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Erasing Migraines: An M.D. Turns to Chiropractic

Stress, sleep deprivation and fatigue have been no small component of
Dr. Michael Benson’s life. As a fetal surgeon, Benson is often up
for 24- to 36-hour stretches at a time looking after patients. He has little
time to rest or eat regular, healthy meals. It’s no wonder he has
suffered from migraines for years.

Benson is not alone. It’s estimated that 28 million
Americans suffer from migraines. As anyone who experiences these intense
headaches can tell you, they can be extremely debilitating. Acute pain,
possible visual disturbances and nausea, as well as sensitivity to light,
sounds and odors can render a person incapable of going about everyday
responsibilities, much less performing complicated tasks like surgery.

In order to cope, Benson has used Ibuprofen and heat to manage the pain,
but sometimes it doesn’t work. “I used to keep a preloaded
syringe of Toradol [a strong, anti-inflammatory pain reliever] in my medicine
chest,” he admits, “because once my headaches get really bad,
I get nauseated and can’t take anything by mouth. It saved having
to go to the ER.”

Having trained as an M.D., Benson confessed that chiropractic treatment
wasn’t in his knowledgebase or on his immediate list of pain-relieving
measures. In fact, if he hadn’t been visiting his brother, a doctor
of chiropractic, when a bad migraine hit, he may never have received chiropractic
care. “The Ibuprofen didn’t work, so my brother offered to
examine me and adjust my neck,” he says. “When you’re
in pain, you’re willing to try anything.” Within 10 to 15 minutes
of the adjustment, his migraine had disappeared.

It’s likely that Benson’s body reacts to stress by tensing
muscles around the cervical joints in the neck, causing nerves in his neck
to become impinged and triggering his migraines. Chiropractic adjustment
alleviates this pain by relaxing muscles and promoting a full range of
motion in the neck, allowing the headache to subside. And Benson’s
positive experience isn’t uncommon. Recent studies at Duke University
found that spinal manipulation was almost always immediately effective
in relieving headaches originating in the neck and provided longer-lasting
relief than commonly prescribed pain medications.

Benson’s migraines probably won’t go away completely without
substantial lifestyle changes— changes that could be tough to implement
with his profession. Once migraines are an established pattern, they are
very difficult to get rid of, explains his brother. But he can work
to minimize them with chiropractic care— a solution that doesn’t
carry the potential side-effects of over-the-counter and prescription pain
medication. Whenever a potentially incapacitating migraine hits and Benson
gets an adjustment from his brother, “It always works,” he
says.