Hello everyone! Welcome to the Restorative Health Solution’s blog. Today we are going to be talking about migraine headaches. Exciting new research is coming out behind the 6th leading cause of disability worldwide!
Migraines affect over 12% of the population. In the United States alone, 38 million people suffer from migraine headaches each year. Four million people suffer from 15 or more migraines a month. Not to mention, migraines are the number one cause of disability for people under the age of 50! Needless to say we have quite the epidemic on our hands. The difference between migraines from person to person has been the main reason treating migraines can be so difficult.
There is new research out that is revealing major underlying causes of migraines to help migraine sufferers find relief. Better yet, more people are finding non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical migraine relief with functional medicine and functional neurology. Today, we are going to touch on some of the underlying causes of migraine to get to the root of the issue.
What Defines a Migraine?
If I were to ask 100 migraine sufferers about their migraines, I would get 100 different stories. Migraines have been so difficult to treat for this exact reason. The International Classification of Headache Disorders defines migraine headaches as:
“Attacks that last 4-72 hours and have at least two of the following four characteristics: unilateral location (one side), pulsating quality (head pounding), moderate or severe pain intensity, and/or aggravation by or causing avoidance of routine physical activity; and at least one of the following: nausea and/or vomiting, and/or photophobia or phonophobia.”
There are many triggers that can cause migraines. Common triggers include hormone imbalances, such as thyroid, adrenal, or sex hormones. Other triggers include neurological problems from a concussion or problem with the blood brain barrier. Imbalances in the gut can also cause migraines. Whatever the problem is, it is important we identify the root cause.
What Causes a Migraine?
For many migraine sufferers, the migraine process may start up to 72 hours before pain begins. Someone might feel very tired, cranky, or experience brain fog. Sometimes migraines can also begin with an “aura”. Research is now showing aura symptoms are thought to be caused by a something known as Cortical Spreading Depression, or CSD. CSD happens when a section of brain cells are overactive. When these cells are activated, it leads to a wave of activity across the entire brain. This causes many of the aura symptoms people experience prior to a migraine.
We originally thought that migraines happen when blood vessels get bigger. However, research is coming out showing the change in the size of blood vessels is more of a symptom than a cause. Researchers have found that migraines may be caused by turning on the Trigeminal Pain Pathway (the nerves that tell your brain that your face and head hurt). This is because some cells are too sensitive and can be triggered by anything in our environment.
Recent studies have also focused on a peptide called Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide, or CGRP. This has been found to be increased in people with migraines due to inflammation. It can stimulate the cell causing the cell to over-respond. More broadly, it has been suggested that migraine may be considered a brain state of altered excitability. There is also a major genetic component to migraines which is less understood, but showing promises in the field of migraine research. Despite recent findings, the origin of migraines in some people is still unknown. Great news! There is still hope.
Identifying the Root Cause
Our goal as clinicians is to get to the root cause. A full history and proper testing is necessary for identifying the cause of each migraine. Reducing inflammation and stress, implementing diet and lifestyle changes, and utilizing the correct nutriceuticals and prophylactic medication during the healing process will play a major role in reducing monthly migraine days. Certain genetic tests can also help to reveal the cause of a migraine.
We need the body to be in optimal healing mode in order to recover from migraine headaches, however, this may not be enough. Researchers say migraines, particularly chronic migraines, are actually changing the mapping of the “grey matter” in the areas of the brain associated with pain during and between migraines. Basically the brain isn’t getting back to normal before the next migraine. Therefore, we also need to look at neurological rehabilitation.
“…we must consider what lies at the very heart of migraine; here is the realm of its great wonders and secrets”.
Oliver Sacks wrote this in his book simply entitled “Migraine”. The human nervous system is an infinite mystery that modern medicine is slowly starting to unravel and we are finally beginning to reach the “heart” of migraines. With new research, the combination of functional medicine and functional neurological rehabilitation can provide lasting relief for both periodic and chronic migraine sufferers.
What Can I Do?
At Restorative Health Solutions, we begin with systematic approach of finding the root cause, eliminating the barrier to healing, and repairing damaged structures. We take a detailed history and implement proper testing to optimize your care, replacing the one-size-fits-all approach with a personalized plan for you. Consistent follow up and retesting is the basis behind tracking success of the treatment to make sure we see results in a timely manner.
If you or someone you love is experiencing migraine headaches, please call 952-479-7801 to set up a free 15 minute phone call with one of our clinicians. During this phone call, the doctor will walk you through the appointment process, testing protocols, and pricing.
In Best Health,
-Dr. Ellie Stauffer and the Restorative Health Solutions Team