If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.


Migraines are extremely painful, recurring headaches that are sometimes accompanied by other symptoms such as visual disturbances — seeing an aura — or nausea. There are two types of migraine — migraine with aura, formerly called common migraines, and migraine without aura, formerly called classic migraines.

Signs and Symptoms:

The headache from a migraine, with or without aura, has the following characteristics:

• Throbbing, pounding, or pulsating pain
• Often begins on one side of your head and may spread to both or stay on one side
• Most intense pain is often concentrated around the sides of the forehead
• Can last from 4 – 72 hours

These symptoms may happen at the same time or before the headache:

• Nausea and vomiting
• Dizziness, lightheadedness, or even vertigo (feeling like the room is spinning)
• Loss of appetite
• Fatigue
• Visual disturbances, like seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines, temporary blind spots, or blurred vision
• Parts of your body may feel numb, weak, or tingly
• Light, noise, and movement — especially bending over — make your head hurt worse; you want to lie down in a dark, quiet room
• Irritability

Symptoms that may linger even after the headache is gone:

• Feeling mentally dull, like your thinking is not clear or sharp
• Sleepiness
• Neck pain


The following foods may trigger migraine headaches:

• Chocolate
• Cheese
• Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer found often in food from Chinese restaurants
• Foods containing the amino acid tyramine, found in red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans
• Nuts
• Peanut butter
• Some fruits, like avocado, banana, and citrus
• Onions
• Dairy products
• Meats containing nitrates, such as bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats
• Fermented or pickled foods

If you think that any of these foods cause your migraines, try eliminating all the items on this list from your diet and then reintroducing them one at a time. Pay close attention to when the number of headaches increases after eating certain foods. Then you know which trigger foods to avoid. You may also want to consider food allergy testing to determine your specific sensitivities or triggers.


What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

• Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system.

• Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet and perhaps the addition of B complex vitamins.

• Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques. This advice should help to relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.

Several clinical trials indicate that spinal manipulation therapy may help treat migraine headaches. In one study of people with migraines, 22% of those who received chiropractic manipulation reported more than a 90% reduction of attacks. Also, 49% reported a significant reduction of the intensity of each migraine.

In another study, people with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to receive spinal manipulation, a daily medication (Elavil), or a combination of both. Spinal manipulation worked as well as Elavil in reducing migraines and had fewer side effects. Combining the two therapies didn’t work any better.

In addition, researchers reviewed 9 studies that tested chiropractic for tension or migraine headaches and found that it worked as well as medications in preventing these headaches.

Cervical spine manipulation was associated with significant improvement in headache outcomes in trials involving patients with neck pain and/or neck dysfunction and headache.

— Duke Evidence Report, McCrory, Penzlen, Hasselblad, Gray (2001)

The results of this study show that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches. . . Four weeks after cessation of treatment . . . the patients who received spinal manipulative therapy experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in all major outcomes in contrast to the patients that received amitriptyline therapy, who reverted to baseline values.

— Duke Evidence Report, McCrory, Penzlen, Hasselblad, Gray (2001)

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