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Vestibular migraine and the upper cervical spine

By Staff | Aug 24, 2017

If you are currently living with migraine headaches, you are familiar with the classic symptoms of intense, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head accompanied by nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks range between four and 72 hours, during which many sufferers sequester themselves in a quiet, dark room until the attack passes. The large majority of migraine patients are unable to work, attend school or function normally during their attacks.

Approximately 40 percent of migraine patients have associated vestibular symptoms, also known as vestibular migraine or migraine-associated vertigo (MAV). Vestibular symptoms associated with migraine may include dizziness, motion intolerance, spontaneous vertigo attacks, visual disturbance with photosensitivity, neck pain, confusion, spatial disorientation, and anxiety/ panic.

While vestibular migraine can be triggered by a number of factors, including stress, excessive light or sound, fatigue, hunger, food sensitivities, hormonal fluctuation, weather changes, caffeine or cigarette smoke, it is important to understand that these “trigger factors” do not cause vestibular migraine.

Instead, one primary causal factor, which is beginning to appear more frequently in medical research, is head and/or neck trauma. It is thought that trauma to the alignment of the head and upper cervical (neck) spine (C1 and C2 vertebrae) alters nerve and blood flow in the brainstem, leading to vestibular migraine.

Fortunately, there is a specialized chiropractic technique – known as upper cervical care – which focuses upon the alignment of the head and the upper neck. To accurately assess whether a vestibular migraine patient may benefit from care, the upper cervical chiropractor will perform two diagnostic tests: thermal imaging and digital X-rays of the cervical spine. If an upper cervical misalignment is diagnosed, the patient’s injured neck is corrected by administering a precise adjustment by hand on a specially designed knee chest table. Many vestibular migraine patients notice improvement in symptoms with just a few treatments.

Dr. Erin Elster is an Upper Cervical Chiropractor who has successfully treated hundreds of patients with chronic migraine headaches, including vestibular migraine. Her published headache research is available on her website: www.erinelster.com. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or erin@erinelster.com.