24 Sep Is your Migraine a Neck-ache?
Around 15% of Australians (3,600,000) suffer from migraine at some point in their lives, with up to a quarter of households in Australia having at least one migraine sufferer. Twice as many women suffer from migraine headaches than men.
Migraines can be extremely debilitating, and can make work and family life very difficult, however with an individualised approach and a management strategy developed by your health professional team, they can be well managed.
The term migraine describes a headache that has associated neurological symptoms. The neurological symptom can be a visual aura, sensitivity to light orf noise, or a balance disturbance. This neurological sensitivity generally appears before the headache and can be a warning sign of an impending migraine. The intensity, duration and severity of the headache symptoms varies between people and this helps us differentiate the types of migraine.
Each type of migraine has different features and individuals have different triggers for their migraine. Most commonly, a migraine attack is triggered by a variety of environmental stimuli (flashing or bright lights, loud noise and strong smells), hormonal changes, certain foods (eg chocolate, red wine) or physiological triggers such as fatigue, stress and tension.
A subset of migraine is associated with upper neck tension and strain.
The neurological pathway from the upper neck links up with the areas in the brain responsible for migraine. This pathway can be stimulated by strain in the joints of the upper neck and tension in muscles of this area. These migraine sufferers are in a situation where continued neck and head strain is constantly sensitising the migraine pathway. The triggers mentioned before then tip the balance in the brain and a migraine follows.
Modern multidisciplinary management of persisting pain includes the identification of the individual triggers and addressing them with appropriate care.
Migraine is usually managed with strong medication to dampen down the brains sensitivity, along with avoidance of the triggers.
For sufferers of “neck sensitised” migraine, medication does not always provide complete resolution of the problem as the reason for the migraine continues. The involvement of the upper neck provides an avenue for added non-medical treatment such as manual therapy.