Migraine Triggers and How the Central Nervous System Is Involved
- Attacks lasting between 4 and 72 hours
- Visual disturbances
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness or vertigo (a spinning sensation)
- Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and smell
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities or the face
Symptoms can be different, not only for each person but for each migraine. There are different types of migraines, also. They are determined by the predominant symptom and the part of the body they affect. For example, an abdominal migraine has to do with pain and discomfort in the stomach area. A migraine is diagnosed by taking a close look at the symptoms, going over your family history with your doctor, and performing necessary medical tests to rule out other conditions. If you notice a change in the way your migraines occur, if they become disabling or are not responding to your normal remedies, it is a good idea to consult your primary care physician.
Triggers for Migraines
It is important to understand that a trigger does not cause a migraine, but it sets it off. Different things trigger a migraine in different people. But each individual may find that what triggers a migraine one time may not be the trigger next time. And an even further complication is what triggers your migraine is probably not the same thing that triggers your best friend’s migraine.
It is a good idea to think of triggers as risk factors. Often, it is more than one trigger that brings about an attack. For example, you may not have slept well the night before and happen to miss your morning cup of coffee as you are running out the door, feeling stressed because of being late for work. A migraine may ensue because of the numerous triggers involved.
Keeping a migraine diary is suggested by specialists in the migraine field. By jotting down what you were doing just before a migraine hits can help you see a pattern developing and give you an idea how to avoid migraines more often. You will want to keep track of some information:
- What foods and beverages you consumed
- What type of activities you were engaged in
- What the weather conditions were like
- How you slept the night before
- If you missed any meals
- If you had more or less caffeine than normal
There is no such thing as universal triggers for everyone. However, here are some common ones you may want to keep in mind:
- Lifestyle triggers: Missing meals, stress, too much exercise, over-exertion, dehydration, changes in sleep patterns
- Weather-related triggers: High and low humidity, huge, sudden changes in temperature, bright sunlight, changes in barometric pressure
- Medication triggers: Overuse of painkillers, birth control medications, side effects to medications
- Hormonal triggers: Pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, changes in hormone levels, birth control
- Environmental triggers: Bright or flickering lights, smoke and pollution, air pressure, motion sickness
The Central Nervous System and Migraines
It has been proven that when one undergoes migraines, it can be linked to a dysfunction of the nervous system. Research has shown that when those with migraines have a headache-free period, they have less nervous system function than those without migraines. A reduction in the nervous system is also seen in rare neurological disorders such as pure autonomic failure and multiple system atrophy. Migraines are related to these conditions. If the nervous system is malfunctioning for some reason, migraines may be the end result. So, now the question is, why would the nervous system malfunction?
The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, including the brainstem. The brain has the responsibility to control most bodily functions:
The spinal cord connects to a part of the brain called the brainstem and runs through the spinal canal. Cranial nerves exit the brainstem, and nerve roots exit the spinal cord on both sides of the body. The spinal cord and brainstem are the super highway of the body, carrying messages to and from the brain and the nerves.
How a Misalignment of the Neck Causes Migraines
When you have a migraine, the first thing that should be considered is whether the central nervous system is working at its optimum. One thing seen to negatively affect the nervous system is a misalignment of the bones of the upper cervical spine. Here, at Bountiful Spinal Care in Bountiful, Utah, we can evaluate your neck to see if you have a misalignment causing your migraine. The C1 and C2 vertebrae were designed to protect the delicate brainstem. However, if they have misaligned due to some type of trauma to the head or neck (whiplash, sporting accidents, physical altercations), they can actually put undue pressure on the brainstem, causing it to come under stress and begin sending improper signals to the brain as the nervous system function is negatively impacted. As we read earlier, when the nervous system is not functioning properly, migraines can ensue. So, how can this be corrected?
We use a gentle method that encourages the bones of the neck that are misplaced to move back into place. Rather than popping or cracking the neck and forcing the bones into place, a light tap is all that is required to naturally realign these bones. Once corrected, many patients see their migraines improve or go away completely, sometimes in only a couple of adjustments.