Did you know that migraines can actually be due to too much inflammation in the body? If not, you are not alone. Many people do not realize the connection. This article will discuss what inflammation is, how it can cause migraines, which professional migraine treatment center in Kelowna, BC, to visit, and where you can find natural relief for migraines.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is defined as a localized protective response brought about by injury or destruction of tissues. It serves to dilute, destroy, or wall off both the injurious agent and the injured tissue. The inflammatory response can be incited by biological, chemical, and physical elements, including the following:
- Too much sun
- X-rays and radioactive materials
- Extreme temperatures of heat and cold
- Corrosive chemicals
- Infectious agents
- Pathogenic microorganisms
The typical signs of inflammation are heat, redness, pain, swelling, and loss of function. These symptoms are the physiologic changes that happen when inflammation occurs. There are three major components to this process:
- Hemodynamic changes: Occurring soon after injury and progressing at varying rates depending on how serious the injury is, they begin by opening new capillaries and venular beds (small veins) in the area, leading to increased blood flow that results in heat and redness.
- Increased capillary permeability: This permits leakage of protein-rich fluid from small blood vessels into the extravascular fluid compartment, causing inflammatory edema (swelling).
- Leukocytic exudation: First, leukocytes move to the lining of the small blood vessels and line them in a tightly packed formation. These leukocytes then move through the spaces in the lining and outside of the blood vessels. Here they are free to move and are then drawn to the area of the injury. This is how the body begins to neutralize foreign particles.
How Inflammation Causes Migraines
Dr. Charles Matthews, who is the Director of the North Carolina Comprehensive Headache Clinic and is also a neurologist, has a lot to say about migraines, stress, and inflammation. It is important to understand that only migraines have been clearly connected with inflammation; no other headache condition has been at this point in time. It is vital for you to get an accurate diagnosis so as to know how best to care for your migraines.
Dr. Matthews refers to Hans Selye, a brilliant physiologist who laid the groundwork for connecting stress and inflammation to migraines. Selye described a stress response which automatically takes place in your body when anything changes, including hormone secretion, such as cortisol or adrenaline. Selye noted stress is stress — the body does not distinguish between you being yelled at by someone or having a virus of some type. It is all read by the body as stress and affects your body in the same way.
The brain controls the release of stress hormones. It senses the changes happening in your body and motivates the glands to begin producing stress hormones. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose (blood sugar) also increase. You may notice your hands becoming cold as the arteries clamp down to protect your body in case of blood loss. This is the “flight or fight” response many of us have heard of.
You may recognize cortisol as a natural steroid in the body. Is it bad for your body to excrete this hormone? Not necessarily. Cortisol is secreted by the body to control inflammation. Too much or too little inflammation can be bad. Cortisol controls this. A small number of steroids produced under stress can be a good thing.
However, if the stressful situation goes on for long periods of time, you may begin to run out of cortisol. Your adrenal glands may not be able to keep up with the needed amount. They get tired and run down. When you run out of cortisol, your body begins to excrete adrenalin on a short-term basis. Adrenalin increases blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels, and makes you feel like you are running a marathon creating a need for fuel. This causes a number of health problems interestingly similar to those seen with the aging process:
- Muscle atrophy
- Skin atrophy
- Bone loss
- Elevation of blood sugar levels
Some researchers have concluded that aging may actually be a type of stress.
The Link to Migraines
Research has been done showing how stressing the trigeminal nerve (one of the major nerve supplies to the head) beyond normal use causes blood vessels in the covering of the brain to dilate, letting white blood cells to leak into the surrounding space. This causes what would be similar to having an infection in other parts of the body. This can lead to migraines. Just as poison ivy may produce a rash on the skin, migraines cause inflammation in the brain. However, just to be clear, it is NOT an infection of the brain (such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), but rather a similar response — inflammation.
Finding Natural Relief
If the brainstem is sending the brain improper signals about what is going on in the body, inflammation can be a normal response. So, what could be causing the brainstem to malfunction? Often it is a misalignment in the top bones of the neck, the C1 or C2 vertebra. If these bones misalign, they stress the brainstem. By correcting this misalignment, the brainstem can begin functioning properly again, and often patients see a reduction in migraines. Some see them go away and not return.
Our migraine chiropractic clinic in Kelowna, British Columbia, CA uses a gentle method to realign these bones that does not require us to pop or crack the neck or back to get results. Rather, we encourage the bones to move into their original position naturally, allowing the body to heal itself and reduce inflamation. This is often all that is needed to see relief from migraines.