Do You Suffer From Migraines? What Makes Them Different From Headaches, And How Should You Treat Them?


Most people experience headaches sporadically through their lives and are not too adversely affected by them. However, there is a severe type of headache called a migraine that can keep returning and be incredibly debilitating.




It is estimated by the NHS that around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men are affected by migraines, which usually begin in early adulthood (1).


The exact cause of migraines is still somewhat unknown; the current understanding is that there is a temporary change in the chemicals and blood vessels of the brain.

A migraine is typically experienced as a severe headache, with a throbbing pain in the front or sides of the head. Some people have other symptoms including: 

Extreme sensitivity to light, sound or smells

That can last from a few hours to a few days.

There are different types of migraine. There are migraines with aura, where there are warning signs of the migraine in the form of visual disturbance such as seeing spots, lights or blurred lines. There are also migraines that occur without warning, and it is even possible to have a migraine aura without the accompanying headache.

There are also many different possible triggers for migraines. These can include:

  • Stress (and how stress is handled)
  • Food and drink triggers
  • Sleep patterns 
  • Hormones and tension; especially in the neck.

In order to manage migraines in a regular sufferer, identification of a specific trigger is essential. Behavioural or lifestyle changes play an important part in the treatment, such as avoidance of certain foods or maintenance of a regular sleep pattern.


Chiropractic treatment also has the ability to alleviate some contributory factors, or after effects, including relieve of restriction in movement of the neck; muscle tension in the neck, upper back and shoulders; and helping correct any postural issues that may influence the occurrence of both migraine and tension headaches.

The complex nature of migraine means that the treatments available are varied and differ from person to person. There is currently no cure for migraine, and medication may depend on the triggers.

Chiropractic treatment for migraine is also varied but a trial treatment of 3-4 sessions is normally recommended to give a good indicator of how effective management will be. A lot of our patients have found their migraines become less frequent and less severe with treatment when neck muscle or joint tension and restriction is a contributing trigger. Treatment can involve:

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Acupuncture/dry needling
  • Spinal manipulation/mobilisation
  • Home exercises/stretches
  • Ergonomic and postural advice

Other treatments that might help with headaches available at TWC:

  • Hypnotherapy for stress management and to help reduce related tension
  • Deep tissue massage to help release trigger points in the muscles
  • Diet advice for food intolerances/allergies i.e. gluten or dairy

For those of you interested, here is a link to a website that lists some of the studies looking in to the effectiveness of chiropractic in the treatment of migraines: