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New Research Provides Hope For Migraine Sufferers

The MAUI NEWS - August 16, 2013

By Erin L. Elster, D.C.

A new treatment focusing upon cervical (neck) injuries shows promise for patients with chronic headaches. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research (JVSR,) 101 patients with chronic headaches were evaluated for misalignments in their upper neck vertebrae. In all subjects, cervical misalignments were discovered and then treated.  In 85 cases, chronic headaches ceased. Twelve cases experienced fewer and less severe headaches.  Four cases showed no response.  

Because migraine is a brain disorder that has been frequently linked to head trauma, it was theorized that correction of trauma-induced cervical misalignments may positively impact migraine.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, nearly 30 million people, or 10% of the U.S. population, suffer from migraine – 75% of them women. About half of affected women have more than one attack each month, and a quarter experience four or more severe attacks per month. In addition to suffering through the attacks, many of those afflicted with migraine live in constant fear of the next attack, which could come at any time to disrupt work, school, family time, and social activities.

Half of all migraine sufferers experience their first attack before the age of 12.  In fact, about 10% of school-age children suffer from migraine. These children are absent from school twice as often as children without migraine.

Migraine also takes a toll in the work place.  According to the Migraine Research Foundation, American employers lose $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days. 

This devastating impact upon adults, children, work and family life warrants migraine’s ranking in the top 20 of the world’s most disabling illnesses.

Migraine is a complex neurological disorder, which occurs in attacks, similar to seizure.  Symptoms include intense, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.  Attacks range between 4 and 72 hours during which many migraine sufferers sequester themselves in a quiet, dark room until the attack passes.  The large majority of migraine sufferers are unable to work, attend school, or function normally during their attacks.

Various migraine risk factors have been named including heredity, chemical exposure, and hormone imbalances, to name a few. Another causal factor - head trauma - which is beginning to appear more frequently in medical research, was the basis for the JVSR study.

Of the 101 patients in the JVSR study, 87 recalled at least one traumatic event prior to his or her headache onset. The most common traumas included whiplash and/or concussion sustained as a result of auto accidents and through sports such as skiing, cycling, horseback riding, football, gymnastics, snowboarding, and skateboarding.  In pediatric cases, parents recalled difficult births and/or falls early in their child’s life that preceded headache onset.

One patient in the study, for example, was a professional ice skater.  She had never experienced headaches until sustaining a concussion at the age of 23 from a head-first fall on the ice.  Subsequent to the concussion, she began suffering from debilitating migraine headaches for 12 years, until undergoing the study treatment; whereby, the headaches ceased.

Even in cases where the study subjects did not recall incidences of head trauma prior to their headache onset, upper cervical misalignments were found.  In fact, all 101 cases showed evidence of cervical trauma when two diagnostic tests – thermal imaging and cervical x-ray – were performed.

The evaluation and treatment protocol administered in the study was a form of chiropractic care, known as Upper Cervical Chiropractic. After determining a diagnosis of cervical injury, each patient’s injured neck was corrected by administering a precise adjustment by hand on a specially-designed table.

Of the study subjects, most adult patients’ headaches were resolved within 4 months of care.  All pediatric cases were resolved within 2 months.  Most of the study subjects had suffered with headaches for years and had attempted numerous treatments including but not limited to pain medications (prescription and over-the-counter,) massage, rolfing, acupuncture, herbs, cervical manipulation, Chinese medicine, biofeedback, hormone pills, etc.

Migraine is a debilitating disorder which affects the quality of life of millions of adults and children. The relationship between head trauma, migraine onset, and upper cervical treatment provides hope for these headache sufferers.

The headache research discussed above was performed by Upper Cervical Chiropractor, Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., and is available on her website: www.erinelster.com. For more information, please contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or erin@erinelster.com.