What You Don’t Know About Chronic Migraine Headaches

Chronic Migraine Headaches

Chronic migraine headaches are defined as having a headache 4 hours per day for 15 days each month for 3 months.  People with chronic migraines are likely to miss 5+ days of work, school, or family time over those 3 months!

I am going to cover the cause, triggers, and treatment options available for chronic migraine sufferers.  Chronic migraine headaches increase your risk of developing certain psychiatric disorders, such as major depression.(1)

Cause of Chronic Migraine Headaches

Migraines Headaches are caused by a change in blood flow to certain areas of the brain.  The change could be more blood flow or less.

The area of the brain affected will correspond with your symptoms.  For example, if the part of you brain that interprets what we hear is affected, then you could end up with sensitivity to sound.

Medicine currently doesn’t know why this change in blood flow happens, but there are a number of things you can do to help with chronic migraine headaches.

Migraine Headache Symptoms

Are you sure it is a chronic migraine headache? 

Classic Migraines have nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light & sound (photophobia & phonophobia), pulsating pain, and may have an aura.  For some people, the aura comes before the headache, almost like a warning.  This is called a prodromal aura

Common Migraines (more common) generally do not have an aura, but may have some of the other symptoms described above.  Chronic Migraine Headaches could be either classic, common, or both.

To learn more about the distinctions between chronic migraine headaches and other headaches, visit our headache page.

Migraine Triggers

Triggers for migraines are numerous, but finding your personal triggers can help you prevent a headache from starting.  Have you noticed if any of the following affect you?

Chronic Migraine Headache sufferers

Photo used under creative commons from lel4nd

  • Stress
  • Hormones (Menstrual Migraines)
  • Exertion, Exercise, or Activity
  • Missing/skipping Meal’s
  • Changing sleep patterns
  • Weather
  • Odors
  • Neck Pain
  • Lights
  • Alcohol/Dehydration
  • Smoke
  • Heat
  • Diet(i.e. caffeine, sodium, etc)

Conservative Treatment of Chronic Migraine Headaches

The #1 best way to find the true cause behind your chronic migraines is to keep a detailed migraine diary.  There is even an App for that in the Apple Store!  Do a quick online search for “Migraine Diaries” and you will find many different ones.  Find one you like that has triggers listed on it and that you will use!

If you have neck or shoulder pain, and even if you don’t, please consider going to see a chiropractorWhen we adjust your spine, we stimulate nerves that control blood flow, the cause of migraine headaches!!!  I personally see many migraine headache patients, some chronic and some not.  I don’t help everyone, but most patients experience fewer headaches while receiving chiropractic care.

Biofeedback teaches you to control functions of your body that are usually automatic such as temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.  I don’t need to explain any further why that might help you control blood flow to your brain and chronic migraine headaches.

Eliminate as many triggers as you can – if you chronic migraine headaches lessen then reintroduce items slowly until you realize what your trigger was.

Relax in a warm bath in a dark room.

Lay on your back with a small rolled up towel and ice pack under your neck.  For some of my patients, this stops the migraine in its tracks after it has started.

Supplements such as fever-few, magnesium citrate, vitamin D, and Co Q10 may help with chronic migraine headaches (as well as many other chronic diseases)

Medical Treatment of Chronic Migraine Headache

There are many medications available for migraine headache sufferer’s.  Only about 40% of those with migraine headaches use prescription medications while the others use no drugs or over the counter medications.  Talk to your primary care doctor about these medications.  You can read about them in the clinical reference provided below.

Sometimes surgery may help correct the cause of chronic migraine headaches.  Termed occipital neuralgia, nerve bundles in the back of the head can become compressed leading to headaches that seemingly never go away.  Surgery is done to decompress the area.  Holistically, I would recommend losing weight if necessary and also supplements that would encourage relaxation of soft tissues for a few months before considering such a surgery.


As general helpful advice keep a migraine diary, get at least eight hours of sleep, lower your stress, follow a low carbohydrate diet, exercise regularly, avoid caffeine, and don’t drink soda.

Have you tried any of these chronic migraine headache treatments?


(1) 21st Century Prevention and Management of Migraine Headaches – http://www.ninds.nih.gov/doctors/OP129A_Clinician_fa.pdf

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