Up to 60-80% of the population suffer from headache and up to 24% of the population suffer migraine. Also more women suffer with migraine than men in a 3:1 ratio (women: men).
This cartoon explains a possible reason why….
Where do headache and migraines come from?
Although current research and understanding reveals that there is a genetic component to migraine we also know environmental factors play the larger role. A good saying is “genetics may load the gun, but the environmental factors pull the trigger”…and this is very true for headache and migraine pain. After so many centuries of a medically poor understanding about the cause or aetiology of especially migraine, most research now concurs that sufferers have sensitized nervous systems…and the address or location of this sensitivity is in the brainstem in an area called the Trigeminocervical Nucleus (TCN). When this area gets enough noxious input (warning signals) without enough inhibition (the medical way of saying the volume control is turned way “up” without enough dampening effects “down”). What ensues is a neuro-vascular cascade of events that cause release of inflammatory and biochemical pain cells, muscle spasm, vascular changes and pain.
How is this different to what I have tried previously?
At The Headache and Migraine Clinic ™ we offer a drug-free approach that uses all the best that traditional methods have to offer with the incorporation of innovative, emerging, evidence-based interventions. We treat those suffering from headache and migraines using our unique evidence-based and combined therapy approach. This incorporates the internationally recognised Watson Headache® Approach as well as our own unique combination of additional evidence-based treatments like therapeutic exercise interventions, acupuncture, spinal adjustments, nerve tissue interface release, muscle/ myofascial release, stress reduction and breathing control, nutrition, lifestyle and postural retraining. Also available on-site is our Dietitian and Counsellor to help address any contributing factors using evidence-based nutrition/ vitamin therapy and other interventions that may be needed – like stress management. We can develop a treatment plan that is tailored to you and your particular headache type or condition/s.
What is the actual pain?
The pain is both chemical and mechanical and produces irritation in the nervous system. As outlined above, the TCN in the brainstem region of headache and migraine patients has been shown to be disinhibited /sensitized. When a trigger or enough cumulative triggers reach a threshold a neuro-vascular cascade of events occurs. This causes release of inflammatory and biochemical pain cells, muscle spasm, vascular changes and thus, the pain centres light up as an output from the brain.
What Causes Headache and Migraine?
This is the age old question and still puzzles many, but latest research may be uncovering the root cause and final common pathway for these debilitating conditions. There are many and varied symptoms and over 300 separate types of headache listed by the International Headache Society, but to be sure there are not over 300 causes. In fact what we do know, and what is more likely is that all headache or migraine sufferers have sensitized nervous systems (the TCN) and neuro-vascular /chemical propensity to this kind of pain….so all it takes is a trigger like; bad posture, neck stiffness, poor sleep, interpersonal stress or conflict, certain foods or drinks, bright sunlight, certain smells and the TCN reacts. The good news is though, recent research is uncovering the fact that neck dysfunction plays a primary role in sensitizing the TCN – making one, more prone to an attack (via their usual trigger). Therefore the reverse is also true…if we can “turn down” the inherent sensitivity in the TCN by releasing the neck, less attacks should occur. This is the major cause of Cervicogenic Headache and symptoms presenting as Tension Type Headache and Migraine.
What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?
This is another age old debate that still rages amongst the medical community…but research is revealing a common neural pathway for headache and migraine – that being a sensitized TCN. The ‘Convergence Theory’ demonstrates that all noxious (warning signals) incoming inputs to the TCN converge and give a “net result” of stimuli. If this then reaches a certain threshold an attack will occur. The ‘Continuum Theory’ of headache and migraine is now increasing in popularity and explains that headache and a migraine may actually be a similar condition (that of TCN dysfunction / hyper-sensitivity) on a sliding scale of severity or a spectrum…a bit like our current understanding of autism and the varied presentations.
But isn’t a true migraine only caused by blood vessel spasm and pain?
No, current research and understanding reveals that blood vessel spasm or dilatation and constriction is a result not a cause of the nerve interference and sensitivity described in the previous questions. The Blood vessel theory of migraine came from Willis and others who over 100 years ago thought the throbbing nature of migraine meant blood vessel dysfunction was the cause (and not just an effect or symptom) of migraine pain in particular.
How many treatments will I need to see a difference?
We will be able to give you an accurate diagnosis and determine likely cause/s of your headaches in your first few sessions. We will also outline a treatment plan for you on day 1 to help you on the journey to live life headache free. You should notice an appreciable change or difference in your headache frequency and severity within the first few weeks of treatment. We ask people to try and commit to an initial treatment period which includes 4-6 treatments over those first few weeks to give you the best possible outcome and momentum in your treatment plan.
How do you turn down the volume of the nerves and pain?
It is key that we determine if there is a Cervicogenic (neck) cause…this part is simple, though not always easy. Every patient is different, with different anatomy and physiology, not to mention different postures and demands and stress levels and diets. But an expert headache consultant will be able to decipher which factors are the primary contributing factorsand change these (without medication and without damaging side effects!). We employ a number of interventions to turn down the “volume” of your sensitivity and background pain by correcting the neck joints and muscles, releasing nerve interference and turning up your body’s own headache reducing chemicals (like Endorphin and Serotonin) naturally using the latest techniques and research available.
Does it hurt?
Rarely. The techniques are gentle and pain reducing (even if in an active headache / migraine phase) and you are a partner with us during the techniques…giving real-time feedback on the neural de-sensitization that occurs. Discomfort only usually occurs as we release the causal joints or muscles or nerves and such discomfort is a sign that we are “on the spot” and will relieve immediately after the release. This is in contrast to some traditional treatments and some medications which can be a bit of a hit and miss trial period for months and often with some nasty side effects.
What we see hurts more, is people suffering and not getting a real diagnosis or treatment plan…or trying the same thing over and over and getting the same result (ie. no real ongoing relief). This predicament usually turns to self-medicating or a “no treatment / just live with it” approach. This is why we believe we have genuine Hope for you!
Will this work for me?
The answer to this question lies in obtaining an accurate diagnosis of your condition…which we strive for. The good news iswe usually will know immediately or at least in the first few sessions whether our unique approach will work for you. A thorough history of your condition and expert assessment will be conducted at your first consultation to ascertain what is causing your symptoms. If it is found that your cause is Cervicogenic primarily – which implicates the neck/ spine, neural system, stress, diet and other lifestyle factors as responsible for causing your headaches then our treatment will be greatly beneficial at reducing the frequency and severity of your headaches / migraines and in some people complete eradication of headache.
Where can I find out more information?
To access more information about headache and migraines please visit our Home page . For up-to-date news, research and helpful hints and tips go to our Facebook page. Alternatively you can give us a call on 1300 Hope 4 You (1300 467 349) to organise to talk to one of our headache consultants.
The Headache and Migraine Clinic ™ can also direct you to Dean Watson’s webpage who is the founder of the Watson Headache® Institute. This page contains a breadth of information regarding headache and migraines including videos of his techniques and media interviews.
The Headache + Migraine Clinic
Telephone: 1300 HOPE 4 YOU (1300 467 349)
Brisbane West (Springfield Central)
Suite 3, Level 1, Orion Springfield Central
1 Main Street, Springfield Central QLD 4300