Migraine Facts

Migraines run in families and often a first migraine will occur in childhood.  It is more common in boys than girls under 10yrs of age. 

Migraines affect 15% of women and 6% of men world wide. It is estimated that 3 million Australians will have 1 or more migraines each year and is therefore one of more common reasons that an individual will present at their health care professional.  In their teens, females  are more likely to have a migraine and by early adulthood migraines are 3 times more prevelant among females than males. The average age for migraine sufferers is 30-39 years. The frequency of migraines declines with age, and after 55yrs of age migraine is uncommon and is a strong predictor of intercranial pathology. 

There are a number of triggers of migraie and data collected has resulted in a list that is in decending order of prevelance.

  • Emotional stress 80%
  • Hormones in women 65%
  • Not eating 57%
  • Weather 53%
  • Sleep disturbances 50%
  • Odours 44%
  • Neck Pain 38%
  • Lights 38% Alcohol 38%
  • Smoke 36%
  • Sleeping late 32%
  • Heat 30%
  • Food 27%
  • Exercise 22%
  • Sexual Activity 5%

The current understanding, based on MRI and SPECT scans, suggest that a trigger, any of the above, cause an event called cortical spreading depression, which is a depolorisation of the neurons and glyal cells in the brain.  The event starts in the occiptal lobe and spreads toward the front of the brain.  This explains why the start of the migrane is  the Aura which causes the shimmering or scotoma. The blind spot that follows the scotoma is caused by exhaused neurons in the occiptal lobe that can no longer process information from the optic nerve.

Among the theories for the pain of migraine is that the cortical spreading depression causes inflammation in the meninges, which is well known as a souce of pain.  Another is that the trigeminal neuclous in the brain stem which causes a perception of pain in cortex.  Alternatively trigeminovascular activation causes the release of neuropeptides cause neurogenic inflammation that it is thought prolong the headache.  

Additionally, migraine sufferers have been found to suffer from sensitisation.  This condition causes the brain to be more sensitive, and therefore looking back to the triggers, many of the seemingly innocous stimuli become pain promoters when the brain is sensitised.

Written By Dr Brian Callan, Chiropractor, Hands On Superhealth, June 2012


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