Causes Of Migraines

If you ask your doctor they will correctly tell you the actual cause of migraines is unclear but thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity affecting nerve signals, chemistry, and blood flow in the brain. They may also rightly point out that there can be a genetic factor, migraines often run in families, and gene factors have in fact been isolated by geneticists. Your doctor will also correctly tell you that there are a number of drugs that were originally developed for conditions like epilepsy and depression that can also relieve migraine attacks. The reality is that as far as the provable and measurable science goes this is pretty much all we know.  We are a long long way from knowing ‘scientifically’ what migraines really are ‘made of’.

Happily, outside of laboratories and scientific journals, there is far more to be said about the management of migraine headaches.

There are countless clinicians across many disciplines who find that there are many easily observable patterns that influence migraine. Patterns that have yet to be studied but can be put to good use both safely and effectively for migraine sufferers… now! Knowing that blue cheese triggers your severe migraine and deciding to not eat blue cheese is one such example, you don’t need the help of someone in a white coat for that.

Migraines And The Musculoskeletal System

One of the happiest pieces of news about migraines is that many of them improve greatly when you get work done on any neck and jaw issues you may have.

A significant number of the migraine sufferers we meet can trace the onset of their migraines back to around the time of an injury or to a stressy job that wasn’t great for their neck and shoulders.

Tension and inflammation in the muscles, joints, and soft tissues of the neck and jaw can create a great deal of pain, anyone who has some experience of injury in this area will vouch for that. The key point to understand about migraines is that they can be generated by ‘referred pain’.

A better-known example of ‘referred pain’ is sciatica or sciatic pain. Most people know that sciatic pain is felt in the back of the leg but usually is actually coming from a problem deep inside the lower spine or pelvis.

A deeper understanding of migraines arises when we learn that many of them come from problems with inflammation and muscle spasms deep inside the neck and jaw. Many people have a powerful and practical demonstration of this when they come to our clinic for migraine treatment; when we press on ‘trigger points’ in their neck muscles that instantly bring on their migraine.

Releasing the underlying muscle, joint and soft tissue problems that are involved with many migraine cases is a process. The key ingredient in that process is working with practitioners who you trust. Sometimes you will need more than one clinician or team of clinicians to help you with the various treatment aspects required to more successfully manage migraines.

Migraines And The ‘Emotional System’

Types of headaches have been noted in the Chinese Medicine literature for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese doctors investigating illnesses by meticulously recording symptoms and looking for patterns that might reveal their cause. In this respect, it has been noted for several thousand years that the majority of headache sufferers present with way more tension in their upper necks than the average patient. It has also been noted that migraine sufferers in addition to neck tension present with more than their fair share of active emotional suppression. And further, still, it has been noted that the worst migraine sufferers almost all find it virtually impossible to express or ‘let out’ whatever anger they have in their lives.

Without claiming to be able to scientifically prove that migraines are caused at least in part by emotional suppression, it is possible to observe very easily how commonly they are associated with and triggered by it. If you treat lots and lots of migraine sufferers (we have) and look out for neck tension and emotional patterns you realise that they go hand in hand, no differently from how toothache and cavities go hand in hand. Western medical doctors have touched on this fact. Look on any ‘global 1st page’ medical website like Medscape or WebMD and they will point out that emotional factors are common ‘triggers’ for migraine. The perspective humbly offered here is that they have overlooked what may be a ‘causative’ factor as opposed to a ‘triggering factor’. The reason we believe this is that we have seen so many people find that their migraine goes away with a shift in the emotional pattern or a shift in the neck tension. There is a world of difference between a cause and a trigger, tennis triggers heart attacks after all but it doesn’t cause heart attacks, that’s the job of heart disease.

Many migraine cases will stop altogether when the patient changes their life situation for the better. Leaving your job, selling your kids, or getting a divorce aren’t always the most ideal solutions to any problem, however. Learning to deal better with stress and reducing the amount of emotional suppression you engage in can be more humane solutions.

Migraines And Food

Some of us have severe food intolerances that essentially causative when it comes to migraines. In other words, your migraines won’t go away completely unless you quit eating that certain food. The two most common examples of this that we see in clinics are dairy and wine. 

There is however another ‘layer’ of food-based migraine triggers that are not as severe These are distinguished and defined as those that the migraine sufferer can return to consuming once they have resolved some of their other physical and sometimes emotional issues.

There is a great practical way to identify which foods are full-on migraine causes in your case. That is, to do a sensible amount of work on any underlying musculoskeletal and emotional factors. Once you have got on top of these, try reintroducing those foods, if they still trigger you then they are essentially causative and have to be banished permanently. 

If you want to read more on foods that trigger migraines you can read about them on our migraine triggers page here.