The migraine headache is perhaps the best known “special type” of headache. It is really called the migraine syndrome. By syndrome we mean that a lot of things accompany the headache – all of them bad.
- Visual problems
- “Spots” before the eyes
- Redness, swelling, tearing of the eyes
- Muscle contraction
- Or diarrhea.
These symptoms often arise before the headache hits. The headache itself may last for a few minutes to a few days, and the severity may range from minor discomfort to immobilizing agony.
The migraine pain is most common in the temple but it may be experienced anywhere in the head, face and neck.
A variety of headache, closely related to the migraine, is the cluster headache. Attacks come on abruptly with intense, throbbing pain arising high in the nostril and spreading to behind the eye on the same side. Sometimes, the forehead is also affected. The attacks tend to occur from once to several times daily in clusters lasting weeks, or even months. Without apparent reason, the cluster subsides as quickly as it began.
So what puts the ache in headache?
The pain-sensitive structures of the head are the culprits. These are the arteries of the brain and skull, the tissues surrounding the head veins, the dura mata covering over the brain, and certain nerves called cranial nerves. When these parts are inflamed, stretched, pulled, or under pressure, any type of headache may be caused.
Migraine headaches can be classified into two types: classical and common. The classical migraine is a headache that follows an aura or some type of spontaneous event such as numbness or tingling. The aura may be flashes of light, squiggly lines, or a halo effect. The common migraine does not have an aura associated with it. Most people who suffer from migraines suffer from common migraines – usually at a 3:1 ratio.
Approximately 28 million Americans suffer from migraines, and millions go without treatment. Scientists once thought migraines were caused by abnormally dilated or enlarged blood vessels. Now, new imaging devices have allowed them to watch brains during migraine attacks, and scientists are discovering that sufferers have abnormally excitable neurons or brain nerve cells.
The latest migraine research has yielded a mechanism called cortical spreading depression, or CSD. Prior to the onset of pain in a migraine, researchers have observed a sudden burst of cortical activity that occurs most commonly in the occipital lobes (back part of the brain). The occipital lobe will increase in frequency of firing, or have a burst of activity, and then there will be an episode of silence or depressed activity. The actual activity of the brain becomes depressed when compared to normal. The resulting pain comes from either the brain stem activation or from blood vessels inflamed by rapidly exchanging blood flow – or both.
I take a different approach to the treatment and prevention of headaches and migraines.
I address this condition by looking at Structural, Metabolic and Neurological factors. It’s not enough to just shut the pain off, you need to understand why the migraine or headache is occurring so that you can prevent it from coming back. Don’t you agree?
Every Migraine and Headache patient experiences a comprehensive structural, metabolic, and functional neurologic workup from our office. You may have noticed I used the words “FUNCTIONAL NEUROLOGIC” workup. You’ve probably been to a neurologist and had a brain MRI or CT Scan. Functional neurology is different.
We are not just looking for pathology like tumors and aneurysms. Those are important to rule out but, sometimes the brain and nervous system are just not “functioning” as well as it should. There is no pathology or lesion, just poor function. By performing simple neurologic tests (much like DUI tests) we can identify how the brain and nervous system are firing and where breakdown in function is occurring. Using Functional Neurology is a method that allows me to target and challenge different areas in the brain.
It’s also important for us to perform a very thorough metabolic evaluation (hormones, glandular function and communication, immune and digestive function, and organ health) all play a role in how we feel. We take very seriously that you would like to eliminate or greatly reduce the frequency of your headaches.
We have helped countless migraine patients achieve these goals even after other therapies failed from the ”top doctors and clinics” in our area. Don’t get me wrong. We cannot help every patient and we don’t accept every case, but when we can identify clear cut reasons for your headaches or migraines, we are happy to accept your case and you can get excited about the possibility of a new life.