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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.

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