A STEP-WISE APPROACH TO SOLVING YOUR CHRONIC HEADACHES AND MIGRAINE HEADACHES
The June issue of the journal for pain doctors, Practical Pain Management, carried an article called Migraine Treatment: What’s Old, What’s New? In it the author described just how common severe headaches are in the United States, saying they affect, “approximately 27 million American adults, or 17.1% of women and 5.6% of men.” No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of people!
After describing the myriad of symptoms that migraineurs may struggle with (including an array of GI and neurological issues), the author gets down to the nitty-gritty. What everyone who deals with CHRONIC HEADACHES or MIGRAINE HEADACHES (both of which are commonly associated with CHRONIC NECK PAIN) wants to know is what can be done to get rid of these vile creatures? To get there it’s important to understand some of the triggers.
According to this article, “the most common triggers are stress, weather changes, perimenstruation (near that time of the month), missing meals, bright lights or sunlight, under- and oversleeping, food sensitivity, perfume, cigarette smoke, exercise, and sexual activity. Some foods can be headache triggers….” It’s a heck of a list and great information to know. If people can avoid the triggers, they will ultimately end up with fewer headaches. But what about treatment itself? Some of the things specifically mentioned by this specialist — neurologist Larry Robbins of the Chicago area — include (in no particular order)……
- EXERCISE / YOGA / PILATES
- DEEP BREATHING
- RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
- PHYSICAL THERAPY
- BITE SPLINTS
- AVOIDING CERTAIN FOODS (MSG, ASPARTAME, alcohol, cheese, citrus, sour cream, yogurt, cured meats, and nuts / nut butters are those he mentioned, and will be found on almost anyone’s list. There are any number of others.)
- SLEEP HYGIENE
- WEIGHT LOSS
- NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBS
- TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION (TMS)
- NON-INVASIVE VAGAL NERVE STIMULATION (VNS)
- DRUGS (Although there were dozens upon dozens of drugs mentioned by name, Dr. Robbins did not emphasize drugs as a first choice — “We want to minimize meds… The goal is to decrease head pain, while minimizing medications“. He also spent a good deal of time discussing rebound headaches aka Medication Overuse Headaches or MOH. Unfortunately, he also said that, “Polypharmacy is common in migraine prevention.“)
Allow me to add my two cents to this list with a bit of explanation here and there. I am putting them in the order that I feel would be most helpful most of the time (at least for the first four bullets on the list). Of course everyone is different, so nothing is set in stone. And while there are individuals out there (KERRIE SYMES for instance) who, no matter what they do, have severe headaches each and every day of their lives, for most of you there is hope.
- TISSUE REMODELING: If you have SCAR TISSUE and / or RESTRICTED FASCIA, it’s important to realize that even though there are ways to image it (HERE for instance), standardized testing will not reveal the problem (HERE). This means that all of these other approaches that involve restoring movement in some form or fashion, be it chiropractic, stretching, yoga, PT, etc, etc, etc, will likely be compromised. Trying to stretch MICROSCOPICALLY TETHERED TISSUES — particularly if there is any degree of severity — can be a deal-breaker. It simply will not work, and in many cases will make people worse (HERE and HERE). Also be aware that in many cases this bullet point must be approached as if you were playing a carnival game (HERE). Check out the short video of a woman who had seven decades of daily migraine headaches before coming in for treatment (HERE).
- CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS: I realize I’ll be called a “homer” for putting adjustments near the top of the list, but that is where they belong. If coupled with TISSUE REMODELING, the very cool thing is that if adjustments are going to help, you will know quickly — one, maybe two treatments. Not the let-me-adjust-you-fifty-times-and-we’ll-move-on-from-there approach seen in way too many clinics (HERE). If traditional CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS don’t work, upper cervical specific can likewise be a great option (Blair, Atlas Orthogonal, etc), as can be cranio-sacral work. These first two bullets will immediately help rule out a “MECHANICAL HEADACHE -VS- A CHEMICAL HEADACHE“. The bottom line is that I cannot begin to tell you the number of headache sufferers I have been able to help in the 25 plus years I’ve been in practice — usually as a last resort; often after they had spent years (not to mention lots of money) trying everything under the sun. The beautiful thing is that when it comes to these first two bullets, no one — and I mean no one — makes things easier for the patient than I do (HERE). Period.
- ELIMINATION DIET: This is a bullet that anyone who has even the smallest of health issues should do anyway. If food sensitivities are contributing to your problem, a properly-done ELIMINATION DIET will help you figure out what food(s) you are sensitive to. Although this author said that, “foods tend to be overemphasized” as far as triggering chronic headaches, I feel he is underestimating this aspect of the problem. LEAKY GUT SYNDROME is highly related to problematic foods, and when it comes to neurological issues, few foods are more problematic than GLUTEN. Besides, it’s not like it’s a reach to mention Gut Health and Migraine Headache in the same sentence (HERE).
- SOLVE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR ISSUES: No, I am not merely talking about keeping your blood sugar within the range that the chart says is “normal,” I am talking about keeping it level all the time, not bouncing it around, and not continually stressing your sugar-metabolizing machinery. The best way of eating for most people will entail meals that look something like THIS. And because there are so many neurological issues surrounding migraines (Dr. Robbins had a page full of them), you might want to try KETOGENIC as well. It never ceases to amaze me how many people have been to any number of specialists for their chronic headaches, and no one has ever told them that REACTIVE HYPOGLYCEMIA might be a prime culprit. BTW, if you take care of this bullet point and the previous, WEIGHT LOSS will likely take care of itself. If it does not, you have some source of OCCULT INFLAMMATION driving problems in your body (possibly including headache).
- YOGA / STRETCHING / EXERCISE: Great stuff, but trying to stretch without making sure that you aren’t loaded with FASCIAL ADHESIONS can be an exercise in futility, no pun intended (see earlier links under “Tissue Remodeling”). And while I certainly could have thrown THIS POST in with the second bullet on this list, because the SCM MUSCLES are so crazy related to TRIGGER POINTS (not just of the SCM itself, but of the LEVATOR SCAPULAE), not to mention related to neurological issues of all sorts (including headaches), you may need to address it as well. It’s one of the many reasons I am such big a fan of EXTENSION THERAPY.
- MAKE SURE YOUR BODY’S DETOX PATHWAYS ARE UP TO SNUFF: Toxic exposure of all kinds is a massive problem around the world, and related by numerous studies to chronic headaches. For any number of reasons, far too many people are being exposed to external toxins such as GLYPHOSATE or ALUMINUM, cannot get rid of excess hormones such as ESTROGEN (true for too many males as well), or are not dealing well with chemicals in their food supply. A failure to BIOTRANSFORM toxicity into a form that the body can get rid of can make things extremely difficult for the chronic headache sufferer. What this means is that both your liver and GUT will need to be working optimally.
- ACUPUNCTURE: Cool stuff and I used to do a lot of it back in the day (I was certified by the late Dr. Jon Sunderledge back in ’90 or ’91). It’s another method of treatment with a big potential upside that won’t make you worse.
- FUNCTIONAL NEUROLOGY: The brain and nervous system are by far the most complicated of the body’s various systems (the ENDOCRINE SYSTEM would come in second). Thus, neurologists are some of the smartest people you’ll find in the medical field. If you have gross pathology causing your headaches (tumors, aneurysm, serious neurological diseases such as MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS), they’ll find it and make the proper diagnosis. The problem is that because the kinds of headaches we are now talking about — the kinds that don’t respond well to mechanical or chemical interventions — are “FUNCTIONAL” as opposed to pathological, the average neurologist (I would not characterize the author of this article as “average”) unfortunately have little to offer by way of treatment besides drugs, which you’ve been trying lots of for years. Neurological Migraines are where a good CARRICK-TRAINED Functional Neurologist frequently shines.
- OTHERS: Honestly, there are too many others to mention. For instance, I recently had a local patient who despite anything that either myself or anyone else has ever done, could not make a dent in her headache problem of almost four decades. She saw DR. RAMAN in the KC area, and within a week, was 70% better. The point? I truly believe that there is a solution out there for everyone; it’s just a matter of finding it. Our basic protocol for helping people solve their chronic pain, chronic illness, and unbridled inflammation can be found HERE.