Muscle Dysfunction as Migraine TriggerLast Updated:
Did you know that muscle tension can trigger a migraine attack? Neither did I until just a few weeks ago. Technically the diagosis is Cervicogenic Headche, a secondary headache disorder that has a lot of features similar to Tension-Type headaches. Apparently it is common to experience more than one type of headache disorder and each one can be a trigger for the others.
This certainly makes sense from my own experience with headache disorders. I’ve been experiencing episodic migraine attacks since I was 5 years old. Shortly before my 30th birthday, I experienced something entirely new and frightening, a Cluster Headache. It took 8 months to get an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Since then I have noticed a cyclical pattern of worsening migraines associated with spikes in cluster headache activity.
Thanks to my new neurologist, I have discovered that neck and back pain due to dysfunctioning muscles can create occipital head pain, which in turn, often triggers a migraine. The acute treatment for Cervicogenic Headaches often starts with the use of muscle relaxers and prescription pain relievers. My neuro is very conservative, so all I get are muscle relaxers. While they don’t take all the pain away, they do help take the edge off so I can function more normally. The next step was to discover the reason for neck and back pain through diagnostic testing (nerve conduction studies, MRIs) and a thorough exam by a physical therapist specializing in the treatment of neck and back pain.
We are still working to discover all the unique aspects of my condition by continuing to monitor my progress in physical therapy and test for nerve damage, bulging discs, and other possible issues. One thing is for sure. I have learned to recognize the early warning signs of neck and back pain and treat it effectively without pain relievers. This has reduced the severity and intensity of both migraines and cluster headaches by about 25%. Progress is slow yet certainly in the right direction.
Feature image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neck_MRI_131332.gif Attribution: © Nevit Dilmen