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  • Dr. Donald Littlewood

Imagine Having Fewer Migraines & Loving Every Minute Of It


Migraines are awful. There, I said it.


But if you’re reading this, you probably know that already.


They have a massive burden on not only the health of the migraine sufferer, but those around them, as well as society as a whole.


Statistics are showing that 20% of the population suffers from headaches. That’s a lot of people!


What is a Migraine?

The International Headache Society (IHS) describes migraines as:


  • One-sided

  • Pulsing or throbbing like quality

  • Moderate to severe in intensity

  • Aggravated by routine physical activity


The IHS also states that a migraine has to have at least one of the four symptoms to be classified as a migraine: nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and sensitivity to sound.


Migraines can also be accompanied by an aura, which is a set of symptoms (usually in sight or smell) that precede the migraine, and warn the person a migraine is coming.


Unfortunately, the cause of migraines is largely unknown, but we do know that migraines often have a triggering event. These are different between migraine sufferers, but are often the same each time one person gets a migraine.


Migraine Triggers


  • Stress – this could be during a stressful event or once it is over.

  • Rapid changes in hormone levels - this partially explains why females are more prone to migraines.

  • Rapid changes in blood sugar levels – missing a meal, eating foods with a lot of sugar, fasting, etc.

  • Vasoactive foods – These are foods that change the properties of blood vessels. Common examples of this are: red wine, cheese, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, and processed foods.

  • Some medications have also been shown to increase the likelihood of a migraine.


Chiropractic Care & Migraines


There are several ways a chiropractor can help reduce the symptoms of a migraine.


All of these treatments options will be discussed with you and the choice will be made how to proceed in conjunction with your chiropractor. By no means are all of these needed for every patient.


Soft Tissue Therapy


Though we don’t completely know the cause of most migraines, we do know that the muscles of the head and neck are generally sore when someone is having a migraine.


Treatment of the trapezius, scalenes, and suboccipital muscles can have an effect on the reduction of migraines.


Spinal Manipulative Therapy


This is what people think of when they go see a chiropractor.


SMT is a controlled maneuver that uses a fast, small movement directed at a specific joint with the goal of getting the joints moving.


Two great results have come out of studies showing that SMT is very effective for migraines:


  • Decreased frequency, intensity & duration of migraines

  • Decrease in the amount of over-the-counter medication usage


The best part about the results that we are seeing is that in comparison to traditional medications, these results lasted 3, 6 & 12 months after the duration of these studies.


The only adverse events that people really experienced were some local pain after treatment and a little bit of fatigue.


There is also some evidence saying that an adjustment brings down stress & cortisol levels. We know that stress is intimately connected with migraines, so it is thought that this alone is beneficial.


Acupuncture for Migraines


Acupuncture is one of the few forms of medicine that have stood the test of time. Its been around for literally thousands of years.


And there is a reason for it: it works.


Acupuncture has been shown to be just as effective (if not more) than conventional drug therapy, without the nasty side effects.


It can be used both to alleviate symptoms while someone is having a migraine, as well as a preventative measure.


Here’s how:

  • By stimulating the nerves, muscles and fascia, acupuncture is relieving pain at the source.

  • Reduces local and overall body inflammation.

  • There is also evidence that acupuncture affects serotonin levels. Serotonin has been linked to the initiation of migraines.


Relaxation Techniques


Though chiropractors aren’t necessarily relaxation specialists, we can provide a lot of good techniques to reduce stress you may be feeling.


If you watch Queer Eye, you’ll have seen Jonathan Van Ness demonstrate what he calls Dragon’s Breath.


This is a actually a great relaxation technique that helps to control your breathing which is the first thing to get out of whack when you are stressed.


Breath in through one nostril for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds. Do this a couple of times, and you should notice a calm sensation waft over you.


Final Thoughts


  • Keep a migraine journal to see what triggers your headaches. Everyone is different.

  • Chiropractic care and acupuncture are known to be effective and safe in reducing duration, intensity and frequency of a migraine.

  • Keep your stress levels as low as possible.

In health,

Dr. Donald Littlewood