I had never really given much thought into chiropractic care until I had headaches in my early 20s that would not go away with over-the-counter medication, but weren’t as bad as migraines requiring stronger medication that I wasn’t keen on trying regardless. Jay also had such bad rib pain one time in university that he couldn’t even bend over to put his socks on. The family doctor prescribed Tylenol #3 for Jay’s pain and it didn’t do a thing to help him. His parents recommended going to a chiropractor for both of us, and I was very skeptical and did not want to go. However, I’m glad we both ended up going because after a few adjustments my headaches went away, and it turned out Jay had dislocated a rib or two and as soon as it was adjusted, he felt instantly better and could put his socks on again.
Chiropractic care helped me cope with awful sacroiliac joint pain in all of my pregnancies and we even took Braden and Ethan in for adjustments when they were babies. We only go for chiropractic now when we have an acute problem, but I have started taking our older boys regularly now.
Ever since the age of 2, Ethan would randomly puke and be lethargic for a half a day, and then be fine. I’d get ready to quarantine him so the rest of our family didn’t get the stomach bugs I thought he had, but none of us ever got sick and he never stayed sick for too long. It wasn’t until last year when he was 4 that he was able to verbalize that his head hurt that I finally put it all together that he had such bad headaches with nausea and vomiting, that he must be getting migraines.
I spoke with our family doctor about my suspicions and he agreed with me and referred us to a pediatrician. Luckily we were able to get in right away and she did a thorough history and head-to-toe exam on him and officially diagnosed Ethan with pediatric migraines. She hoped that he would outgrow them, as did I, but for now she gave us a prescription for Zofran for when his migraines are bad enough that they cause nausea and vomiting. She also recommended to keep using Motrin for his pain, and I was happy with that as I find it works better than Tylenol for him. I was also to track his migraines, but I had already been doing that for years.
She also suggested for Ethan to take vitamin B2 daily, as there was some literature in adults to suggest it increases the time in between migraines, but not necessarily the severity of them. Well, the only B2 I could find was in pill form and he’d have to take 2 per day. Trying to teach a 5 year old how to swallow a very bitter and “vitaminy” tasting pill just wasn’t on my to-do list (honestly), so I have pushed that aside for now until I am more strongly recommended to pursue this treatment for him. Right now the evidence is inconclusive whether it helps pediatric migraines.
Starting Chiropractic Treatments
Back in September, a couple of weeks before Ethan was going to turn 5, he woke up puking with a migraine. That is how his migraines always start: first thing when he wakes up, and if they’re really bad, he wakes up crying because he has to vomit. I snuck some Gravol into him and then some Motrin, but his migraine was still uncontrolled; he vomited 3 times that day because his nausea was so severe. I treated him for pain and nausea again that afternoon and he perked up a bit, but he woke up again the next day puking and with another migraine, and for the first time in the history of his migraines he was also photophobic (meaning he was sensitive to light which made his pain worse). That day, he vomited 5 times in the morning, and in an I’ll-try-anything-to-help-my-child moment, I called a highly recommended chiropractor in town that specializes in women and children’s health. Luckily she was able to accommodate us that day and gave Ethan his first treatment.
She took a very thorough history, and we talked a lot about how Ethan had torticollis at 3 months old and and a bit of a flat spot on the back right side of his head. She told me that in her career, experience and knowledge, all torticollis issues start at the pelvis and hips. I am not going to try to explain all the ins and outs of how chiropractic care actually works, but what I can tell you is what I’ve seen from our experience with Ethan’s treatments.
When the chiropractor had Ethan lay down on his tummy, I could visibly see how his right leg was shortened because of how tight his right hip and pelvis were. After weekly treatments for many weeks, I could also visibly see how his leg lengthened over time. This doesn’t mean he walked funny or anything like that, but in a relaxed position laying down, his right leg was shorter than his left because his right hip and pelvis were so tight, because of the torticollis he had as an infant, according to our chiropractor.
What is Causing His Migraines?
Aside from his pelvis issues, he also has a lot of scar tissue and tightening in the right side of his neck from the torticollis, which could be a big cause of his migraines as he often complains of right neck pain and right-sided migraines when they do strike. His only obvious trigger that I have been able to pinpoint are the big pressure changes we see living east of the Rocky Mountains when the Chinooks roll in. We can experience 25+ degree temperature changes within a day and it’s a a big trigger for a lot of migraine sufferers in this province. I even notice myself getting headaches when a “big” Chinook is coming.
We have had a LOT of Chinooks this winter with the temperature flip-flopping from -25ºC to +5ºC many, many times. Ethan had been migraine free from the end of November until just last week, missing quite a few Chinooks. He did have a few headaches in December, but they didn’t progress to migraines or any missed school or hockey.
What Have We Learned?
I need to put it out there that I understand that chiropractic care isn’t for everyone—believe me, I know it isn’t. I’ve gotten a lot of “I thought you believed in science, Sarah! Shame on you for taking your son to a chiropractor!” comments, when I shared what we were trying for Ethan on Instagram. But you know what, when your child has vomited 8 times in 2 days with such a horrific migraine, has missed 1.5 days of part-time school, and over-the-counter medications aren’t helping him, and you’ve taken steps in the traditional medicine world, what else should you do?
I was ½ a day away from taking him to the children’s hospital for a migraine treatment, which is typically an intravenous fluid bolus with anti-nausea medication, which I really didn’t want to have to do for him. There are also case studies in which chiropractic care has proven to prevent migraines in certain patients, but I realize this not outstanding data or evidence and results will vary person to person.
Also, it’s truly up to no one but me and my husband how we choose to care of our children, and importantly, since chiropractic care has helped both of us as adults, we felt like we had nothing to lose taking him to a chiropractor. Chiropractic care is not covered by health care in Alberta, so we pay $40 per visit. It is not cheap, but we wouldn’t pay for it if we didn’t think it was helping. I have seen a difference physically with Ethan (as I explained above), and he has missed a lot of could-be-migraines with all these Chinooks that have come through. Also, the last migraine he had he didn’t have vomiting with his nausea, so I’m calling that a win.
Does chiropractic care really work? Maybe for some, maybe not for others…but for Ethan, I truly feel it is helping him. He also has a head MRI scheduled at the children’s hospital for next month to rule out any other cause for his migraines, ordered by his pediatrician. She thinks there is no reason to believe anything is wrong, but at least this way we can cross it off the list and focus on treating his migraines and trying to prevent them. We also see her again in May, 6 months from when we initially saw her for follow up.
I’ve gone the traditional medicine route and I’ve gone the somewhat-alternative (as viewed by many) route by using chiropractic care. I love and trust our son’s chiropractor and I feel that the care and treatments she has provided for Ethan is helping him. We’re down to monthly treatments for Ethan and I bring him in if he’s having a migraine, which I’ve only had to do once since November.
So if your child has similar symptoms and you’ve gone the route with your family doctor and/or pediatrician, you might want to consider researching some chiropractors and giving it a try with proper research and word of mouth recommendations.
Note: If I haven’t made myself clear enough, this is not me pushing you to use a chiropractor; this is our family’s first hand experience with chiropractic treatments. If you cannot handle this or don’t have anything nice to say, please keep it to yourself.
Disclosure: As always, I am sharing my family’s personal experience with this health issue. This is not to be taken as medical advice, you need to seek the advice of your own health care professionals when dealing with migraines or any other health issue.