An Article By Dr. Ryan Albern
Migraines and Headaches have been common symptoms in people currently working from home since the start of the pandemic. Most people that we treat come in with neck or upper back pain as the chief complaint, not knowing that chiropractic care can also help alleviate the pain they are feeling within their cranium. Some major cause of headaches or migraines are the swelling of blood vessels, nerve irritation, upper cervical ligament sprain or strains placed on the muscles of the head or neck. The most important area of the spine to look at when treating migraines is between the occiput, C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) as making sure they are in proper alignment is one of the most critical components to alleviating all of the other underlying causes of a migraine.
Another critical component for these symptoms are the suboccipital muscles. This consists of 4 small muscles connecting the upper cervical region, occiput-C2, that helps control motion of the head. 3 of these 4 muscles come together to form what is called the sub occipital triangle. Some structures that run through this triangle are the vertebral artery which is the main source of blood flow to the posterior aspects of the brain and the sub occipital nerve which controls the function of the sub occipital muscles. The tightening or inflammation of these muscles can cause irritation to the structures running through them, causing sub occipital nerve inflammation or vertebral artery swelling, both of which can cause headaches or migraines.
The easiest way to cause tightening of the sub occipital region and resulting pain or inflammation is by placing a constant or repetitive strain on the area. Some examples of strain would be looking down for long periods of time, sitting in a hunched position with poor posture, eye strains such as looking at a computer, whiplash from a trauma or stressing the ligaments of the upper cervical area causing the muscles to tighten and compensate. Any of these stressors will cause the suboccipital muscles to tighten, irritate the structures of the upper cervical spine or brainstem and then causing a headache or migraine.
Chiropractic care is a great way to get the relief you need from a headache or migraine without having to take any medication that may have other side effects. From making sure the spine is in proper alignment with adjustments to releasing any tension in the upper cervical area with manual soft tissue techniques, chiropractic care is a proven treatment to relieving many of the problems that end up causing headaches and migraines. We can also provide home exercises and stretches to help alleviate the strain being placed on your neck while also improving your posture naturally for long term relief of any symptoms.