Life is stressful, and for many of us, dealing with headache pain is the last thing on our ‘to-do’ list. I’m a Chiropractor, and even I’ve heard this refrained a million times: ‘Just take some aspirin.’ And after all, aspirin is effective isn’t it? The headache subsides and we go about our day. But then what… the headaches come right back. Often they come back when we least want them to. For millions of Americans – 10% of men and 20% of women, respectively – severe headaches and migraines occur at least four times a year! And we’re not talking about a little pain-in-the-neck headache, we’re talking about knock-me-out-of-my-misery headaches that leave people delirious, nauseous, and lying in bed without light or sound for days. Unable to work, unable to play, unable to live life.
Yes, aspirin can get us through, but how about getting rid of the headaches once and for all? After all, your headache didn’t start because of an ‘aspirin deficiency,’ right? Well, I put together my knowledge from my doctorate in Chiropractic with my masters in Human Nutrition & Functional Medicine to develop (*drum roll please*):
Or the Triple-M Program for short. I developed this program using evidence-based treatment recommendations from clinicians across the healthcare spectrum – Chiropractic, Naturopathy, Massage Therapy, Allopathic medicine (i.e. Medical Doctors), etc. Together, these hands-on therapies and lifestyle changes give you the best opportunity to not only stop your migraines, but keep them away. We do this by addressing the root causes of your chronic migraines – not your aspirin deficiency – but what’s happening inside your body physically, chemically, and psychologically. The program breaks down into three areas of treatment:
1. Inflammation in the nervous system, especially in the brain and brainstem.
Migraines begin when a particular trigger (stress, chemicals, foods), activate an inflammation ‘chain-reaction’ inside the brain and brainstem. This inflammation travels from the brain into the nerves and blood vessels of the face, creating excruciating pain in those classic places (e.g. around the eye). This chain-reaction spreads to neighboring areas of the brain as well, which is why some people experience pre-migraine ‘aura’ with strange lights, smells, and sensations. After the migraine subsides, the inflammation remains active at a low level, leading to more migraines in the future! Additionally, this low level of inflammation increases the chances of nerve-cell ‘burn-out.’ This creates a vicious cycle in which fried-out nerves create inflammation, which creates more fried-out neurons, which creates more inflammation. Calming this inflammation in the nervous system can be an effective way to stop migraines at the source. There are many things you can do to halt this inflammatory response; begin with targeted changes to your diet as well as manual therapy for best results. For example, the Chiropractic adjustment communicates with the nervous system, helping to calm down that stress-related ‘fight or flight’ nerve response that leads to migraine headaches.
2. Cellular Health and Energy Production
With the nervous system and immune system on high-alert from chronic inflammation, demand on individual cells in your body increases dramatically. To keep up this vigilant response (i.e. inflammation and migraines), the body burns up nutrients rapidly. With less access to vitamins and minerals, metabolic reactions in the cells begin breaking down. In particular the mitochondria or ‘mito’ in your cells become leaky and shut down from chronic demand and activity. Mito are tiny organelles inside your cells that create the vast majority of energy in your body, lending them the nickname the ‘powerhouse’ of the cell. When mito break down, the body encounters tremendous stress as it tries to continue meeting all your energy demands. Tissue breaks down under this stress and cells become frayed and ragged, triggering even more inflammation. You can even see this red, ragged appearance on biopsy in migraine and chronic pain patients. This additional inflammation creates more cell dysfunction and the cycle goes on and on. Research demonstrates the more severe and frequent the migraines, the more dysfunctional the mito. Nearly every step of the energy-making process in the mito breaks down, and energy output becomes a fraction of a healthy, normal cell’s energy creation. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for healing cells and protecting mitochondria. Supporting energy-production in the cells with wise dietary choices and purging the cells of inflammatory ‘gunk’ via exercise and monitored fasting helps get cellular health and energy production back on track. When your cells have the support they need to operate smoothly, this inflammatory cycle can finally turn off.
3. Dysfunctional Metabolism
The third step will determine if any other large metabolic problems prevent your body from getting rid of migraines for good. Some common metabolic causes of migraine include: multiple nutrient deficiency (chronic inflammation burns up nutrients), H. pylori infection in your intestines (a common cause of migraine), hormone imbalances (e.g. thyroid, estrogen), environmental chemicals (smog, pesticides, plastics, heavy metals) and issues controlling blood sugar (spikes and crashes), as well as general stress level. The protocol I prescribe addresses nerves, mito, and metabolism at the same time. Throughout the program, we track your progress using research-verified questionnaires. These questionnaires demonstrate how your pain and function change as we walk through the treatment plan together. If you’ve never experienced how a holistic program like Dr. Max’s Migraine Minimizer can help bring about the life you’ve always wanted. As always, we love teaching new patients and their families how to live a fuller, happier lives.