I was recently asked to write an article covering headaches and migraines. When I posted this suggestion, there was a number of people that also wanted this article! I didn’t think this was that big of a topic, but apparently, we have people who need help with this! So, first things first: I am a chiropractor that practices functional medicine. That means that while my doctorate is in manual medicine, I have spent a lot of years focusing on things outside of adjustments such as herbal therapy, nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and supplementation for restoring health. Why not pharmaceuticals? Because I found all too often that prescription and OTC medications were really good at symptomatic relief, but lacked in their ability to really get rid of the underlying issues. Add side effects on top of that, and I just feel more confident in my ability to RESOLVE a patient’s issue without the use of medications. Now that you have a little background on my philosophies, let’s talk about headaches and migraines.
What’s the difference between a headache and a migraine?
A LOT! A headache is annoying, painful, and while it is pain in the head, it is not a intense or debilitating as migraine. For the purpose of this post, we will classify migraines as severely disabling headaches. Migraines are often accompanied by something called an aura or a feeling of fog that denotes it’s onset. These patients also have light sensitivity, they may feel very nauseous, and it is very difficult for them to complete simple daily tasks while one is occurring. While this is awful, the really awful part is that this can last for hours or days! This makes life pretty difficult while you are experiencing a migraine, and that is why many people will turn to prescriptions when this happens. At that point, you will do whatever it takes to get relief and be able to accomplish daily responsibilities.
What’s wrong with my prescriptions for migraines?
The prescription medications used to treat migraines are often chemicals who’s original purpose had nothing to do with migraines. They may be blood pressure medication, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and even your favorite wrinkle treatment known as BOTOX. These medications do “alright” at best for making a patient able to tolerate and function during an episode, and may impact frequency for some, but they certainly don’t treat migraines. These medications all come with their own set of side effects that under longterm use may require another medication to address the side effect of the migraine medication. This is nothing new in the pharmaceutical world, and before you know it, you are a customer buying 5 medications when you thought you started with a simple problem.
What causes headaches and migraines?
There are so many sources of etiology for this type of issue that it’s hard to treat for that reason. If you haven’t done your due diligence digging around for the culprit, you will never find the root cause. Root causes that I see being most common for MIGRAINES are:
- food sensitivities (especially things like gluten, lactose, and eggs)
- diet sweeteners (check labels for sucralose, aspartame, truvia, equal, etc)
- caffeine (coffee, soda, chocolate all have caffeine and this can be a trigger for those that don’t metabolize it well)
- hormones (especially when progesterone is low or women find migraines cyclical to their menstrual cycle)
- stress (this is a seriously overlooked trigger for tons of health issues)
- magnesium deficiency
- underactive mitochondria due to chronic diseases such as autoimmunity, cancer, or chronic infection
Root causes I see being most common for HEADACHES are:
- postural issues
- cervical subluxations
- blood sugar issues
- blood pressure issues
- eye sight issues
So, the first step in diagnosis and treatment is deciding if you suffer from a HEADACHE or a MIGRAINE. If you suffer from headaches, then often times, they can easily resolve with:
- visiting your chiropractor for an adjustment (this fixes misalignments that cause nerve discomfort causing headaches)
- visit your massage therapist (muscle tension can occur from poor posture or subluxations and soft tissue work especially on the suboccipitals can work wonders. Just tell your massage therapist to work on your cranium, jaw, suboccipitals, and muscles that elevate the shoulders)
- ergonomics (position your desk, move frequently, and don’t look down at your phone constantly)
- eat balanced meals low in refined carbs (this will help keep blood sugar stable)
- check your blood pressure (identify if this throbbing is coming from how hard your heart is pumping)
- adopt stress relief techniques like going for a walk, doing yoga, reading, enjoying hobbies
- talk to an essential oil rep that can point you in the direction of a diffuser and use lavender specifically
- get your eyes checked (if you find yourself squinting a lot or if you notice most headaches are in the afternoon it could be because of screen time)
If you suffer from migraines, then it may take some digging to find the cause. You may want to consider the following testing or supplementation:
- supplement with magnesium (300mg/day) (you could incorporate Epsom salt soaks too for transdermal absorption)
- eliminate common allergens from your diet (I would start with gluten, dairy, and eggs)
- remove all diet foods and MSG from your diet
- get your hormones checked (especially if you are a woman or notice they have a pattern around your period)
- supplement with nutrients targeted at helping your mitochondria function (this could be especially helpful for those with a concurrent chronic infection.
Hopefully this answered some of your questions! There are tons of things you can do to self-treat headaches, but if they persist beyond those efforts, then I suggest finding good doctors to work with! This is an area where alternative medicine shines and you will never regret going that route. If you find you need further direction on your case, I would be happy to set up a consult or point in the direction of someone near to you that I trust!
*feel free to call or text 574-635-5808 to set up a 30-min phone consult: $75
*feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consult or request links to the products I would recommend to my patients.