Migraines and Eye pain are associated
Migraine relief can come from addressing the discoordination of eye muscles with muscles in the neck and trunk. Migraine headaches are associated with eye pain and light sensitivity. A sub-type of migraine is an ocular migraine, which presents with visual symptoms. Ocular migraines are further divided into migraines with auras and retinal migraines. An aura may occur in up to a third of patients with migraines, but photophobia and light sensitivity are much more prevalent; occasionally even between migraine attacks. Many people also report blurred vision with migraines. The connections between oculomotor functioning and migraine are fairly robust. While eye movement repatterning won’t address the neurological source of migraines directly, it can significantly reduce the severity and length of symptoms. Further, it can reduce the frequency of attacks, offering migraine relief to those who suffer.
Inability to dissociate eye movements from neck movements contributes to migraines
I had an online consultation with a client who suffers debilitating migraines. She had migraines for 6-8 days of every month. She had suffered with these debilitating migraines for over a decade. After reading some of my Instagram posts about concussions, she reached out to me hoping for some migraine relief.
When doing the cervical movement exam I noticed a lag in the movement of her eyes to the right. When she turned her head to the right her eyes didn’t lead, they followed. This was strange. We skipped straight to an eye movement exam. (Which, by the way, is challenging but not impossible to perform on yourself.)
The exam gave me enough information to go on. There were movements that this client could not perform with her eyes alone. Her neck was doing the movements for her. When I asked her to look up right she wouldn’t even notice that she had moved her whole body so her eyes actually stayed around the midline. The ability to dissociate eye movements from neck and intrinsic core movements is CRITICAL for functional and easeful movement through the whole body. When they can’t dissociate migraine symptoms get much worse. When the eye, neck, and midline movements don’t dissociate from each other there are corresponding compensation patterns that cause a rigid neck and torso. This often presents as neck and back pain.
Eye movement rehab leads to migraine relief
I had the client examine her own eye muscles and then perform several exercises. After a few minutes, she reported a significant change in the tension in her face! She was now able to perform eye movements which previously she been unable to do. We both felt optimistic about these results. I gave her some daily exercises and told her to contact me after doing them for a while. I heard back from her after 12 days. She hadn’t had a migraine since her appointment, and couldn’t believe how different the area around her eyes felt. I’m looking forward to hearing more updates during our next consultation.
If you suffer from migraines the American Migraine Foundation has some useful resources on its website. If you are in the Kitchener Waterloo area and have migraines you can book an appointment for an assessment. For online consultations contact me by email email@example.com.