Headache is the most frequent reason for people to seek advice from their health practitioner and is the primary reason for 10% of visits to the chiropractor (1). There are many different types of headache and the initial concern for the patient is to be sure they get a correct diagnosis. Some common diagnoses include: tension headache, migraine headache, cluster headache, sinus headache and cervicogenic (neck related) headache.
Migraine is a neurological syndrome that is associated with severe headaches, nausea and altered body perceptions. Some common descriptions from people who present with migraine include:
- “I have a throbbing headache on one side of my head”;
- “I am sensitive to light and noise and need to close the blinds, turn out the lights and avoid noise”;
- “I often get early warning signs – such as seeing bright lights or wavy lines before a headache starts”;
- “Sometimes I get cravings for foods such as chocolate”.
Migraine headaches are not only of great discomfort to the sufferer but due to their severity result in an average of 8.1 lost workdays per year (2). Migraine can be associated with many other health conditions, such as: depression, irritable bowel syndrome, excessive daytime sleepiness, asthma, epilepsy, restless legs syndrome, hypertension, vertigo, stroke and fibromyalgia(3).
There are often multiple trigger factors that may be present in the migraine sufferer. These include stress, alcohol, glare, hormonal change, changes in sleep habit, weather changes, dietary factors and altitude. Each one of these alone may not be enough to cause a headache, however, if the sufferer is close to threshold, this may be enough to tip them over the edge. The stressors seem to be cumulative, explaining why orange juice may produce a headache on one occasion, but then not the next time that it is consumed.
Some general advice that we give to migraine sufferers at Shirley Rd Chiropractic (Crows Nest / Norwest) includes:
- Eat in a manner which best keeps your blood sugars level and avoid spiking your levels (eat your protein first during a meal and never eat sweet foods on an empty stomach!);
- Coeliac disease is an autoimmune gluten hypersensitivity that is 10 times more prevalent in migraine sufferers.
- Vitamin D
- Up to 41.8% of migraineurs are Vit D deficient;
- Vit D3 is synthesized in the skin when exposed to UV-B rays from the sun. It is also found in fish, eggs and fortified milk;
- A daily supplementation of 1000 IU is typically recommended but up to 4000 IU may be of more use.
- CoEnzyme Q10
- 61.3% of patients achieved at least a 50% reduction in frequency of attacks by the end of a 4 month trial;
- 150-300mg/day is recommended and is available from health food stores.
- Increase water intake
- Drink at least 2L of water per day. A high water intake during the early phase of a migraine can help to abort a new episode.
- Migraineurs should wake at the same time every day – even on weekends. Get up and walk around and then you can go back to bed!
- 9 hours per night is best (or 6 hours is the next best);
- Ideally it is best not to be woken by an alarm.
- Rose coloured glasses
- When choosing sunglasses to reduce glare, purchase glasses from the red end of the spectrum rather than blue tinted glasses;
- This reduces high intensity light stimulation from the blue spectrum and can reduce migraine attacks.
For a more thorough discussion of migraine headache, it may be of use to talk to your GP regarding the above information or to one of the chiropractors at Shirley Rd Chiropractic. Find more information on the use of chiropractic in the management of headaches and neck pain.
- Chapman-Smith, D. (1991) Chiropractic management of headache. The Chiropractic Report. Vol. 5. No 2.
- Schwartz BS, Stewart WF, Lipton RB (1997) Lost workdays and decreased work effectiveness associated with headache in the workplace. J. Occup. and Environ. Med. 39: 320-327.
- Nicholson, A and Long, M (2009) Module 3 Clinical Training and Communication Programme – Headache, scoliosis, balance and dizziness, pp13-78.