Anyone who is not well acquainted with migraines may assume that they are simply severe headaches, with a few other irritating symptoms. If you have not had a migraine, this may seem to be the true. The story for migraine sufferers and those caring for them, including a migraine chiropractor in Calgary, reveals a more complicated phenomenon.
The more that is understood about migraines, the more prepared you can be living with the various symptoms of this condition. A not-so-well-known aspect of migraines is that they occur in up to four unique phases. A different set of symptoms comes with each phase. There’s no telling if a person will experience all four phases since each episode can be different.
Phase #1 – The Warning Phase
Warning signs of an oncoming migraine attack are characteristic of the first phase. This is called the premonitory or prodromal phase. The many symptoms indicating migraine onset may begin as far out as a day before the actual migraine begins. About 30%-40% of migraine sufferers experience this phase. Here are a few possible symptoms of the warning phase:
- Excessive yawning
- GI symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea
- Mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, or depression
- Neck pain
- Food cravings
Phase #2 – Aura Phase
This unique phase is only experienced by about 25% of migraine sufferers and is often associated with visual symptoms. However, there is more to this phase, and this may be an indicator for those who do not experience a warning phase. Some migraine aura symptoms are as follows:
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Hearing changes, including loss of hearing or hearing sounds that aren’t actually present
- Hypersensitivity to touch
- Visual changes which can vary greatly from person to person, sometimes described as blurry vision, blind spots, floaters, wavy lines, or flashes of light
Phase #3 – Headache Phase
This is the most familiar symptom of a migraine episode and is often considered by the inexperienced to be the only symptom of migraines. Perhaps because this is the most disabling part of a migraine episode, and while the pain is immense, there can be other sensations to this phase. Here are some of the other symptoms that come along with this stage:
- Most of the time it is unilateral, meaning the pain affects only one side of the head.
- The pain is throbbing or pulsating.
- Episodes in adults can last between 4 and 72 hours. Children’s episodes may be shorter.
- Pain can also occur in the sinuses, around the eyes, and in the jaw due to inflammation of the trigeminal nerve during a migraine episode.
Other symptoms that may be present during the headache phase include the following:
- Extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and smell
- Neck pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Issues with temperature regulation leading to hot flashes or chills
- Anxiety or panic
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
Phase #4 – Postdrome Phase
This is the last phase of a migraine episode, the recovery or postdrome stage. It is not necessarily pleasant for every migraine sufferer, despite the misleading term, “recovery” phase. For many, this is called the “migraine hangover” because of the lingering effects on the body for hours or even days after onset. The symptoms vary in this stage, being very similar to the first phase or completely the opposite. For example, appetite loss may turn to hunger and fatigue may shift to a boost of energy. Here are a few of the postrdrome signs:
- Reduced cognitive function such as poor comprehension and lack of ability to concentrate
- Mood changes that can range from depression to feelings of euphoria
Migraines and Your Upper Neck
When learning about migraines, it is important to understand how they are related to the neck. The more you learn about their connection to one another, the closer you get to the root cause of migraines. In your upper neck, the two uppermost vertebra of your spine are called the atlas and the axis. They have a distinct function, individual from all other vertebrae in the spine. The two work together to support the weight of the head while also allowing the swiveling movement we all enjoy when we turn our head side to side and look up or down.
The two vertebrae play a key role in your neurological function, as they house the brainstem within their protective circumference. The brainstem is the junction where all the sensory information passing through the spinal cord nerves meets the brain. It’s like a flooding stream of signals passing back and forth, relying on accuracy and details in order for the body to perform at optimum capacity. Due to the combination of heavy use and their delicate structure, the axis and atlas are susceptible to slight shifting in their alignment. This can have big effects on an individual — one of them being migraine upsets. The reason for this is that the shifted bone adds pressure to the brainstem, inhibiting normal blood flow and interrupting the travelling sensory signals in the nerves, resulting in neurological dysfunction. These misalignments can occur from injury, accidents, or overuse in extreme positions.
Calgary, AB upper cervical chiropractors are thoroughly trained in assessing and help misalignment in this delicate region of the spine. After receiving precise and gentle adjustments that hold for a longer period of time, the body can begin to heal itself. Many patients suffering from migraines find their episodes to become less frequent, less severe, and even gone entirely.
To schedule a consultation with Vibe Health & Spine, call our Calgary office at (403) 266-2283. You can also click the button below.
If you are outside of the local area, you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.