Headaches, migraines, and athletes seem to go hand-in-hand. It is often assumed these headaches and migraines are due to a concussion. However, a new case study and literature review shows they may actually be the result of a disorder referred to as trauma-triggered migraines (TTMs).
The above-mentioned study involved a 16-year-old high school student who played football. He had consistent recurrent headaches that had plagued him over the previous two seasons. The headaches began after he had endured a head trauma when he was playing football. They did not come about during any other activities. His most recent encounter with migraines began after he made head-to-head contact with a teammate in an attempt to make a tackle. The head pain got more and more intense but finally went away. He did not have any other signs of a concussion. His head pain was constant, but non-throbbing with sensitivity to light. Migraines ran in his family, as his father and younger sister both had them. Because his migraines seemed to be associated with hitting his head, he was diagnosed with a concussion and restricted from playing sports until his symptoms went away. However, the initial diagnosis was reconsidered and he was then diagnosed as having trauma-triggered migraines. What are these exactly?
What Characterizes Trauma-Triggered Migraines?
TTMs are tricky to diagnose. They are often mistaken for concussions or a hematoma. Here are some things commonly seen with trauma-triggered migraines:
- They are usually a classic migraine with aura (head pain begins after having a type of warning sign about an hour before, including things such as visual disturbances, food cravings, numbness, and tingling, or speech and language problems.)
- They happen most commonly in children and adolescents with a family history of migraines (There is a 70 percent chance a parent or sibling also has migraines.)
- Associated with neurological problems that can last for a few hours or many days
- Blindness and paralysis on one side of the body may initially occur
- MRI and CT scans are normal
- A concussion can occur at the same time as TTMs
- Symptoms may overlap a concussion
- Puts the person at greater risk for a brain injury from trauma
There are no distinct symptoms to distinguish a TTM from a concussion because head pain is the most common complaint in both. So, how do doctors know which condition is to be diagnosed? If an athlete has recurrent headaches that come about after trauma with symptoms consistent with a migraine and a family history of migraines, it is important to consider they may possibly have a trauma-triggered migraine. Dr. William P. Meehan, III, Director of Sports Concussion Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital and MomsTEAM expert, relays that the diagnosis of concussion versus TTMs is mostly based on history. There is no lab test that can differentiate between the two. He continues to state that parents, athletes, and doctors must be careful when attempting to distinguish between both of these conditions.
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Caring for Trauma Triggered Migraines
After this condition is diagnosed, your family physician may recommend the following ways to care for it. However, please note the listed side effects that come along with some of these medications so as to make an informed decision. Then, read further to find a natural and safe way to care for these migraines.
- Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and triptans
- Beta-blockers (metoprolol and propanol) *these should not be given to patients with asthma
- Antiepileptics (valproic acid and topiramate)
- Side effects or topiramate:
- Paresthesia – the feeling of pins and needles or like a limb falling asleep
- Hypohyrosis – excessive sweating leading to hyperthermia (high body temp) and fatigue which may cause heat injuries in a very active athlete
- Cognitive problems
- Weight loss
- Renal stones
- Side effects of valproic acid:
- Weight gain
- Side effects or topiramate:
- Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline)
- Effective anti-migraine medication without side effects which would impact athletic performance
- Side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Cardiac arrhythmia — this is rare, but it is recommended an EKG be done before starting this medication to rule out a rare congenital heart disease called Long QT Syndrome
Migraine Natural Relief Rochester MN
Finding a Natural Way to Help Trauma-Triggered Migraines
After considering the above information, many parents are leery about giving their child any medication. On the other hand, they do not want their child to continue to suffer through severe trauma-triggered migraines. If this is your situation, you will be happy to hear about a natural, safe way to care for migraines no matter why you are experiencing them. Upper cervical chiropractors are having positive results when caring for their patients suffering from various kinds of migraines and headaches. Why is this the case?
The neck is the key here. The top bones of the neck, the C1 and C2 vertebrae, are responsible for acting as a protection to the delicate brainstem. The brainstem is the communication highway of the body. Signals are constantly being sent to and from the brain and body via the brainstem. If the bones of the upper neck happen to move out of alignment, they can put the brainstem under stress or pressure and cause it to malfunction. A misalignment here can also block the flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid from leaving and entering the brain. This is the perfect scenario for migraines to develop.
Upper cervical chiropractors are specifically trained to find the misalignments in the bones of the upper neck. We then use a gentle method to bring them back into alignment. This does not require us to pop or crack the neck or spine. Rather, we encourage the bones to realign naturally without adding further stress to the neck. Many see a vast improvement in their migraines in only one or two adjustments.
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