetable); Controlling inflammation (omega-3s, antioxidants, avoiding gluten) 

Structural – a misalignment in the upper neck (C1,C2) can interfere with the function of the brain stem and central nervous system, leading to migraines and other types of headaches.  The upper cervical spine contains many muscle attachment sites that connect to various parts of the skull, jaw, neck, shoulders, and upper back.  Misalignments can also cause tension and cervicogenic headaches that mimic migraine presentations.

  • Natural treatments include:

Upper Cervical Care: specifically correcting this alignment can remove neurological interference, balance the muscles & ligaments, & alleviate the cause of migraine headaches.  This can only be done by an Upper Cervical Chiropractor.

Here is the takeaway: There is hope and often there is a natural solution for migraine headaches.  The critical first step is for the headache sufferer to find a physician that will properly diagnose the likely cause of the migraine and then prescribe the appropriate natural treatment before turning to medication. 

~Noah Kaplan, DC