What causes a migraine?
The cause of migraines has been debated for centuries. Scientific research, however, has shown that migraines are caused by improper neurological function, resulting in attacks that can last from hours to days. People who suffer with migraines have a sensitive nervous system that is easily overstimulated by things such as stress, lack of sleep, certain foods, and changes in weather. Each person that experiences migraines has unique triggers that bring about their symptoms in varying levels from mild to debilitating, but these triggers are all rooted in the hypersensitivity of their nervous system.
There are different areas of the brain that are commonly responsible for causing migraine symptoms, and it is incredibly important to address neurological deficits in these areas when treating migraines.
Autonomic Nervous System: The autonomic nervous system regulates functions of the body that happen automatically, such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, pupil size, and temperature control. People who experience symptoms after visual triggers (watching TV, using the computer, etc.) or changes in gravity (standing up after sitting or lying down) may have autonomic nervous system dysfunction.
Brainstem: The brainstem is composed of three parts and it is important to pinpoint which part is contributing to the cause of migraines. It is common to find abnormalities in the pons (middle area of the brainstem) and the mesencephalon (top area of the brainstem). These areas house the nuclei that are responsible for eye movements, head and facial pain modulation.
Thalamic/ Hypothalamic: These areas in your brain are part of the “pain matrix” and are involved in integrating sensory information. They become active during periods of processing pain.
Holistic Migraine Healing
Migraine symptoms are multifactorial and in need of a multimodal approach to treatment. At Carolina Functional Neurology Center, we focus on four healing factors: neurological, nutrition, hormones, and biomechanics. Some patients have tried these treatments individually in the past with little to no success, but when we combine multiple approaches or utilize the approaches from a different perspective we see healing take place. By looking at the body as a whole and combining treatments, we simultaneously bring about results. Even if an approach has been unsuccessful by itself in the past, it does not mean that it isn’t part of the puzzle.
When we are working with migraine patients, we first conduct an in-depth examination to look at their nervous system, understand the health of the neurons in many different areas of their brain, review their nutritional habits, understand their hormonal balance, and make sure their musculoskeletal system is in tip-top shape. Initial tests include a full bedside neurological exam, an autonomic evaluation, video-oculography, computerized posturography, neural timing mechanisms, and lab work.
Once the initial examination results are reviewed, a customized treatment plan is created to address the root cause of the patient’s migraine symptoms. Treatment options may include tilt table therapy, neuromodulation, eye movement therapy, vestibular rehabilitation, musculoskeletal therapy, chiropractic care, nutritional counseling, and supplementation.
"I am so incredibly grateful to Dr. Brindisi for helping my son get through one of the most difficult times of his life. Beginning in January, he was waking up with daily morning migraines and could not get out of bed. He’s had headaches since he was about 10 or so and was under the care of a regular neurologist and taking their prescribed medications daily, but still got headaches sporadically. These headaches drastically worsened and he couldn’t function. The regular neurologist’s response was to increase all his medications, which worried me but they assured me it was ok. They also wouldn’t even consider that there was an underlying cause to these headaches, instead always telling me that he’d “outgrow” them. I felt so helpless, so I started looking for someone, anyone, that might be able to look further into what is causing these migraines. Thank God I found Dr. Brindisi. She was so kind and understanding on the phone before our initial consultation. During our first visit with her she found out what the problem was! The first visit! She diagnosed him with POTS ( Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and with other lab tests also diagnosed him with adrenal fatigue and gluten sensitivity. With weekly vestibular rehabilitation , daily supplements, exercises at home and going gluten free he is finally back to being a normal, healthy teenager again. It’s been a long and bumpy road in getting here but I can confidently say that it’s all because of Dr. Brindisi and I can’t thank her enough." – Dorthy
Migraines are a neurological disorder and whether you have tried many treatments or only a few, a functional neurological evaluation is a must in order to overcome this debilitating syndrome. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us to schedule a consultation where you can talk with a doctor about your migraine symptoms and possible treatment options.