It is estimated that 37 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. Researchers say this is over 13% of adults and equates to having a migraine sufferer in 1 out of every 4 households.

Many of those suffering from migraine headaches report: the inability to function during migraine attacks, having to miss work and school, losing time with friends and family, and also having intimacy and relationship problems as a result of migraines.

Statistics show migraine headache sufferers are twice as likely to visit the ER or their primary care doctor and on average they use two times the amount of prescription drugs as those not suffering from migraine symptoms. Plus, these visits come with a price. Reports show that migraine sufferers spend an additional 40% more money on healthcare costs than non-sufferers.

The Cause

The question that every migraine headache sufferer has asked their doctor and asked Google a dozen times is, “What causes Migraines?”   The toughest part of this question is the answer most people get. “We don’t know exactly”. What could be more frustrating than that! 37 million Americans are affected by this condition and there is no known cause?

Some doctors say it’s environmental or family related. Many also point to chemical imbalances in the body. However, people in all parts of the United States suffer from migraines fairly equally, and it is very common for someone in the family to be a migraine headache sufferer even though no one else in the family has ever experienced one at all. And if a chemical imbalance is the issue, wouldn’t migraines resolve after correcting the chemical imbalance with prescription drugs?

The “Real” Cause of a Migraine Headache

Upper Cervical Chiropractic researchers decided to take on the task of identifying what the “real cause” is behind migraines. And their results have been quite shocking.

They started by performing detailed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on migraine sufferers. The images, primarily focused on the head and neck, revealed a striking consistency between sufferers.

Using mathematical equations, they were able to identify the flow of blood into and out of the head. They were also able to do the same for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is simply the fluid that baths the brain and spinal cord. It provides nourishment and helps flush toxins.

The rate of this flow funneled down to something they called “compliance”. This term is used to describe the flexibility of a tube (or blood vessel in this case). It describes the tubes ability to expand when more fluid and pressure is pumped through it, and to contract when fluid and pressure was pumped out of it.

As it happened to be, the migraine sufferers lacked the ability for the vessels in their head to expand easily. When more fluid and pressure was pumped through their vessels, a problem was created. The same went for the tubes and channels that carried the CSF.

The problem that developed was elevated pressure! Pressure inside the head is called intracranial pressure and is almost never a good thing. What this pressure did was add strain on the brain, brainstem, spinal cord and the nerves of the head, known as cranial nerves. This elevation in pressure is potentially the primary cause of neurological symptoms, including migraine headaches!

Cause and Effect

So now we know the cause. But is the cause actually an effect? By this I mean is it possible that there is something else that caused the blood vessels in the head to no longer be able to expand properly? That was the next step for Upper Cervical Chiropractic researchers to address.

Now, they took another set of images of the migraine headache sufferers to see what else could be found. Those images were x-rays of the head and neck and they too revealed striking information. All of the migraine sufferers studied were measured to have what the researchers called an Atlas Subluxation Complex. In the simplest terms, this meant the top of their spine was crooked and out of balance.

The Atlas is the top vertebra of the spine and surrounds the brainstem. The brainstem is the vital connection between the brain and spinal cord and is also one of your bodies control centers for blood vessel compliance, aka expandability.

They found that this imbalance in this part of the spine, led to pressure on the brainstem affecting its function. What is quite interesting is that Mayo Hospital also commented on “what causes migraines?” and that statement read as follows:

Though migraine causes aren’t understood…migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem”!

This was a tremendous evolution and brought even more conclusion to what the problem really was.

Fixing the Problem

The next step for the Upper Cervical Chiropractic researchers was to attempt to solve the problem. They reviewed the x-ray images taken from those suffering from migraine symptoms. They used a detailed analysis method know as NUCCA which stands for the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association. Following their analysis, each patient received an Upper Cervical Chiropractic correction to their spine. The goal was to reposition the Atlas bone and surrounding structures in order to remove pressure from the brainstem.


Low and behold, it worked! And it didn’t just work for one patient, it worked for almost everyone involved in the study. Following the NUCCA spinal correction, the same MRI and pain studies were measured and here is what they found:

  1. Migraine headache symptom reduction for patients after the NUCCA spinal correction.

Migraine Reduction Graph

2.  “findings suggest an improved change in the blood flow and CSF flow following the atlas correction.”

3.  Raymond Damadian (inventor of the MRI Machine) measured a decrease in CSF head pressure by almost 30% for those receiving an optimal Atlas realignment!

4.  Vessel compliance was first measured at 9.4 units. Four weeks after the Atlas realignment, the compliance increased to 17.5 units. (This means the vessels going to the brain were now working almost 2x’s better after the correction!)

5.  A similar study of the NUCCA spinal correction to the Atlas vertebra showed a reduction in headache and migraine pain. Before the correction, migraine sufferers average pain was a 5.73 out of 10. Following the Atlas correction pain reduced to an average of 1.26 out of 10!

Based on what they found in this study, Upper Cervical Chiropractic researchers were able to conclude that a misalignment at the top of the spine often leads to brainstem and spinal pressure, which can then cause pressure to build up in the head. This can eventually lead to neurological problems including migraine headaches.

Even further, they could conclude that by correcting the spinal imbalance, they could remove the pressure from the brainstem and spine, thus diminishing pressure inside the head, reducing and alleviating migraine symptoms!

Are you a Migraine Headache Sufferer?

The researchers went one step further to find out if there were similar factors at play in migraine sufferers past, that may have led to their problem. And indeed one was found. Researchers discovered that “85% of the study subjects had a previous history of concussion or neck and head injury”. This type of accident or injury has been concluded to be a common cause of Atlas spinal misalignment.

This special type of migraine headache relief is changing lives for those suffering from migraine symptoms. This relief method is known as NUCCA and stands for National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association. If you or someone you know is struggling with the tragic effects of migraine headache symptoms, call your local NUCCA Chiropractor to request a consultation.  

There are only 250 specially trained NUCCA Chiropractors in the world, including only 1 office in all of New Jersey. Dr. Liz & Dr. Zach Molland of Molland Spinal Care are the NUCCA Chiropractors and their office is located in Middletown, NJ.

We specialize in helping people with migraine symptoms every day. And we would love to help you as well. If you have questions, please visit our website or feel free to give us a call.

Remember, your first visit is a conversation, not a commitment.

Schedule My Evaluation!

Molland Spinal Care doctors are Middletown Upper Cervical Chiropractors trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA).  Our NUCCA Clinic has helped many people find natural relief from post-concussion syndrome in Middletown, New Jersey.  As NUCCA Chiropractors we are uniquely trained to correct problems in the Upper Cervical Spine (upper neck).  This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different problems.  More information can be found on our website at https://www.mollandspinalcare.com

Resources and Useful Links

  • Migraine.com
  • Mayo Clinic
  • NUCCA Research on Migraine Headaches
    • H. Charles Woodfield III, D. Gordon Hasick, Werner J. Becker, Marianne S. Rose, and James N. Scott . Effect of Atlas Vertebrae Realignment in Subjects with Migraine: An Observational Pilot Study. BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 630472, 18 pages
  • NUCCA Chiropractor Dr. Marshall Dickholtz Research on Migraine Headaches
    • Dickholtz, M. Summary of Headache Research Study. Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research.
  • NUCCA Association
  • Journal of Migraines Headaches
    • Improved Quality of Life for Migraine Sufferers. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/630472/