Up to this point, there has not been a test that can confirm or deny whether people are suffering from migraines. They are diagnosed mainly with symptoms. However, new research is being done that can possibly help doctors find out whether the head pain you are experiencing is actually a migraine or is due to another condition that needs to be looked into further. Before we discuss how this new research may help, let’s look at exactly what a migraine is.
What Are Migraines?
Migraines affect as many as 12 percent of the population in America — about 39 million people. They are defined as repeated attacks of moderate to severe head pain that is pounding or throbbing in nature. In two-thirds of the cases, only one side of the head is affected. People with migraines often feel extremely sensitive to light, sound, and some odors. They may also become nauseous and even vomit.
Migraines are seen three times more often in women than in men. Some people have what is called an aura. This is a neurological symptom that warns of an oncoming migraine. It may be a flashing light, zig-zag lines, or even weakness on one side of the body occurring just an hour or so before the head pain begins. Some people may even lose their vision entirely.
Migraines are often triggered by external forces. These things do not cause a migraine, but they play a role in making one happen. They can include:
Exposure to bright or flashing light
Hormonal changes in women
Lack of enough sleep
Missing meals causing low blood sugar
Certain foods — aged cheeses, chocolate, red wine
Previously, researchers and doctors thought migraines were linked to the constricting and opening of blood vessels in the head. However, recent studies have revealed they are probably related to genes that control the activity in some brain cells.
How a Blood Test Can Detect Migraines
Current diagnosing of migraines is based entirely on looking at your medical history and considering what symptoms you are experiencing. A study from Johns Hopkins University suggests that a blood test may be able to help doctors find out if you really do have a migraine or if further testing should be done to find out what you are suffering from. This applies particularly to episodic migraines (those that occur less than 15 times during a month’s time).
Dr. B. Lee Peterlin, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, reports his findings suggest migraines are neurological in origin. He hopes that further research can advance the understanding of migraine pathophysiology and lead to identifying migraine biomarkers in the blood so as to help with caring for those with migraines.
Are Migraines Inherited?
Migraines are extremely disabling, and scientists do not understand what makes them happen. Theories suggest that migraines may be a form of inherited brain disorder. Past studies have indicated migraine sufferers are at a greater risk to develop a stroke and similar disorders linked to the metabolism of fats, including obesity.
Taking this research into consideration, the team of researchers at Johns Hopkins examined one group of lipids — ceramides — to see if they are somehow related to migraines. Ceramides are responsible for regulating inflammation in the brain. They observed 52 women who had episodic migraines and 36 women without migraines. The women’s BMI was measured and then blood was drawn to test for ceramides. This led to some interesting discoveries.
Those with migraines showed a decreased level of ceramides — 6,000 nanograms per milliliter — compared to those without migraines — 10,500 nanograms per milliliter. Looking further, it was discovered that as ceramides increased, the risk for migraines began to lower.
Another lipid found in the blood — sphingomyelin — also had a connection to migraines. However, the opposite was true with it: increased levels were responsible for a greater risk of migraines.
Researchers were able to blindly look at 14 tests from the group of participants and properly identify which ones had migraines and which ones did not based solely on their lipid count. This can greatly impact the future of those with migraines, leading to a possible way to better care for this debilitating condition.
Finding Natural Migraine Relief
Upper cervical chiropractors have seen great success in caring for migraines in their patients. Dr. Raymond Damadian, the inventor of the MRI and upright MRI, used the MRI machine to help evaluate blood flow in patients with migraines. He noticed people with migraines had a decreased flow of oxygen-rich blood and cerebrospinal fluid to the brain. This was connected to a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine, particularly the C1 and C2 vertebrae, because it acted as a type of blockage to these fluids. This means the proper fluid could not get to the brain and provide the right nutrients and oxygen. It also means the waste products were not leaving the brain in the correct amounts. All of this can lead to migraines.
Numerous studies have been conducted showing upper cervical chiropractic adjustments help those with migraines. One specific study looked at 101 people with migraines and other headache types. They were all found to have a misalignment in their neck. Once corrected, 85 saw their head pain go away completely, while the remaining ones saw a great reduction in severity and frequency.
We use a gentle method that does not require us to pop or crack the spine to get positive results. Our adjustments are given without the need for force and encourage a more natural realignment of the bone. Our patients report seeing similar results to those in the above study.