Did you know that there over 38 million men, women and children who suffer from migraines in the U.S. and that more than half of those with migraines never even get properly diagnosed or seek treatment from a specialist? Event one day with a migraine can feel like too much, and millions of Americans experience them monthly or even weekly. Migraines are often thought to be a life-long condition. However, recent advances in neurological rehabilitation and evidence-based natural medicine offer new hope for migraine sufferers.
What is a migraine?
Migraines are considered to be a primary brain disorder which involves a malfunction of the sensory processing centers in the brain that trigger the release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head. The neurons in the brain which process sensory input--such as light, sound, visual tracking and equilibrium--are hypersensitive in migraine sufferers and become easily fatigued with sensory stimuli. When this occurs, neurons begin to fire erratically and “trigger” a cascade of physiological events which result in a migraine headache. Triggers can also involve inflammatory reactions to food, hormonal changes and chemical sensitivities–all which must be differentiated from secondary causes.
What causes migraines?
The cause of a migraine is not completely understood. However, from what I have described above, we can say that there is not one single cause but, rather, a combination of factors that are unique to each individual. These can be categorized as follows:
- Primary sensory processing disorder
- Physiological imbalance which triggers an inflammatory cascade
- Combination of the above
- An undiagnosed secondary migraine from an underlying infection or health condition
How do I determine which category I am in?
With the use of diagnostic testing we can objectively evaluate how the brain processes sensory information through the visual system, vestibular system (equilibrium centers within the inner ear), and the musculoskeletal system. We also perform laboratory tests which screen for physiological imbalances involving inflammatory triggers, hormones, viruses, bacteria, yeast and digestive issues--all which provide us with an overall picture of one's health and to objectively determine what one's specific needs are for effective treatment.
What kind of treatment does this involve?
Once a sensory processing disorder has been identified through neurological testing, we are able to customize rehabilitation strategies that can selectively target, strengthen and restore function--thereby relieving the sensory triggers of one's migraines. These treatments incorporate a combination of physical and sensory therapies along with vision and cognitive exercises in order to address an individual’s areas weakness. Theses treatments are often coupled with neuromodualtion therapy which uses electric nerve stimulation to enhance the sensory feedback of the neural pathways that are contributing to one's sensory processing disorder while performing specific rehabilitation exercises. As one trains the weaker areas, they get stronger, more efficient and then cease to be a problem.
For individuals with primary physiological imbalances we provide personalized nutritional and natural medicine recommendations to remove inflammatory triggers, heal the digestive system and restore hormonal imbalances. These protocols are evidence-based and specifically formulated from one's history, exam and laboratory results.
A combined approach is used when someone has been identified with a sensory processing disorder in addition to a physiological imbalance. So, as one would expect, we would address all necessary aspects of their health and support the body’s ability to heal from within with a combination of brain-based rehabilitation and natural medicine strategies.
Our practice is a multi-disciplinary and integrative medicine practice dedicated to brain health. As a result, we are able to offer a full spectrum of services and care, achieving better outcomes at a much faster pace.
Dr. Chung is a board-certified chiropractic neurologist and fellow of the American College of Functional Neurology who practices in San Francisco at Azzolino Chiropractic Neurology & Integrative Wellness. He is an expert in physical and neurological rehabilitation and has helped numerous patients recover from sport and spine injuries, migraines, dizziness, vertigo, concussion and complex conditions. Follow Dr. Chung on Twitter and join him on Google+