Trigger Point Therapy - Migraine Headaches
Migraine is a neurological disease characterised by recurrent moderate to severe headaches
A migraine headache is described as a throbbing, pounding, or pulsating pain and is often associated with specific and characteristic autonomic nervous system (ANS) symptoms.
Typically, headache affects half of the head (hemicranial) but may occur on both sides or oscillate from side to side.
Migraines generally last from 2 to 72 hours. The pain can be made worse by movement, coughing, straining, or flexing the head.
The "Spider Technique" for Treating Migraines
Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. The pain is generally made worse by physical activity.
Up to one-third of people with migraine headaches perceive an aura - a transient visual, sensory, language, or motor disturbance that signals that the headache will soon occur (aura).
A migraine without an aura (common migraine) may be preceded by mental fuzziness, mood changes, fatigue, and an unusual retention of fluids.
Occasionally, an aura can occur with little or no headache following it.
Temporalis Trigger Points are often associated with Migraine
Causes of migraines
According to the ‘Migraine Trust’, the exact cause of migraine is not fully understood.
Migraine has long been observed to run in families (about two-thirds of cases) so it is thought that there is a genetic component.
In fact, recent research has identified genes for rare types of migraine.
People who get migraines may have certain abnormal genes that control the functions of specific brain cells.
Current research is focused around the notion that people who have migraine have a hyper sensitive or ‘hyper- excitable’ cortex as a result of aberrant neurones in the trigeminal cortex of the brainstem.
The implications are that the sensitivity threshold is lower in this group than the normal population.
This degree of sensitivity is possibly genetically determined, influencing the threshold for triggering attacks.
The trigeminal nerve is long and has a cervical branch that loops all the way down to C3.
En-route the nerve puts out branches that supply the joints, discs, ligaments and arteries. It has been suggested that any of the structures in these areas as well as muscular trigger points in the region may contribute to this ‘input’.
Migraine symptoms are also thought to be due to abnormal changes in levels of substances that are naturally produced in the brain.
Until fairly recently it was a commonly held view that an alteration in chemical substances such as serotonin and other vaso-stimulatory neurotransmitters affected the blood vessels in the brain (vascular system input), causing them to become inflamed and swollen, resulting in a migraine headaches.
However, changes in blood vessels are now thought to be secondary to more important changes in brain chemistry.
We do know that people with migraines react to a variety of factors and events.
These "triggers" can vary from person to person and don’t always lead to migraine. A combination of triggers — not a single thing or event — is more likely to set off an attack and each persons response to triggers can vary from migraine to migraine.
The four stages of migraine
Typically migraines go through four distinct phases:
1. The prodrome, which occurs hours or days before the headache (60%)
2. The aura, which immediately precedes the headache visual disturbance (99%), sensory effects (50%) lasting for about an hour
3. The pain phase, also known as headache phase. Classically throbbing with moderate to severe pain and aggravated by physical activity. Frequently associated with nausea and vomiting, photophobia, phonophobia and sensitivity to smell. Swelling or tenderness of the scalp may occur as can neck stiffness.
4. The postdrome - the effects experienced following the end of a migraine attack.
The effects of migraine may persist for some days after the main headache has ended.
The patient may feel tired or ‘hung over’ and have head pain, cognitive difficulties, gastrointestinal symptoms, mood changes, and weakness.
Trigger Points and Migraine
Studies have identified the connection between migraine and trigger points.
In one recent study (Calandre), trigger points were found in 94% of migraines.
The number of individual migraine trigger points varied from zero to 14, and was found to be related to both the frequency of migraine attacks, and the duration of the disease.
Approximately 75% of the total detected trigger points were found in temporalis and/or suboccipital (obliquus capitis) areas.
Other locations were mainly found in patients showing more than four trigger points and included the orbicularis occuli and occipitofrontalis.
Using light, rolling moves on the body, Bowen technique works on the skeletal, circulatory and nervous systems. The moves help the body release tension patterns, improve muscle flexibility and increase circulation. It also treats illnesses such as migraines, pain, and stroke recovery. In addition, it is safe for children and the elderly.
Unlike other treatments, Bowen therapy does not involve forceful manipulation or lotions. Instead, the practitioner uses a series of light prods to work on specific areas of the body. The therapist pauses between each move to allow the body to respond. Depending on the size of the area being treated, each move may take between two and five minutes. The practitioner also leaves the room to let the body rest between each series of movements. This allows the body to heal itself.
Aside from the benefits that come with being more limber, more flexible and less painful, Bowen therapy has been shown to reduce stress, relieve discomfort, increase energy levels, and ease headaches and migraines. It may also be used as a complementary treatment to other medical procedures. However, if you are considering trying this form of treatment, you should speak with your doctor before you begin.
It is important to note that the benefits of this form of therapy are largely anecdotal. While there are a few high quality studies proving the efficacy of Bowen, there is not a lot of research available on the actual efficacy of the procedure. In fact, most studies are of low quality. A study from 2020 found a small but statistically significant reduction in pain after a Bowen treatment. While no one has been able to replicate this result, it suggests that the therapy does work.
The main benefit of the technique is that it treats the entire body. When performed on an adult, it usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. The practitioner performs a series of light prods and rolls over the area of the body that needs to be worked on. This technique can be done directly onto the skin or through loose clothing. It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing for the treatment.
While the best results will vary depending on the area being worked on, a Bowen session can significantly reduce the pain and discomfort associated with many common ailments. In fact, many patients report that they no longer experience aches and pains after their first session. A few sessions are enough to see the benefits of the Bowen Technique, but a person may require more than this for chronic conditions. The technique may also be beneficial in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments, including back and neck pain.
The Bowen Technique is a very relaxing, noninvasive, and safe procedure. A Bowen therapist can provide you with a thorough assessment of your health, and help you determine which treatments would be most effective for you. While the method is not regulated, there are a few national organizations that can give you more information about the therapy.