We see numerous people in our office who are struggling with migraines, including one of our own staff who has dealt with them for over a decade. While pharmaceutical options have their place and can be effective managing the symptoms in some cases, we know that not everyone has the same response. Different things work for different people, so if you’re looking for ideas on managing your migraines naturally, read on or come in and chat to us about what we find helpful.
The list we’ve compiled below is definitely not exhaustive, and is not intended to replace medical advice. But we know the frustration of endlessly searching for new ideas on how to reduce or relieve those dreadful migraine days, so we hope the below tips will give you some new things to try…
Loading your body vs the actual trigger
It’s important to remember that a variety of seemly insignificant things can load up your system to the point that the simplest factor can trigger a migraine. You may be ok eating certain ‘trigger’ foods, or with a few nights of difficult sleep, or with weather changes…but if you’ve had a bad sleep, it’s raining, and then you have a coffee, all of a sudden you’re stuck in bed. Many of your ‘triggers’ may not bring on a migraine on their own. But when you load them up on top of each other over a few days/weeks etc. it’s easy to see how your body suddenly says “no more” and a migraine takes over.
Regular chiropractic care
Chiropractic care tackles migraines in two ways and can be useful in both the acute phase and as a preventative tool. There is a wide range of research supporting cervical and thoracic spine (neck and upper back) dysfunction as being a key contributor to migraines. Generally, the research shows that having your neck adjusted, either by a chiropractor, or trained practitioner, appears to reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of symptoms. It has been noted, however, that people receiving chiropractic care found that along with these benefits, they also experienced less pain during an attack . There is also research showing that migraine sufferers demonstrate lower abilities to physically control their posture and sway . We know that chiropractic care helps stimulate the nervous system to better control balance  so it’s possible that this also positively influences the body’s control around migraines.
This is where the neurology aspect of chiropractic comes into play. Pain is a signal processed by your brain. Inflammation is a protective response sent by your brain to an area under stress. But if your brain is not accurately understanding these signals it can send inappropriate responses. Chiropractic care is firstly about assisting your brain with how it reads and responds to the signals from your body. Chiropractors use the method of correcting the spine or other areas of your body to stimulate your nervous system and enhance this communication process .
Come see our in-house migraineur for more tips on how we utilise chiropractic to tackle migraines before, during, and after an attack.
The list of natural supplements for migraine management is endless. Sometimes your body wants a break from the unpleasant side effects of various pharmaceutical treatments. But it’s important to be aware of how natural supplements can interact with some medications if you’re still taking them (including pharmaceutical options for relief during an attack). Make sure you’re fully informed before trying anything new. In our office, we look carefully at what the research says when trying different natural methods ourselves. One of our favourites is magnesium. There is strong research supporting the benefits of magnesium for migraines. One study found that between a group of migraineurs versus people who never get migraines, the migraineurs had lower base levels of magnesium in general . For migraine prevention, the recommended dose is 600mg/day and the effects are usually noticeable within the first week or two .
Migraine sufferers also tend to have lower than normal base levels of serotonin and a greater tendency to experience pain in general, based on the structure of their brains . Taking a natural serotonin support can assist with your body’s natural ability to create serotonin as well as sleep more efficiently. It’s important to note that some serotonin supplements can interact with migraine medications like Rizatriptan , so ensure you’ve been fully informed by your doctor of any potential risks.
There are other supplements that are useful in reducing the overall load on your body. If you’re trying to handle numerous potential triggers, it’s helpful to give your body more capacity to handle the load. Things like fish oil, probiotics, and various natural sleep supports are all ways you can help your body handle extra stressors.
Sleep and REM cycles
Research has shown that there is a noticeable relationship between sleep patterns and migraines. Too little, too much, interrupted sleep or napping can all contribute to the onset of a migraine due to incomplete REM cycles. But a good sleeping pattern can have the opposite effect and assist in their avoidance. The reason for this involves the hormone melatonin. Melatonin (a derivative of serotonin) is manufactured in the brain in response to light and it functions to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Poor melatonin synthesis as a result of inconsistent or problematic sleeping patterns can significantly factor in migraine frequency as well as those daily niggling headaches . It’s also important to use a pillow that adequately supports your neck to help avoid neck pain developing into a migraine.
Use an app
Trying to identify your triggers or track your migraines easily? We’ve tried a range of different apps and our favourites are Flaredown and Migraine Buddy. Flaredown is more detailed in terms of foods and non-migraine specific symptoms. Migraine Buddy tracks different aspects of the migraine (such as the side of your head) and includes weather patterns, medications, and start/stop times, as well as a sleep tracker.
These ideas are the tip of the iceberg! If you or someone you know is battling migraines or headaches, come for a visit and discover how we can help.
Ed has been practicing in Tauranga since 2009, and established Precision Chiropractic in 2012. Prior to this, Ed spent several years in a chiropractic practice in Albany, Auckland.