Migraines don’t necessarily require medical prescriptions for treatment. Alternatives, such as massage and acupuncture, can provide relief.
What are Migraines?
Migraines are not just headaches. They are severe, throbbing, and pulsing headaches, typically combined with vomiting, nausea, and light and sound sensitivity. The attacks can last from hours to days. Migraines can be preceded by an “aura”, which are warning signs that may include blind spots, light flashes, or tingling in the limbs.1 “Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder”, and includes symptoms of the autonomic nervous system. In general, the headache affects half of the head; the term “migraine” actually derives from the Greek, meaning “pain on one side of the head”. Physical activity worsens the pain. Sometimes an aura doesn’t bring on the headache. Environment and genetics are both thought to be involved in causing migraines. Most cases run in families. Hormones likely play a part in migraines. In fact, pre-pubescent boys tend to get them more often, but after puberty, women are 2-3 times more likely than men to have them (although pregnancy decreases the risk). It is believed that migraines are related to excitability in the cerebral cortex part of the brain combined with abnormal pain control in the brainstem. There are four potential stages to a migraine attack, including the prodrome (changes in mood and energy, digestive concerns, and stiff muscles), aura, pain, and postdrome (soreness, tiredness, impaired thinking, and prodromal symptoms). Typical triggers of migraines include menstruation, stress, fatigue, and hunger, as well as some possible dietary influences (such as MSG).2
Most patients will be prescribed medications to deal with migraines. Other interventions include nutritional supplements, lifestyle changes, or even surgery. Biofeedback and neurostimulators can also be prescribed. Surgery, a last resort, involves nerve decompression. Patients may also control pain with NSAID medications, acetaminophen, and caffeine. Various prescriptions are available to help prevent migraines, such as metoprolol, timolol, frovatriptan, amitriptyline, venlafaxine, and even Botox. For those who do not wish medications or side-effects, alternative therapies are an option. Supplements, such as CoQ10, magnesium, and vitamin B12, as well as some herbal remedies (such as butterbur), could be useful. Chiropractic manipulation and massage “might be as effective as propranolol or topiramate”. Acupuncture, practiced correctly, could also be effective against migraines.3 Some massage can be performed at home by the patient. Before beginning, the patient should drink water, and continue hydration for 24 hours after, to flush out toxins. Next, the patient should place their thumbs on the bridge of the nose, holding it for 10 seconds, then repeating this 5 times. Keeping the thumbs at the bridge of the nose by the forehead, the patient should turn the thumb pads up, pressing against the forehead for 10 seconds, again repeating this a few times. Next, massaging under the eyebrows involves pinching the skin below the eyebrows and holding it away from the face, moving all along the eyebrow area. The last face massage technique is to place the three middle fingers on the temples, holding for 10 seconds and then performing a circular massage. Additionally, patients can stretch neck muscles.4 Migraine sufferers can also seek a professional massage therapist for a more thorough massage and relaxation treatment. Acupuncture can have lasting effects against migraines, reducing the number of days they occur. In a study, some patients received real acupuncture and some had a sham treatment. While both groups had improvement, only the patients receiving true acupuncture had lasting effects. Acupuncture was shown in another study to be as effective as beta-blockers.5
Find out more about how chiropractic can help with migraines.