Symptoms vs. Root Cause

The mainstream approach to migraines is heavily focused on symptoms and triggers and not often traced to its root causes.  Migraines are categorized across a wide spectrum including:

  • With or Without Aura
  • Chronic or Episodic
  • With or Without Headache
  • and other differentiators

Your specific migraine diagnosis is based on a number of factors.  However, there are some common symptoms across the entire migraine spectrum including:

  • Throbbing, pulsating pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sound sensitivity 
  • Nausea
  • Pain on one side
  • Vision changes, blurred vision

Beyond these common symptoms, the different categories of migraines have other related symptoms.  The symptoms of migraines can be debilitating.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of migraine treatments focus on reducing or minimizing the symptoms with pharmaceutical interventions and rather than correcting the physiological conditions that may potentially lead to migraines.  This type of symptomatic approach can provide relief and sometimes prevent migraines from becoming debilitating, but it still leaves the physiological root cause untouched.

Regardless of the type or name of migraine you experience, the most important thing to understand is why your migraine exists.  This is where upper cervical care comes in.

Triggers vs. Root Cause

It is important to clearly distinguish the difference between root causes and triggers.  These are often listed together, but there are distinct characteristics of each of them.  Triggers are environmental factors or changes that cause migraines to start or worsen.  Some common triggers include:

  • Hormone changes
  • Weather changes
  • Emotional stress
  • Bright lights
  • Specific food triggers

Unlike the triggers, the underlying root cause or causes are always present, and just aggravated by certain triggers to cause the symptoms of migraine.  Upper cervical chiropractors are focused on correcting root causes associated with migraines. 

Root Causes of Migraines

Migraines are associated with a number of root causes in the brain and in the brainstem.

The Mayo Clinic states (on their website) that, “Migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway.  The brainstem sits in the lower part of the skull and in the craniocervical junction, which is the joints between the skull and the upper neck vertebrae.  A misalignment of the craniocervical junction can create nerve interference in the brainstem, leading to problems with the trigeminal nerve and trigeminal nucleus.  This would lead to migraine pain.

The brain is surrounded by a protective fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).  This CSF flows around the brain and down the spinal cord with a consistent pulsing.  Obstruction to the flow of CSF can occur from malformations or misalignments in the craniocervical junction.  This obstruction often leads to pressure changes within the skull which can also cause migraine symptoms.

The goal of upper cervical care is to restore these brain and brainstem functions to normal, therefore improving or eliminating the migraine at its root.

Correcting the Neck

Upper cervical care has already shown improvements in migraines in some published research.  Many upper cervical doctors report significant and consistent clinical improvement in patients who suffered from migraines.

Upper cervical chiropractors focus on the alignment of the craniocervical junction.  A careful examination is performed to determine if there is nerve interference in the upper neck followed by specific imaging of the upper neck to measure for misalignment.  A specific correction of the upper neck is done using one of the upper cervical techniques, which are precise and extremely gentle with no forceful twisting or cracking of the neck.  The focus of upper cervical care is to get the upper cervical spine to stay in proper alignment, which can lead to lasting improvements in your migraines if you are a candidate for care. 

Seek the Expert

Dr. Brian Neidenthal in Columbus, OH has a unique focus on correcting misalignments of the craniocervical junction that can lead to brain and body dysfunction.  His post-graduate training prepares him to identify subtle misalignments in this area and correct it using a variety of gentle and precise corrective techniques.  Designed to be a long-term solution, Dr. Neidenthal’s goal is to correct and stabilize the upper cervical spine to restore the integrity of the nervous system.  If you have concerns about you or your family’s health care, contact Atlas Family Health Center in Columbus, OH.


Elster EL. Upper cervical chiropractic care for a patient with chronic migraine headaches with an appendix summarizing an additional 100 headache cases. J Vert Sublux Res. 2003;1:1–10.

Flanagan MF. The Role of the Craniocervical Junction in Craniospinal Hydrodynamics and Neurodegenerative Conditions. Neurol Res Int. 2015;2015:794829.

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