80% of migraines come from the neck says new study

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 2:31 pm
Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Mike Atkinson | Drive producer and public relations officer

It turns out migraines are literally a pain in the neck. A migraine headache therapy offering sufferers relief focuses on the neck rather than the head.

The Watson headache approach — pioneered by Murdoch University researchers Dean Watson and Peter Drummond — focuses on a “‘rarely diagnosed fault in the top of the spine”.

The study found that 80 per cent of headaches were due to a common neck complaint, which was now the number one suspect in causing a sensitive brain stem.

“This (The Watson Headache Approach) is a sophisticated method of looking at the top three joints in the upper neck,” Mr Watson said.

“When we move the joints in the way they’re designed to move they reproduce a migraine. This sounds terrible but it’s actually a really good thing to do.”

Podcast: Murdoch University researcher Dean Watson with Jeziel on Drive

“It demonstrates a connection between the upper neck and the migraine process and what we do then is sustain the technique and create the pain of a headache and what happens is the head pain gets less and less as we sustain it.”

“The research at Murdoch University has shown that this de-sensitises the brain stem which is the underlying dis-order.”


How to treat a migraine

At the first sign of a migraine, retreat from your usual activities if possible.

  • Turn off the lights. Migraines often increase sensitivity to light and sound. Relax in a dark, quiet room. Sleep if you can.
  • Try temperature therapy. Apply hot or cold compresses to your head or neck. Ice packs have a numbing effect, which may dull the sensation of pain. Hot packs and heating pads can relax tense muscles. Warm showers or baths may have a similar effect.
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage. In small amounts, caffeine alone can relieve migraine pain in the early stages or enhance the pain-reducing effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and aspirin. Be careful, however. Drinking too much caffeine too often can lead to withdrawal headaches later on.

Sleep well

Migraines may keep you from falling asleep or wake you up at night. Likewise, migraines are often triggered by a poor night’s sleep.

Here are some tips to encourage sound sleep.

  • Establish regular sleep hours. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day — even on weekends. If you nap during the day, keep it short. Naps longer than 20 to 30 minutes may interfere with night-time sleep.
  • Unwind at the end of the day. Anything that helps you relax can promote better sleep: listen to soothing music, soak in a warm bath or read a favorite book. But watch what you eat and drink before bedtime. Intense exercise, heavy meals, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can interfere with sleep.
  • Minimise distractions. Save your bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Don’t watch television or take work materials to bed. Close your bedroom door. Use a fan to muffle distracting noises.
  • Don’t try to sleep. The harder you try to sleep, the more awake you’ll feel. If you can’t fall asleep, read or do another quiet activity until you become drowsy.
  • Check your medications. Medications that contain caffeine or other stimulants — including some medications to treat migraines — may interfere with sleep.
Eat wisely
Your eating habits can influence your migraines. Consider the basics:
  • Be consistent. Eat at about the same time every day.
  • Don’t skip meals. Fasting increases the risk of migraines.
  • Keep a food journal. Keeping track of the foods you eat and when you experience migraines can help identify potential food triggers.
  • Avoid foods that trigger migraines. If you suspect that a certain food — such as aged cheese, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol — is triggering your migraines, eliminate it from your diet to see what happens.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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