A 2005 study has exposed some intriguing facts about migraines and asthma. While their exact relation is uncertain, it appears that the nervous system is their common link. In this post, we’ll look into these two conditions and how a glitch of the nervous system may be to blame for their occurrence.
What Are Migraines?
Migraines are more than severe headaches. Instead, they are a group of neurological symptoms that can be extremely debilitating for anyone. Some of the common migraine symptoms are listed below:
- Throbbing or pounding head pain, typically on one side
- Visual disturbances
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells
- Tingling or numbness in the limbs or face
- Attacks that last between 4 and 72 hours
Migraines are the third most common illness in the world with over 1 billion sufferers. In the United States, they afflict 39 million people including men, women, and children. Women experience migraines three times more often than men, due to their fluctuating hormones. Migraines are mostly seen in adults ages between 25 and 55 years.
Doctors can’t tell exactly why migraines happen, but a genetic connection has been recognized. Migraines may also be credited to the narrowing of blood vessels or a malfunction of the central nervous system. It has been noted that many migraine sufferers have a misalignment in the bones of their upper cervical spine due to a history of trauma in the head or neck. This can be a result of sporting accidents, car accidents, or a simple trip and fall.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic illness of the airways that makes breathing a challenge. It occurs when the air passageways become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Some of the common asthma symptoms are as follows:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to talk
- Decreased activity
Asthma afflicts around 26 million people in the United States and is the reason behind 2 million trips to the emergency room yearly. It has multiple triggers that vary for every person and the situation they are in. Allergies are a big factor for those with asthma. Doctors also credit genetics for asthma as many asthma patients have family members that also have the condition.
The Role of the Nervous System
The nervous system consists of these two main parts:
- The central nervous system: Composed of the brain and spinal cord
- The peripheral nervous system: Consisting of nerve fibers which branch off from the spinal cord and extend to various parts of the body such as the arms, torso, legs, skeletal muscles, and internal organs
The brain transmits signals via the spinal cord and nerves of the peripheral system to regulate the movement of the muscles and how the internal organs function. Neurons are the fundamental units of the nervous system. As many as 1 billion neurons are present in the brain. They communicate with each other and release neurotransmitters. Motor neurons forward messages from the brain to control voluntary movement. Sensory neurons perceive light, taste, sound, odor, heat, and pressure, and tell the brain what is happening.
The nervous system is also responsible for other functions including involuntary processes, such as the following:
- Dilation of the eyes
- Regulation of the digestive system
- The release of hormones like adrenaline
- Any automatic courses that take place naturally without our control
The Links Between Migraines, Asthma, and the Nervous System
A study conducted from 2008 – 2009 observed 4,446 individuals with episodic migraines. Out of them, 746 had asthma. Researchers utilized a Respiratory Symptom Severity Score to determine how severe their asthma was and how it impacted the onset of episodic migraines. Here’s what they discovered: Patients with asthma are two times more likely to develop chronic migraines. Those patients who scored high on the asthma test had an even greater risk of developing chronic migraines later on in life.
According to researchers, inflammation may contribute to both migraines and asthma. Asthma is due to inflammation of the smooth muscle in the airways, while migraines are caused by inflammation of blood vessels. What’s the role of the nervous system in all of this?
The nervous system is the connection that directs signals to the nerves and tells them whether to dilate or constrict certain passageways in the body, including blood vessels. It also regulates inflammation. This makes it clear that if something is hindering the function of the nervous system, it can impact the other systems of the body.
Upper Cervical Misalignments Can Cause Migraines and Asthma
The brainstem that sends signals to the brain is protected by the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae of the upper cervical spine. These bones are vulnerable to misaligning due to their shape and location. If a misalignment occurs in this part, pressure is put on the brainstem, leading to the relaying of incorrect signals to and from the brain and body. This can result in inflammation and the narrowing of blood vessels.
Upper cervical chiropractors recognize the delicate construction that exists in this part of the neck. Our objective is to correct any misalignment that might exist in our patient’s upper cervical area. We do a thorough checkup and use scientific measurements and imaging to locate any misalignments. Once the specific needs of the patient are determined, we use a gentle technique to realign the bones naturally based on each individual case. We practice painless adjustments, without having to pop or crack the spine. This results in a longer-lasting adjustment that means fewer clinic visits and less money spent down the road.