ISOMATIC Integrative Health Centre

Vaughan Woodbridge


Migraine: Understanding and Managing the Severe Headache

Migraines are a type of headache characterized by severe, throbbing pain typically focused on one side of the head. They can be debilitating and are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Understanding migraines and their management is essential for individuals who experience them.

Key Features of Migraines:

  1. Intense Pain: Migraines are known for their intense, pulsating pain, often described as a “throbbing” or “pounding” sensation. This pain can be disabling and is usually concentrated on one side of the head.

  2. Duration: Migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and their duration can vary from one episode to the next.

  3. Auras: Some individuals experience “auras” before the migraine begins. These auras can include visual disturbances like flashing lights, blind spots, or zigzag lines, as well as other sensory symptoms.

  4. Nausea and Vomiting: Migraines frequently cause nausea and vomiting, which can further intensify the discomfort.

  5. Sensitivity: Many people with migraines become sensitive to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia) during an attack. They may seek a dark, quiet room for relief.

Triggers and Causes:

Migraines can be triggered by various factors, and their exact cause is still not fully understood. Common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes (e.g., during menstruation or pregnancy)
  • Certain foods (e.g., aged cheese, processed meats, and artificial sweeteners)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Strong odors or perfumes
  • Changes in weather
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bright lights or loud noises

It’s important to note that triggers can vary from person to person, and identifying individual triggers can be valuable for managing migraines.

Management and Treatment:

Managing migraines often involves a combination of strategies, including:

  1. Medications: There are various medications available to relieve the pain during a migraine attack or to prevent them. These include over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, and migraine-specific drugs.

  2. Lifestyle Changes: Identifying and avoiding triggers is crucial. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress through relaxation techniques, and staying well-hydrated can help.

  3. Coping Strategies: Finding a quiet, dark place to rest during a migraine attack and using relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation can provide relief.

  4. Prescription Preventive Medications: For individuals with frequent or severe migraines, healthcare providers may prescribe preventive medications to reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks.

  5. Biofeedback and Physical Therapy: These techniques can help manage the physical and emotional aspects of migraines.

  6. Alternative Therapies: Some people find relief through acupuncture, chiropractic care, or herbal remedies, but it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider before pursuing these options.

Osteopathy for Migraines:

Osteopathy is a holistic approach to healthcare that considers the relationship between the musculoskeletal system, nervous system, and overall health. While osteopathy doesn’t directly treat migraines, it can be beneficial in managing certain aspects that may contribute to migraine symptoms.

  1. Muscle Tension: Osteopaths can address musculoskeletal issues that contribute to migraine symptoms. They use manual techniques to release muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back, which can be both a trigger and a result of migraines.

  2. Posture and Alignment: Poor posture or misalignments in the spine can increase the risk of tension headaches or cervicogenic migraines (migraines originating from the neck). Osteopathic adjustments can improve spinal alignment and posture.

  3. Stress Reduction: Osteopaths may employ relaxation techniques to reduce overall stress, as stress is a common migraine trigger.

  4. Cranial Osteopathy: Some osteopaths specialize in cranial osteopathy, a gentle technique focused on the head and skull. While research is limited, some individuals find relief from migraine symptoms through this approach.

Physiotherapy for Migraines:

Physiotherapy can also contribute to migraine management by addressing physical factors and providing strategies for symptom relief.

  1. Neck and Shoulder Exercises: Physiotherapists may prescribe exercises that specifically target the neck and shoulder muscles to reduce muscle tension, which can be a migraine trigger.

  2. Posture Correction: Physiotherapists can help improve posture and ergonomics to reduce strain on the neck and upper back, potentially reducing the frequency of migraines.

  3. Joint Mobilization: Mobilization techniques can help improve joint function and reduce pain in the neck and upper back, areas often associated with migraines.

  4. Biofeedback: Some physiotherapy clinics offer biofeedback techniques that can help individuals learn to control and manage physiological responses to stress and pain, potentially reducing migraine frequency.

  5. Relaxation and Breathing Techniques: Physiotherapists can teach relaxation and breathing exercises to help manage stress and reduce the risk of migraine attacks.

It’s crucial for individuals who experience migraines to work with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized management plan. This plan may include a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and coping strategies to effectively control and minimize the impact of migraines on daily life.

Vaughan Woodbridge

Andrew Chan, R.H.N., DOMP, B.Sc., DO (Euro)

Ankit Patel, H.BscKin, MPT, MCPA

Seong Eun (Tina) Ra,
R. Ac

Daniel Galano,

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