By Jamie –
What is Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic medicine focuses on treating neuromuscular and musculoskeletal disorders through manual adjustment and manipulation of the spine. This type of medicine is completely drug-free, non-surgical and very hands-on.
The goal of chiropractic care is to increase functionality, reduce pain, and educate patients on a healthier lifestyle through diet change and exercise – all of which make quite a difference in a migraineur’s life!
My First Trip to the Chiropractor: What to Expect
There are several different approaches to chiropractic medicine, all differing based on your specific ailment. Since the only experience I have is my own as a chronic migraine sufferer, I’ll dive into the main therapies I’ve undergone to give you an idea of what to expect.
My first appointment consisted of sharing my medical background, which as a migraineur meant how often my migraines occur, their severity and length, my preventative and abortive medications, and lifestyle choices to treat them. I also went through a comprehensive examination full of twists and turns, pushes and pulls to pinpoint where my pain was coming from. It was clear from the beginning that a majority of my pain that causes migraines stems from my upper back and neck.
After the conversation, we had time for a basic adjustment, which is just what you’d imagine. While I laid on my stomach, the doctor performed quick presses along my spine to crack it. It felt amazing. We finished up by discussing my long-term treatment plan to reduce the frequency and severity of my migraines.
Long-term Treatment of Migraines with Chiropractic Care
After visiting the chiropractor for a few months now, my chiropractor and I have developed a personal routine to best fit my migraine-based lifestyle. At first, I went two times a week. Now, I only go every two weeks, still having the same incredible results.
I undergo 3-5 different therapeutic techniques each visit. The most common is electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). EMS uses electrodes on the back to send electrical pulses throughout the muscles. This stimulation allows muscles to fatigue, causing them to relax, as well as release built-up toxins. This takes 10-15 minutes of my appointment time.
Another method of treatment I use is low level laser therapy (LLLT). The idea is similar to that of acupuncture. The laser is placed along the same meridians used in acupuncture, resulting in similar results, without the needles. The laser penetrates the muscle causing an increase in ATP, enzyme, RNA/DNA, and macrophage production, capillary dilation, and nerve conduction. These biochemical effects result in tissue repair, decreased inflammation, and improved joint and musculoskeletal health. This procedure typically only takes 2-3 minutes.
I also get adjusted each appointment. This is entirely hands-on and can feel slightly invasive. It’s very up close and personal! The doctor has to manipulate the body in order to crack it in the places that will benefit you the most. This was a little intimidating at first, but it feels wonderful and you definitely get used to it!
My absolute favorite therapy is the trigger point massage! This may be one of the most beneficial treatments for migraine sufferers. It is for me, at least! The massage itself consists of finding your particular trigger points throughout your back and neck and having them massaged out through pressure and release. It’s as relaxing as a regular massage, only its more concentrated toward your specific pain points. This usually lasts 10-20 minutes.
The combination of these therapies and treatments has resulted in a rather drastic decrease in the frequency of my migraines. I typically have a migraine 1-2 times a week now, compared to 4-5 times a week pre-chiropractor. The experience has also taught me more about relying less on pharmaceuticals and more on natural vitamins and supplements, as well as my own alternative and holistic treatment styles.
(Above: My chiropractor’s office and me during a session.)
Chiropractic Tips for Migraineurs
Don’t expect relief immediately: You’ll probably hear this from your doc a few times. My first few appointments consisted mostly of sharing my medical background so we could gauge what type of care would fit me best. I was adjusted each time, which is fantastic, but creating your treatment plan takes time, so be patient!
Be your own advocate: If there’s something throughout your treatment that you believe could be triggering migraines, tell them!! When going through EMS therapy, I was laid on my stomach on a massage table and the angle my neck was placed just wasn’t right. My favorite nurse, Jan, was able to create a method that allowed me to lay on my back instead and I saw positive effects immediately! I was so comfortable I almost fell asleep (which is how it’s supposed to be)!
Do your own research: Even if it means scrolling through Pinterest’s “chiropractic” tag, try finding more treatments that may be beneficial to you and ask your doctor for their thoughts on them. You know your body better than anyone, including your doctor! Do what’s best for you.
It may get worse before it gets better: If you’re new to chiropractic care, its more than likely that you’ll have years of toxins built up in your body. With all of the twists and turns your body isn’t used to, the release of these toxins may cause cold-like symptoms. This may occur with each new chiropractic technique you try. It’s pretty common to feel a little under the weather for a couple of days but if your symptoms become anything more than this, ask your doctor for their input!
Stay hydrated and eat well: If your chiropractor doesn’t drill the phrase “drink more water” into your head during each appointment, they’re doing something wrong! Because you’re manipulating your body, releasing toxins, and fatiguing your muscles, you MUST keep very hydrated or you WILL NOT feel well. Not only is the increase in water intake beneficial for your chiropractic care, it may create a positive difference in your migraine severity or frequency!