Migraine headaches are classified as a primary headache disorder. Migraines are three times more common among women, especially in their premenopausal years. While migraines are still not fully understood (meaning they are likely underdiagnosed and undertreated), the available data show they are the most debilitating type of headache and rank seventh among health conditions with respect to years lived with disability.
Between 25-30% of migraineurs experience an aura lasting five minutes to one hour that precedes a migraine that is characterized by visible, sensory, or other central nervous system symptoms that increase in intensity. Common migraine symptoms include severe, throbbing pain on one side of the head, photophobia (light sensitivity), phonophobia or hyperacusis (noise sensitivity), nausea or vomiting, and neck stiffness. A migraine episode can last from a couple hours to a full day.
While there are pharmaceutical strategies for managing migraines, they may become less effective over time with adverse effects that patients may be unwilling or unable to tolerate in the long term. Such side effects include weight gain, cold extremities, dizziness, kidney damage, fatigue, dry mouth, gastrointestinal issues, constipation, muscle spasms, and oddly, headaches.
Rather, migraine management may instead focus on lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, stress management, regular exercise, getting sufficient quality sleep, and staying hydrated, as well as specific strategies to manage comorbidities—such as mood disorders, sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, neurological disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders—that have been associated with migraines. Additionally, patients are advised to be on the lookout for foods, smells, sounds, or anything that may trigger a migraine so as to avoid them in the future.
Researchers have also observed that neck pain is very common in migraine sufferers who often have forward head posture, trigger points in the cervical muscles, and other musculoskeletal disorders affecting the neck and upper back. Multiple studies have found that treatment to address trigger points, improve posture, and restore normal joint movement can reduce the intensity, frequency, and duration of migraines. A 2021 international study that focused on female migraineurs receiving chiropractic care revealed consistent benefits with increased appreciation for the complex interaction between stress, muscular tension, posture, and migraine.