The Migraine Mystery – Explained
Medical researchers estimate that at least 20% of the population suffer weekly, and even daily, from some kind of headache or common migraine. Migraines occur more often in women than men. Approximately 25% of women and 8% of men suffer from migraines at some time in their lives.
Migraines are different from other headaches and can occur with additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and sensitivity to light. A migraine episode can last hours, days, or weeks, leaving the sufferer virtually disabled for that time. A migraine attack can be induced by various triggers, including bright light, certain food items, and alcohol. Uncontrollable triggers can include changes in the weather and menstrual cycles. Migraines can be caused by psychological factors, although stress and depression can also result as a consequence of the debilitating and chronic migraine pain.
There are many types of migraine 'designations' and 'names' that the medical community has given this common problem, such as primary, secondary, hemiplegic, ocular, intractable, aura, silent, abdominal, vestibular, etc. The reason that you have so many migraine categories is actually due to the lack of proper diagnosis and missing knowledge about the actual cause of migraines. The rest of this page will explain what causes migraines and headaches and why most people are being misdiagnosed and treated ineffectively. Modern medical therapies and medications are a multi-billion-dollar industry that lacks results.
Can Drugs Relieve or Control Migraine Pain?
All treatments for migraine have the same goals in common: halt, or at least reduce the excruciating pain and minimize the other significant symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. Today’s medical treatment methods employ a variety of different strategies to control and ease the pain. Patients are instructed to use anything from common NSAIDs (Advil, Tylenol, Excedrin) to more powerful narcotics (Vicodin, Tylenol 3, etc.) or other so-called 'migraine' drugs such as Imitrex, Topamax, etc.
None of these drugs have been shown to have any significant ability to control migraine pain long-term and none of them are able to properly treat or reduce the actual cause of the migraine. Significantly, long-term use of popular medications can cause the sufferer more pain and worsening symptoms.
Headaches can start between the ages of 10 and 46, and can have some genetic components. The genetic factors are due to skeletal imbalance problems that are passed on from generation to generation. It is these skeletal imbalance problems that must be diagnosed and treated in order to eliminate the chronic pain.
Migraine headache may be diagnosed by your family doctor based on your symptoms. Your doctor will take a detailed history to make sure that your headaches are not due to sinus inflammation, or a more serious underlying brain disorder. During the physical exam, your doctor will probably not find anything wrong with you.
Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist and possibly order an MRI or CT scan to rule out other causes of headache, such as sinus inflammation or a brain mass. In the case of a complicated migraine, an EEG may be needed to exclude seizures. Rarely, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) might be performed to rule out bacterial or viral infections. These tests are recommended by your doctor and us for all chronic head pain patients!
Stroke is an extremely rare complication from severe migraines. This risk may be due to prolonged narrowing of the blood vessels, limiting blood flow to parts of the brain for an extended period of time.
Migraine headache patients are normally told that it’s just stress or a sinus problem or perhaps some residual, lingering effect of an accident we had years ago. Sadly, a sizable number of these inadequately diagnosed patients are recommended to use popular pain medications, which do nothing to address the root causes of pain.
Most migraine sufferers go from doctor to doctor looking for the definitive treatment that will permanently resolve their pain. Each new physician, or therapist, claims expertise in pain management and proceeds to treat it accordingly. Many doctors unfortunately do not coordinate their treatment efforts for the best care possible.
Based on our experiences in our clinic, a good number of practitioners fail to recognize and therefore fail to address the most critical problem: abnormal muscular activity causing compression, thereby shifting blood flow and changing the electrochemistry of the head.
How We Diagnose Migraine Causes at our Office
So, how do you find the correct diagnosis and the proper treatment for your migraine problem? Fortunately, today’s modern craniofacial pain treatments are curing chronic headaches, migraines, and facial pain with nearly 100% success rate. The explanation for your migraine problems and the cause behind your symptoms is as follows.
Research has undeniably established the association between intense chronic muscle contraction and chronic pain, especially in your head. When any muscles become overused, pain begins to develop in those muscles and associated structures. The bulk of this dysfunctional muscular activity starts to eventually damage any neighboring joints and ligaments. When joints become damaged muscles try to protect them by splinting themselves into even more activity. An endless cycle ensues and pain worsens. 95% of headaches and migraines have an underlying factor: damage to the TMJ (jaw joint) and trigeminal nerve caused by overactive jaw muscle activity or genetic skeletal imbalance factors. Many times this damage goes unnoticed and undiagnosed by your physician and your dentist. Eventually the muscle dysfunction, trigeminal neuritis, and joint damage can lead to debilitating pain, sensitivity to light, and all of the other symptoms of the common migraine.
Most common headaches start out as simple muscle tension problems. Remember that bad day at work? You probably clenched your teeth all day and assumed a “tense” postural position while working. For a majority of us, a couple of Advils take away that sporadic problem. Unfortunately, for the migraine sufferer the Advils stopped working a long time ago. The reason is simple: the migraine patient has an undiagnosed skull imbalance or jaw joint problem which worsens over time. This is especially true when they clench or grind their teeth or may have been born with an unstable or deficient bite. This problem can be the result of genetics or long-term wear and tear. The patient who had braces to correct crooked teeth has the same possible jaw joint damage that a person who wears down their jaw joints due to constant clenching and grinding. The common denominator is that the migraine patient has developed some abnormal muscle function and usually extensive damage to the jaw joint that has been neglected and undiagnosed. These two problems lead to worsening muscle function, abnormal trigeminal nerve conduction, and blood flow alteration inside of the brain. Research has shown that the jaw muscles of a migraine patient can be in a constant state of tension (or contraction) while the trigeminal nerve exhibits abnormal excitation. Other factors begin to develop as a result, which can cause the entire nervous system to become unbalanced.
Other factors begin to develop as a result of the constant state of tension. The nervous system has 3 parts: the voluntary one, which you control, and the 2 involuntary parts that you cannot control (sympathetic, which gets you into high gear and parasympathetic, which allows you to heal). The sympathetic nervous system begins to overwork itself in patients with abnormal muscle function. Increased input to the muscles from the sympathetic nervous system further increases the tension and contraction of the muscles. It’s a 'silent' action, one that is not readily observed clinically.
The sympathetic nervous system subsequently begins to overwork itself. Increased input to the muscles from the sympathetic nervous system increases the tension and contraction of the muscles. At the same time, lack of parasympathetic nervous system activity can cause metabolic, digestive, and cardiovascular problems as the body cannot properly heal due to lack of parasympathetic nervous system function.
Nervous System Overstimulation
People with chronic pain feel as though their bodies are burning up. This is a normal response to the pain being caused by the nervous system. Pain eventually leads to loss of sleep, and prevents the nervous system from coming into balance. The sympathetic nervous system (the accelerator) does not shut down and our bodies get depleted. We feel tired, irritated, nervous, depressed, and angry. The parasympathetic nervous system requires time to replenish the body with the hormones and nutrients that it needs. The sympathetic system overtaxes the system and thereby causes the parasympathetic system to function inefficiently by not allowing it to turn on. Health problems kick in.
Is Your Migraine Pain Caused by Stress or Tension?
Stress — Daytime and Nighttime
It’s during certain stressful parts of the day that we clench or grind and cause muscular damage. At night, the stress can continue. During sleep even the slightest touching of the teeth requires contraction of the temporalis and masseter muscles. You can’t put your teeth together without contracting these two powerful muscles. Stress and anxiety can cause severe clenching.
As a basic rule of Mother Nature, your teeth should never be touching! They don’t even touch when you chew! It’s a good bet that your teeth are probably touching right now as you read this page. Allowing the teeth to touch requires contraction of the temporalis and masseter muscles. Continual contraction of the closing muscles creates a dysfunctional state as described above. This problem may not be painful until later in life as it could take time to damage the jaw joint and associated structures. This end-point usually happens when the jaw joint wears out and all surrounding tissues go into a “silent” dysfunction due to the damage. This 'silent problem' is called a migraine.
Stress, Tension, or Genetics?
Please remember that the migraine patient can also have a genetic problem of jaw imbalance that they inherited from a parent. The jaw imbalance causes faster and more rapid wear and tear of the joint, especially when coupled with abnormal muscle activity. Many times this is a slow process that begins during childhood and continues without the person being aware.
If the sufferer has a genetic component of jaw imbalance problems, then the body senses this inherent dysfunction as damage to the body and tries to protect it by sending even more muscles into spasms. The muscle function and joint damage is not readily diagnosed or observed by a majority of doctors.
Understanding the Muscular System Role in Migraines
What is important to understand is that there is a balance between your jaws, skull bone, and neck that determines your diagnosis and treatment guidelines. Head pain (including migraines, headaches, earaches, tinnitus, vertigo, Meniere’s, jaw pain, facial pain, and neck problems) is a symptom of a neuromuscular and skeletal imbalance above your shoulders. This imbalance causes stress to the muscles, nerves and arteries… sending them into “irritability.”
The trigeminal is the primary nerve that carries pain impulses from your mouth, teeth, head, face, ears, and neck to your central nervous system. Pain from any of its pathways can trigger migraines, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, Meniere’s, facial pain, and jaw pain.
Contemporary research indicates there is general agreement in the medical community that the trigeminal vascular complex is involved in all migraines. This complex comprises the trigeminal neural system and associated blood vessels. The trigeminal system is one of the major pain signaling structures of the brain. Your brain spends over 40% of its daily energy deciphering the impulses created by this nerve. The trigeminal and facial nerves account for over 50% of the function of your head. Furthermore, over 30% of the nerves that travel to the rest of your body pass near the jaw joint. 25% of the total nerve impulses of your body go to your mouth and jaws!
As the trigeminal nerve continues to be irritated by jaw joint problems and abnormal muscle activity it begins to send continuous messages to the sympathetic nervous system to constrict blood vessels and fire up more muscle cells. The trigeminal nerve is also responsible for directing and “managing” the actual blood flow of the arteries of the brain. That’s the 'vascular' headache that you hear so much about. An unhappy trigeminal nerve causes all sorts of irregular changes to the blood flow of the brain.
The trigeminal nerve is connected to your brain stem and can actually affect many pathways of the entire nervous system. It acts like a gatekeeper, allowing or blocking nerve flow in your spinal column. Consistent stimulation of the trigeminal nerve can cause dysfunction in other areas of your body. The nervous system requires that your body continues to produce the common neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is the fuel for your nerves. Normal function dictates that the nerves need a break, similar to stopping your vehicle at the gas station for refueling or resting while you sleep. Think of lifting weights in the gym. After a few reps you need a break. The nerves and the muscles have to bring in more nutrients in order to allow you to be able to do more sets of reps. Unfortunately, in headache patients, this rest stop never happens. Not even when you sleep!
How a Depletion in Serotonin Affects Your Nervous System
The body’s supply of serotonin quickly depletes in a majority of head pain patients. The nervous system is unable to function properly and more stress sets in. The body begins to be unable to carry on normal functions such as perceiving normally, sensing properly, concentrating on work, studying, controlling emotions, completing physical activities, caring for family, or working. The depletion of serotonin affects your entire nervous system and depletes the ability to have positive emotions. Your doctor’s answer to this problem is to prescribe common medications such as Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, Imitrex, Lyrica, or Prozac. Give the body some more serotonin so that it can work normally again. Unfortunately, the body stops learning how to produce its own serotonin and the levels of the medications cannot be adjusted high enough over the long term, to have any efficacy. Result: pain worsens over time because the cause of the problem has not been found and treated properly. Digestive and metabolic problems also result over time.
Function Can Affect Structure
It is critical to realize that human beings use their lower jaw over 5,000 times a day. Think about what would happen if you tried to ride 1,000 miles on a bicycle that had missing spokes.
Also notice how your teeth, jaws, and nerves control such a large part of your head. It is important to realize that there are over 300 muscles that attach to the jaws, skull, and neck. 298 of these muscles do one and only one thing: they close the lower jaw, squeezing it into the skull bone (in close intimacy to the brain tissue)! Any misalignment problems, parafunctional habits, or deficiencies can cause unusual nerve activity which leads to chronic muscle activity, thereby eventually causing compression and dysfunction in the joint, skull bone, and brain. Subsequently, this leads to blood flow changes in the brain, causing migraines.
Vascular System Involvement
The trigeminal pathway also controls and regulates the blood flow of the arteries inside of the brain. That is why so many doctors call migraines 'a vascular event.' Now you know why a tooth issue and a jaw misalignment problem can cause migraines.
Many patients may feel a migraine on only one side or in their eye or top of head. The reason for this is based on which side the jaw joint is more damaged or where the muscle activity is more chronic. For example, patients who have lost teeth on their right side will experience more pain there due to loss of support and abnormal muscle and nerve activity on that side.
To watch a video about all of the above information please click on this Anatomy Video link:
The first step towards diagnosing migraine headache problems is to have a TMJ CT Scan completed. This test must be done with you biting your back teeth together. Please review this page for more information on Imaging requirements for proper diagnosis:
TMJ Treatment Walled Lake & Novi, MI – CT & X-Ray | Today’s Headache and Facial Pain Institute (migraineheadachepain.com)
A full head and neck anatomy examination is also important. The following video shows our full examination protocols:
COMMON MIGRAINE TERMS…And misconceptions
If you have been diagnosed with migraine you may have heard some other common terms that the medical community has coined for this problem.
- Ataxia. This means you have trouble using your muscles. It leads to lack of coordination and can make it hard to walk. It usually comes with a type called migraine with brainstem aura. It can be a result of neurological disease and may not be associated with the causes explained on this website.
- Aura: Changes in vision or sensation before or with a migraine. Common sensations can include flickering lights, spots, or lines, or a loss of vision. Sometimes the person may experience numbness or tingling in other parts of the body. Speech may also be affected (Dysphasia). Sensory Aura can also be experienced in terms of tingling face, mouth, arms, or even legs.
- Cause: The ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve is in dysfunction and normally caused by a damaged jaw joint or abnormal jaw and neck muscle function.
- Cutaneous allodynia: This is when touching your skin becomes painful. During a migraine, it might hurt to put in contacts, shave, or brush your hair. Trigeminal neuralgia can cause such symptoms.
- Cause: The trigeminal nerve is in a state of severe irritation normally due to damage of the TMJ!
- Diplopia: Double vision.
- Cause: Reduction of blood flow to the ophthalmic blood vessels due to trigeminal and facial nerve damage!
- Hemiplegic migraine: One-sided pain commonly mistaken for a stroke or epilepsy. It is important to have a brain MRI to rule out stroke or other diseases.
- Cause: Damage to the jaw joint on that side of the head!
- Hyperosmia: Hyper-sensitive or change of smell.
- Cause: Hypersensitivity of the trigeminal nerve 2nd division caused by compression of the TMJ!
- Menstrual migraine: If you only get them 2 days before your period or in the first 3 days after it starts your problem may be hormone related. Otherwise, there is a high probability that your hormonal shift is causing an increase in already irritated facial and trigeminal nerves.
- Migraine prodrome: This phase of the migraine cycle happens 24 to 48 hours before a headache starts. You might notice symptoms like crankiness and mood swings, food cravings, constipation, and neck stiffness. You might notice that you yawn a lot.
- Cause: Most likely stress induced by clenching and hyperactivity of jaw muscles along with a jaw joint that is already damaged.
- Ocular migraine: Affects your sight, like blind spots, zigzag lines, seeing stars, and even vision loss (scotoma).
- Cause: Compression of the 2nd division of the trigeminal nerve due to a damaged TMJ.
- Phonophobia: Sensitive to sound during a headache.
- Cause: Compression of the 2nd division of the trigeminal nerve due to a damaged TMJ. Ear structures are under heavy stress caused by the TMJ.
- Photosensitivity/Photophobia: Being around sunlight or artificial light may make you feel even more uncomfortable.
- Cause: Compression of the 2nd division of the trigeminal nerve due to a damaged TMJ.
- Dizziness/Vertigo: The sense that you’re spinning (or the world around you is spinning) when you’re really not. Dizziness may involve a sense of lightheadedness or trouble keeping your balance.
- Cause: Compression of all 3 divisions of the trigeminal nerve due to a damaged TMJ and abnormal pressure of the ear structures.
To learn more, contact us today! Solve your pain in 6-8 months or we’ll give you your money back.