Vestibular Migraine

vesitbular migraine flow osteopathy mitcham
Melbourne osteopath Tim discusses what vestibular migraine is and how treatment can help.

If you’re someone who lives with vestibular migraine, you know that it can have a big effect on your day to day life. Not only are the many and varied symptoms unpleasant, it can have an effect on your confidence when completing even the most simple tasks.

Whilst this is a subtype of migraine, and shares many similarities it is important to understand that treating this condition is its own distinct challenge. It is important that the approach is patient centred and holistic as what works for one person will not always work for another.

People often associate the word ‘migraine’ with ‘headache’, and whilst headache is common in migraine it can be absent in vestibular migraine. What vestibular migraine does have in common with migraine more generally is a hyper-sensitivity in areas of the brainstem responsible for processing sensory information. In this case, areas that are responsible for our sense of balance.

This hyper-sensitivity is what distinguishes it from other types of balance/dizziness disorders, where there may be a mechanical issue (such as BPPV) or a structural change in the inner ear.

Symptoms of Vestibular Migraine

Vestibular migraine is a spectrum disorder and the presentation can be different from one person to another. The episodes of vertigo can last from seconds to days and can even be a constant issue. Sometimes there is a history of migraine and/or motion sickness.

There are a variety of ways vestibular migraine can present.

The most common symptoms are:

  • feeling off balance
  • vertigo

Other symptoms can include:

  • brain fog
  • nausea
  • headache
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • fatigue

One symptom that can also arise is an uneasy feeling when staring at complex patterns or shapes.

Vestibular Migraine and the Neck

The upper neck may have an effect on vestibular migraine by increasing sensitivity in the vestibular complex, located in the brainstem. This is the area of our brain where our spatial awareness is controlled.

The muscles in our upper neck are the most sensitive to movement of any other in the body. They contain a high number of ‘muscle spindles’ which communicate information to our brain about the position of our head and neck. In fact, they have five times more muscle spindles per gram than the next most sensitive muscles in our body. If these muscles are in spasm or dysfunctional it may contribute to the sensitivity in the vestibular complex.

The aim of the Watson Approach is to correct the issues with the upper neck that lead to this muscle spasm. If we can successfully correct this issue it can create significant, lasting improvements for people living with vestibular migraine.

Preventative medications such as TCAs and Topiramate can be a fantastic resource for symptom suppression and prevention. Our aim is to help people living with vestibular migraine reduce their reliance on medications and regain confidence in their day to day activities.

If you are interested in learning more about how this may be able to help, feel free to book a free phone call and we can discuss your experience and answer any questions you may have.

Website: Migraine Australia, ‘Vestibular Migraine’

Website: VEDA, ‘Vestibular Migraine

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