What is a Migraine?

According to a recent study, around 20% of all headaches are migraines and for those who experience them often you’ll know they are more than ‘just a headache’.  

Migraine is not ‘just a headache’ but a debilitating and complex neurovascular condition.
As we now know, a migraine can occur when the head and neck blood vessels constrict. Over time, the blood flow decreases and this causes a throbbing sensation and can be the cause of migraine ‘aura’ – the strange visual and sensory symptoms that sometimes go along with or precede a migraine.  Why does this happen?  It depends on the person. Every person can have different triggers which set off migraine. Common examples are chocolate, wine, and citrus fruit as well as stress and lack of sleep.
There are many kinds of  migraine, but usual ones look like this:

 

  • throbbing or stabbing pain on one side of the head (but can be both sides) which lasts 4-72 hours if not treated
  • pain will be moderate to severe and will be disabling
  • attacks will be made worse by routine physical activities (work, housework)
  • attacks are made better by avoiding routine activities – a classic is laying down in a darkened room

 

Some people experience symptoms of ‘migraine with aura’ which means that you have the above kind of head pain within an hour of these kinds of symptoms:

 

  • visual symptoms like lights/lines/flickering or loss of vision in both eyes
  • pins and needles or numbness (on one side usually, but often with the above)
  • difficulty speaking
Usually the symptoms will develop over 5 minutes, or you will have several that happen one after the other for over 5 minutes, and the will last from 5 minutes to an hour. Within that time, or within the next hour, the aura will be followed by the headache pain of migraine.

How can osteopathy help with my migraines?

When people have a condition like migraine, which disrupts all aspects of a person’s life, we tend to look for all sorts of medication and home-grown treatments. However, did you know that osteopathy can actually help in the journey to prevent migraines?

If you’ve never heard the term ‘osteopathy’ previously, it’s considered ‘complementary medicine’ and helps to treat or prevent certain medical conditions affecting the joints, bones, muscles, and connective tissue. With migraine, osteopaths gently work on the head, neck and shoulders and this gentle physical work, combined with reassurance and advice as well as stress management help can really help improve your well being and reduce your migraine intensity or frequency or both.

 

What is an appointment like?

If you were to book with an osteopath like myself, it would be incredibly helpful to have a record of your eating and sleeping habits for as long as you can record them – including through at least 3 migraines.  This is not necessary but would be very helpful in managing treatment and advice going forward.  If you need a template for writing down these things, the Migraine Trust has an excellent set of headache diary templates.  If you’d like to do your records on your phone, there are also now excellent apps for tracking symptoms and some can even export reports for your healthcare team.

The first thing I would do is ask you questions to get a better idea of your issue. For example, you will be asked about your symptoms in great detail, about your health history, and the history of your headaches.   At first, you might be a little confused with the questioning but the I will want to get a full picture of your condition since poor posture, muscle tightness, and joint stiffness can also cause or contribute to migraines or cause other kinds of headaches which I can also help with.

After the interview you will be examined (primarily your head, neck, jaw) in active and passive movements, and I will probably conduct some tests on your coordination, vision, and take your blood pressure.

As well as helping me to decide how effective various treatments could be, this can also tell me if you need a referral. Sometimes migraine symptoms can be symptoms of other things, and this is why diagnosis is important if you’re having your first headaches.

 

I always try to provide treatment during a session, even though some of it will be taken up by your interview and assessment. The more prepared you are with details of your symptoms and details of any triggers you might have at your first session, the faster that part will go.

 

Followup sessions are entirely treatment and will be centered around your head, neck, jaw and often the upper back and collarbone area and other areas which may be involved.

Often, chronic migraines will require ongoing treatments at first but I aim to space them apart as far as possible to balance preventing attacks. In some instances, where migraine is caused more by stress or musculoskeletal problems, the impact is more rapid. Nearly everyone has more than one type of headache, so usually relief is felt immediately from at least one of those types of headache during the first few sessions.

If you would like help with your headaches or migraines, please book in a session to see me.

** Any new, sudden, debilitating head pain, particularly with other symptoms, should always be seen by your GP **