Migraine headache pain can be searing and is often debilitating. It frequently causes frustrating visits to the emergency room as well. While medical treatments sometimes help relieve the painful symptoms, they fail to correct the underlying cause. As a result, the migraines continue relentlessly. They can literally change the way you live you life and rob you of much freedom and joy. However, they do not have to prevent you from the joy of living your life! It may seem impossible now but you can overcome migraine headaches!
As a chiropractic physician, I have heard many horrific stories of pain and disability from migraine sufferers. I have taken care of teenagers who have had to quit playing sports or even had to be taken out of school altogether. I have taken care of adults who have lost their jobs or had to quit their job because of the pain and dysfunction. While I have helped hundreds of people overcome migraine headaches, I can only imagine dealing with this type of pain personally.
My goal has always been to help each person identify the underlying cause of the migraine. The cause of migraines is poorly understood by the medical community. As a result, most drugs and other medical treatments tend to focus solely on the symptoms and leave the cause uncorrected. Many different drugs(1) have been used to prevent and treat migraines and all of them come with dangerous side effects.
However, correcting the cause brings long term relief and allows you to restore your life. Finding and correcting the cause is the key to healing any health condition, including migraine headaches. There is no medical cure or magic pill but there is healing for the migraine headache sufferer.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common underlying causes that interfere with normal healing. Correcting these causes has brought relief to hundreds of migraine sufferers in my practice and I know that it can help you as well.
The Neurological Component of Migraine Headaches
Many case studies such as this one have documented the extreme effectiveness of chiropractic care for the migraine. Scientific studies(2, 3) have also confirmed this amazing effect of chiropractic care. The reason for this success is that chiropractic focuses on and specializes in removing stress from the nerve system. This neurological component is essential to healing migraines.
A stressed nerve system alone can cause severe pain and migraines. This stressed nerve system will also negatively affect blood flow in the brain – another major underlying cause of migraine headaches. Correcting the cause of the stress in the nerve system not only relieves pain but also restores normal function to blood flow. Nerve system interference is a factor in virtually all cases of migraine headaches.
It is important to note that not all chiropractic treatment is the same. Some chiropractic treatment focuses mostly on natural pain relief which is wonderful for the migraine sufferer. However, it may be short lived and limited in its overall effect. Other types of chiropractic care focus on correcting structural problems in your spine that cause pressure on your brain stem and nerves. This corrective care tends to bring greater relief and more long lasting results.
To achieve healing for your migraine, it is vital to include chiropractic care. It is just as important to make sure that you complete and maintain your chiropractic correction even if your pain is relieved sooner. This is the key to the tremendous and long lasting results for which chiropractic is well known.
Your chiropractor will also help you identify factors in your posture and lifestyle that have damaged your nerve system over the years so that you can prevent re-injury. Empower yourself with effective stress management as well to help prevent these nerve system problems.
Nutritional Healing for Migraine Headaches
Another common underlying cause of migraines is inflammation. Inflammation aggravates the nerves and interferes with normal blood flow as well. Anti-inflammatory drugs do not correct this because they cause further interference with your body’s natural healing.
Inflammation should be addressed with an anti-inflammatory diet, focusing a lots of green leafy vegetables, proper hydration and supplementation. Green, leafy vegetables (such as kale and spinach) contain high concentrations of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and antioxidants.
The most important supplement is a good quality Omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil with astaxanthin. This is vital for balancing inflammation and very effective, as well, at reducing the frequency and severity of migraines. Also, other healthy fats should be consumed daily. Fats like coconut oil (at least 2 tbsp daily), avocados, flax seed, and chia seeds are great anti-inflammatory sources of healthy fats.
Additionally, it is vitally important to avoid both MSG and aspartame. While these chemicals are common, they are both neurotoxic and they are common migraine triggers. MSG is in most all processed foods. Aspartame is in many sugar free foods and diet drinks. So, if you choose to consume ‘foods’ that come in a box or other package, be diligent to read the labels and avoid these chemicals. Read How to Avoid Being Secretly Poisoned by MSG for more information.
These nutritional changes do more than relieve symptoms. They address the underlying causes of inflammation and hormonal imbalances in order to bring true healing for migraine headaches.
How Exercise Helps Heal Migraines
Stress, inflammation and abnormal blood flow are underlying causes of migraines. Regular exercise is essential to relieve stress, improve blood flow and tissue oxygenation and balance hormones that affect the inflammatory response. The most effective exercise for this is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This article describes the basics of HIIT exercise and provides further resources.
However, if you are not currently exercising at all, you will need to start slow and work up to a full workout over the course of several weeks. The good news is that a full HIIT work out will only take 15-20 minutes! Start with only one 20 second exercise. If you respond well, the next day, do three 20-30 second repetitions. Then continue to progressively add more repititions.
As you do this, you will quickly find yourself feeling more energetic, more happy and upbeat and less stressed. Similar to the nutritional changes, adding this type of exercise to your lifestyle addresses underlying causes and brings actual healing.
Additional Natural Help for Migraine Headaches
Correcting the neurological component with chiropractic care and the inflammatory component with whole food nutrition and exercise are the keys to healing migraines. Here are five additional natural remedies for migraine headaches as well.
Magnesium – Magnesium helps improve blood flow and relax nerves. So, increase your consumption of magnesium rich foods. Theses include: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, amaranth, quinoa, soybeans, and black beans.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Riboflavin helps your cells produce energy. Research has shown that it can help prevent migraines. The research has suggested 400 mg which may be difficult to get entirely from food. You may need to take a B2 or B-complex supplement. However, consume more of these foods to increase your daily intake: whole grains, tempeh, almonds, crimini mushrooms, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and spinach.
CoEnzyme Q10 – This antioxidant nutrient is vital for cell repair. It also helps balance inflammation keeps blood vessels healthy. Taking 300 mg daily has been shown to prevent migraines and reduce migraine head pain.
Peppermint Oil – This essential oil has been known to relieve pain, relax nerves and stimulate blood flow. Rubbing a couple drops into the temples and the base of your head can help relieve migraine head pain.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) – 5-HTP increases the body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in blood vessel regulation. Optimizing serotonin levels has been associated with migraine relief. Supplementing with 200-400 mg of 5-HTP can help to naturally stimulate serotonin.
Migraine headaches are very difficult to treat. However, you do not have to be stuck with managing the painful symptoms. When you focus on healing the underlying causes rather than simply medicating the symptoms, you will have much better success. You can be well! There is healing for migraine headaches!
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References for this article:
(1) Migraine headache, University of Maryland Medical Center
(2) A randomized controlled trial of chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy for migraine.
(3) Headaches & Chiropractic http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=2186