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Migraine Headaches

Each day 5 to 10 million adults in the U.S. reach into the medicine cabinet for an over the counter drug in the hope that it will relieve their headache pain. Though some may find temporary relief, most do not.

A survey at the University of Minnesota's headache clinic found that one out of three headache patients were angry that their physicians did not know enough about headaches. Thousands of these unhappy individuals have turned to chiropractic care for relief.

While some headache sufferers may fear they have something seriously wrong, it is comforting to know that less than 10 percent of headache pain has an organic origin. High blood pressure accounts for some headaches, but stroke and tumors are rare. 70% of headaches result from pressure on the nerves in the neck. Chiropractic adjustments restore the proper motion in the joints of the cervical spine (neck) which relieves the pressure on the nerves and allows the neck muscles to relax.

To keep headache pain (especially migraines) at bay, avoid trigger mechanisms like foods and liquids which contain preservatives (nitrates as in cold cuts, red wine,hot dogs), tyramine, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, ripe cheeses, pork, aspartame sweetener (see article Artificial Sweeteners) and MSG.

Do not treat yourself with over the counter drugs as research shows that chronic headaches can actually be aggravated by daily use of these drugs. The director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute explains that once the painkiller wears off, the pain returns with greater fury, escalating the cycle of higher doses of drugs to ward off the greater pain.

A letter from Gary Gerard, M.D.
Associate Professor of Neurology
Medical College of Ohio

"In my 16 years as a medical physician, I had not taken the opportunity to recommend Chiropractic for my patients. I understood little about the principles and practice of Chiropractic. Despite the numerous reports from patients who have benefited from Chiropractic I attributed it to a placebo effect.

Several months ago I had the good fortune to meet Chiropractic Physician, Dr. Roger Synder....Only by virtue of the trust that Dr. Snyder inspired, did I decide to ask him to treat my chronically painful cervical spine, of 15 years duration, in the last 5 years associated with severe right frontal almost daily headaches....

In 16 years I've seen some astonishing results but the response that occurred after merely one treatment, I found to be truly remarkable. Following merely the initial treatment, I remained headache free for a week, longer than in the past 5 years. After continued treatments I have remained almost completely headache free for 2 months....

It was apparent that for all my years as a physician, as most medical physicians, I had not been open to nor had I taken the opportunity to consider the benefits of Chiropractic care. As a neurologist I am keenly aware of the many causes of headache requiring medical or neurosurgical care but was not aware that Chiropractic could provide results of such magnitude for cervicogenic [headaches cause by neck joint misalignments], muscle-contraction and/or migraine types of headaches.

As Medical physicians we must be more receptive to and scientifically explore the benefits of Chiropractic as practiced by the many skillful Chiropractors...across the country."


An estimated 28 million Americans over the age of 12 suffered from migraines in 1999. About 18% of women have migraines, compared with 6% of men. An estimated half of migraine sufferers are undiagnosed." "Richard Lipton, professor of neurology at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, recently developed a list of three questions that can help primary care doctors identify migraine sufferers: Has a headache limited your activities for a day or more? Do you get nauseated or sick to yoru stomach when you have a headache? Does light bother you more than ususal when you have a headache? If patients answer yes to two or more questions, there's a 93% chance they would be diagnosed with migraine by a headache specialist."

McGough, Robert Migraine Often Goes Untreated Wall Street Journal 7/1/03, p.D2.

Results of a study published in the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology reported that "after three months, patients taking vitamin B2 reported 37 percent fewer migraines than other comparable patients not taking the vitamin. That reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks is comparable to the effect of other drugs used to prevent migraines."

The dosage used was 400mg of vitamin B2, or riboflavin. "The effect on migraine frequency showed up after a month of daily doses and increased over the next two months. The vitamin also appeared to lessen the duration of migraines that did occur."

"Patients in the study had experienced from two to eight migraine attacks per month for at least a year."
(Washington Post 2/24/97)

Other helpful supplements for migraine include magnesium (250mg-400mg three times daily), vitamin B6 (25mg three times daily), 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan 100-200mg three times daily), feverfew and ginger (1/4" fresh slice).

Finally, in a six month trial in Australia, chiropractic patients reported greater reduction in the pain associated with the attacks.
(Natural Medicine Journal, March, 1998)

Excerpts from the 1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica Medical and Health Annual

The Anatomist's New Tools,
by Gary Hack, DDS, Gwendolyn Dunn, DDS, and Mi Young Toh, MS, MA

"The announcement of a new anatomic discovery is always astonishing - and it is all the more so at a time when anatomy departments in medical and dental schools around the world are closing their doors."

"The discovery was serendipitous, occurring during inspection of a sagittally sectioned cadaver specimen…The scientists…noticed that the deep neck musculature was physically attached to the dura…"

"The specific muscle that captured their attention - the one that was actually attaching to the dura - was the rectus capitis posterior minor (RCPM) muscle, which extends from the base of the skull to the first cervical vertebra (C1), or atlas…A bridge of tissue appeared to be connecting the RCPM muscle to the spinal dura at the atlanto-occipital junction."

What is the clinical significance of this new discovery?

"Sustained contraction of head and neck muscles is known to produce pain that is experienced inside the head - i.e., tension headache."

"…the covering of the brain, the dura, is extremely sensitive, and tension on the dura during neuro-surgical procedures can produce pain experienced as headache."

"A growing body of literature relates headaches to injury or pathology affecting neck structures. Moreover, a number of clinical trials have suggested that treatments such as massage, spinal manipulation, and biofeedback directed at the neck are valuable for managing muscle-contraction headaches."

"The muscle-dura connection may represent - at least in part - the underlying anatomic basis for the effectiveness of this treatment (spinal manipulation). Such treatment, as performed by a chiropractor, would decrease muscle tension and thereby reduce or eliminate pain by reducing the potential forces exerted on the dura via the muscle-dura connection."

"…surgeons who have severed this connection as part of some other surgical procedure have found that at least some of their patients experience fewer chronic headaches afterward."

Do other muscle-dura connections exist in the human body?

"…the cooperating scientists recently identified what appeared to be another muscle-dura connection - this one located between the first (C1) and second (C2) cervical vertebrae and involving two neck muscles - the rectus capitis posterior major and the obliquus capitis inferior. Taking the new information back to their laboratory, the researchers were able to verify the existence of this second muscle-dura connection in cadaver specimens."


Nadelson C., Curr Sports Med Rep. 2006 Feb;5(1):29-33.

Atlas Orthopaedics, Westview Hospital, Indiana University Center for Sports Medicine, Zionsville, IN 46077, USA.

"Sport and exercise-induced migraines are difficult to distinguish from benign exertional headaches and other headache syndromes. Exertion can be the sole cause, or may be among multiple triggers for an individual's headache. Because approximately 10% of these headaches have an organic origin, a careful history and physical examination is necessary. The hallmark of treatment for exercise-induced migraines tends to be proper warm-up before exercise, minimization of environmental risks, proper sleep hygiene, and good nutrition and hydration; however, in many cases, the pharmacologic solutions that are applied to other types of headaches may also be necessary. Because there is a lack of large trial studies on the athletic headache population, more research on the topic is needed in the future to help clarify the mechanisms, classification, and treatments of these headaches."