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Migraines: A Pain in the Neck

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Various studies show up to 87 percent of migraine patients experience tightness, stiffness or pain in their necks, either before or during an attack.

Spine image

Migraines are the third most prevalent illness in the world. An estimated 15% of the population suffer from migraines. That makes migraines more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.

Migraines are considered a neurological disorder with incapacitating neurological symptoms that can include visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, and touch among other things. Along with these neurological symptoms, 75% of patients report the migraine attack radiating from their neck to their head - highlighting the relationship between neck pain and migraines.

The importance of the Upper Neck and Migraines

The upper neck, or upper cervical (UC), region of the spine is one of the most complex, intricate and delicate joints in the entire human body. This joint is formed when the skull meets the first vertebrae in your spine, Atlas (C1), and is a critical area for blood and nerve flow to and from the brain.

Cervical spine and associated anatomy

Recently, there have been several studies conducted by both the field of medicine as well as the field of chiropractic regarding the correlation between Migraines and dysfunction in the UC region.

Dr. Scott Rosa, an Upper Cervical Chiropractor, has been conducting research with Dr. Raymond Damadian, a Medical Doctor and inventor of the MRI, and what they have discovered could give those who suffer from migraines the answer that they have been searching for. By using upright MRI’s, Blood Flow and CSF studies, they believe they have found one of the major causes of migraine headaches.

Dr. Rosa and Dr. Damadian have provided studies with images to show how the upper neck misalignment is affecting the flow of spinal fluid as well as blood flow (more about blood flow disruption and migraine here). What is more impressive is that Dr. Rosa has also provided images after adjusting the upper neck that shows a complete reversal of the condition. Dr. Damadian has even stated publicly that adjusting the Atlas (C1) is a missing link in health care.

While chiropractors, who specialize in the correction of the upper cervical spine have always had great success with migraine sufferers, this new research can pinpoint the exact reason why.

How do these misalignments occur?

The upper neck is a very mobile area, this is why the head and neck can move much more than any other area of the spine. However, all of this mobility sacrifices stability, which makes this area very prone to injury.

The majority of upper neck misalignments will begin with some type of trauma either major or micro traumas. Major traumas will include things such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, hits to the head etc. Micro traumas can be things that we do on an everyday basis, that accumulate and can cause damage. These include chronically poor posture, bad sleep positioning, bad work ergonomics etc.

It is commonly thought that symptoms will occur within hours to days after an accident or injury. However, recent research as well as clinical findings, show that there could be a delay of onset of symptoms, such as headache or migraine, and it may take months or even years after a trauma has occurred.

What are your options?

Most current treatment focuses on the changes going on in the brain, but if the problem is starting in the Cervical spine, or neck, these treatments may only be moderately effective, and in some cases not effective at all.

The most common treatments for migraines have been limited to pain medication (read more about medications here), anti- depressants, and now Botox injections. While these methods may reduce the suffering of the patient, they are only temporary and do not get to the real cause of the migraines. Up to this point there has not been much help or relief at getting to the true cause of this condition, until now.

With the new found research and ability to correct upper cervical misalignments, we are giving new hope to individuals suffering from this debilitating condition.

For more information on Migraines and Upper Cervical click here


Flanagan M. F. (2015). The Role of the Craniocervical Junction in Craniospinal Hydrodynamics and Neurodegenerative Conditions. Neurology research international, 2015, 794829.

Fleminger, S., & Ponsford, J. (2005). Long term outcome after traumatic brain injury. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 331(7530), 1419–1420.

Rosa, Scott (2018). Craniocervical Junction Syndrome: Anatomy of the Craniocervical and Atlantoaxial Junctions and the Effect of Misalignment on Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow, Hydrocephalus - Water on the Brain, Bora Gürer, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.72890.Available from:

About the Author

Dr. Culig

Dr. Culig became interested in migraines because his younger sister suffered from them since she was 13 years old. Since then, he has sought out natural ways to treat migraines without the use of drugs or surgery. As a Doctor of Chiropractic, he has spent over 100 hours in post-graduate courses regarding the Upper Cervical spine. He is currently enrolled in a 3-year diplomate program focused on upper cervical spine and related neurovascular conditions such as Migraine and Vertigo. Once completed, he will be the only Doctor in Atlanta Metro with his DCCJP.

For more information on Migraines and Upper Cervical click here

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