Causes & Treatment

The word “Migraine” is used fairly loosely when describing a severe headache, however there are differences between headache (which can be severe) and migraine.
The word “headache” is a description of pain in the head, which can be caused by many different things, usually innocuous. Headache does not indicate the cause of the pain and thus, is not a diagnosis in and of itself. Not all severe headaches are a migraine, and not all migraines cause severe headache!

Migraine, on the other hand, refers to a specific set of symptoms caused by changes to the way nerves and blood vessels behave in the brain. This can cause a severe headache, but it can also cause other symptoms such as dizziness, changes to vision, nausea, ringing in the ears, pins and needles, or difficulty speaking. Some variants of migraine don’t present with headache at all (such as vestibular migraine) but are still classed as a migraine because of the behaviour of the malfunctioning nerves or blood vessels in the brain.  Certain triggers may cause a migraine attack, such as certain foods, alcohol, poor sleep or hormonal fluctuations (for instance, in perimenopausal or menopausal women, or younger women in certain stages of their menstrual cycle).

Migraines may present with an “Aura” which is a collection of symptoms such as pins and needles, flashing lights or changes to vision, dizziness or sensitivity to light, prior to the onset of the headache. An Aura will usually precede the headache by a few minutes to an hour.

Some Migraine sufferers also experience a “prodrome” – a collection of symptoms which occur in the days leading up to a migraine attack. These may include frequent yawning, significant reduction in energy, constipation, mood changes, neck stiffness or food cravings.

How are migraines treated?
Because medical science is still working out how and why the nerves and blood vessels involved in migraine attacks play up, we don’t have a “cure” for migraine disease just yet. We do know that there are many helpful things that patients can do to assist the severity of their symptoms and the frequency in which they occur.

The best results usually happen when the migraine patient has a multidisciplinary team helping to care for them. This means that they should have not just one, but a few practitioners working together to assist with different factors of their condition.
Medications can be useful in reducing symptoms, and may include

-Medications taken at the onset of a headache to prevent it from progressing
-triptans – medications that help to “quieten down” overactive nerves which can relay pain information to our brain

-Pain killer medications

-Anti nausea medications

These medications can be prescribed by a GP or neurologist.
Other options for treatment involve:
-Botox injections around the head and neck

-Manual therapy (Such as Osteo!) to muscles in the head and neck
-Stress management and trigger avoidance

What is the role of stress in migraine headache?
As with any painful condition, stress can be a major contributor. When we are stressed, our brain perceives an increase in environmental “threat” and takes action to keep us safe – ie, we feel more pain!
There are simple strategies you can use to decrease your stress hormones and improve your pain experience – this is a key skill for patients experiencing migraines in successfully managing or improving their attacks.

We have three Osteopaths with an interest in treating migraine headache – Dr Claire Richardson (Advanced Practice Pain Management Osteopath), Dr Eliza Clark (Osteopath) and Dr Caitlin Gill (Osteopath).

We would be thrilled to assist you manage this debilitating condition!

We’re happy to answer any questions you might have, please email us if you need any advice! info@chadstoneregionosteo.com.au

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