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Why migraines may be connected to the neck


Over the past 7 years in practice at UC Life and being an Upper Cervical Chiropractor (the Cervical spine is the neck) we see a lot of symptoms that are located in the area of the head and neck.  Makes sense!

Of course there are lots of issues with the head and neck that are unrelated to migraines, but of course when people hear about an office that is dedicated entirely to the junction between the head and the neck our fair share of migraines do come into the office for consultation and adjustment.

Photo by Aiony Haust via Unsplash

There are many triggers for migraines, and those that are suffering from migraines could probably name many different factors that create the storm of a migraine.  In regards to the upper neck, there are a few key triggers that help me understand the likely success with being able to work with and ultimately see improvement in migraine symptoms.

1) Trauma as an initiator of migraines

Many motor vehicle collisions, whiplash injuries, concussions and head trauma lead to migraines.  Misalignments in the upper neck are almost always created by trauma.  When someone experiences a head injury you are also talking about a neck injury.  It’s been said that it takes far less force to injure the neck compared to the head, so when the head has been affected, the neck is also on the list of injuries.

2) Pressure/weather changes as a trigger for migraines

We see a significant relationship between alignment of the upper neck and the sensations of pressure within the skull.  Everyone’s skull has a base level of pressure in it.  This is based upon the flow of fluids (specifically blood flow and CSF flow within the spinal canal), and pressure is the result of the force needed to push fluid to different parts of the body.  Our heart is beating to pump blood, and in the case of the head, it’s often (based on our upright position) having to have to pump it “uphill” to get to the brain.  This requires a certain amount of pressure to be able to get the job done.  Increases in pressure within the skull are often related more to the drainage of fluid and the inability to drain as much fluid from the head as is being pumped into the head.  This can be a neck problem.  Just like an example of a balloon, if you’re putting air in, and not letting it out, the ballon will expand which is an indicator of a pressure increase.

Photo by Jason Blackeye via Unsplash

3) Post concussion migraines

Concussions happen when trauma to the head occurs.  POST concussion happens when symptoms of the trauma don’t heal in a reasonable time period.  It is very true that heavy trauma to the head can and does impact brain/neurological tissues to the extent of permanent injury in some cases.  But often times after the injury and after what would typically be thought of as a reasonable time frame for recovery, concussion symptoms persist.  Often imaging with the use of CT or MRI do not show any neurological tissue damage (which is always good!) but it leaves people with a bit question mark as to why?  The question that runs through my head is “what happened to the structural alignment during the trauma?”  And ultimately, trying to figure out if the trauma shifted you into a new alignment position that is a contributing factor to the ongoing symptoms.

It’s a tricky situation. 

We’re here to help with answering these questions and trying to help find a solution.  If you, or someone you know is looking for answers, join us for our scheduled Migraine discussion night happening next week on Tuesday February 12th @ 6:15 pm.  Location is our office which is 1113 Langley St. downtown Victoria.  

You can click on the Eventbrite link here to get a ticket.  No cost, just bring your questions!

Dr. Matthew Kittleson 


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