T.A.P. for Migranes and Headaches

By Dr. Chris Chapman DC, BCAO, DCCJP

Headaches and migraines can be more than just a minor annoyance.  They can affect every aspect of our lives.  If you suffer from migraines and chronic headaches, how often has it interrupted your plans or your work?  Conventional treatments address migraines and headaches as the problem.  When the reality is that headaches and migraines are a symptom of a larger problem.  The human body is very adept at letting us know there is a problem.  Sometimes the problem or indication is small at first.  For example, research has shown that a loss of the sense of smell can indicate Alzheimer’s as early as 10 years in advance.  Chronic headache and migraines are a symptom of an underlying problem, and the pain is a warning signal.

If you suffer from headaches, there is a very high probability that your headaches or migraines are coming from chronic irritation of the nerves, muscles or blood vessels between the head and neck known as the Craniocervical Junction. A 3-year post doctorate specialty diplomate program called the Diplomate in Craniocervical Junction Procedures (DCCJP) was created in 2013 by the ICA to train upper cervical doctors to more competently deal with injuries, dysfunction and malalignments in this area. As a CCJ diplomate, I have observed that this area is often overlooked by conventional medical treatments or mishandled by chiropractic physicians and physical therapists who manipulate this area without image guidance. The fact that this area is more susceptible to injury than any other part of the spine explains why sports injuries and whiplash from car crashes can lie at the root of many migraines and headaches months or even years after the injury.

Atlas Epigenetics  has an over 85% success rate in resolving migraines and headaches through our proprietary method of treatment. The key to resolving a symptom, such as migraines, is in knowing precisely what is at the root of the problem in the first place.  Otherwise, we are just trying to make the symptom manageable or bearable and not trying to fix the problem that would make the symptom go away entirely. For the problem and solution, we must look at this region known as the craniocervical junction, or the CCJ. This important region is held in place by ligaments that can be torn, stretched or otherwise damaged as a result of trauma. As a result, ideal alignment of these structures is lost, and that’s when the symptoms can start to set in, immediately, or months later.  When symptoms set in, it is important to rely on someone who specializes in this area and who uses the appropriate equipment and diagnostic techniques to understand how to fix this area. Atlas Epigenetics specializes in just that, and that’s why we have the success that we have. Through our non-surgical, noninvasive technique, we eliminate the cause of the pain, and the result is: the pain goes away—often times, while the patient is still in our office… what’s better, it tends to stay gone!

Cranial Cervical Junction

The facts are staggering. Research shows that migraines and headaches affect the lives of 50 million Americans—in fact, according to the World Health Organization, 1 in 20 suffer from a common tension type headache, and migraine headaches are the second most common form of primary headache. In my practice, headaches make up more than ½ of my patient population, and women are affected by migraines or headaches 3 to 1 as compared to men.

I have been asked how many migraines per year is considered “normal”,  and the answer to that question is “one”. The fact is head pain is present only when something isn’t right with the head, neck, jaw or face.

Pain, or it’s technical name, “nociception”, is the body’s normal warning indicator that something abnormal or  harmful is happening in its’ structures and tissues. In the case of migraines or headaches, those tissue are the head, neck, face or jaw. Too often, headaches or migraines are treated by medications that block the pain—or as is the case more often, “attempt to block the pain” but fail to do so. In these situations, where drugs are used to mask, mimic or alter brain function, quality of life is often adversely affected by the drugs themselves. It is common for drugs to stop working, or harmful side-affects are developed, and new drugs or other treatments are implemented to deal with the side-affects. I’ve seen lives ruined by this clinical course of action. Why are people willing to go down this path, if drugs can be so risky and disruptive? The answer is simple: Headaches suck!! They are simply just horrible—and in severe cases, almost anything (even a quiet dark room with no light or sound, out of sight and sound of friends, family or work colleagues) is preferable to the pain of an intense headache. As a clinician, it is important to understand that there are numerous “types” of headaches, and many systems involved in the possible generation of the pain signals which manifest themselves as head, neck or face pain, but for the sake of this post, I want to talk about headaches and migraines that can be remedied by our out-patient procedure without drugs or surgery.

In order to begin to understand complexity of headaches and migraines, it’s important to know that nerves from the head (cranial nerves) and nerves from the neck (the top six spinal nerves) blend together in a phenomenon known as “convergence”. That means that many headaches, in all their varieties come from stressed, inflamed or damaged upper cervical spinal structures that are not commonly “well-visualized” (seen) in MRI brain and cervical spine studies. These structures include parts of your head and neck anatomy that you likely have not heard of, and some that you have. These are the main pain generators in the head and neck.

Image result for torn static stabilizer ligaments of the craniocervical junction
  1. Posterior View Drawing of the Static Stabilizer Ligaments of the CCJ  2. Special MRI view.
  1. Dura mater of the posterior cranial fossa
  2. Inferior surface of the tentorium cerebelli
  3. Anterior and posterior upper cervical and cervical-occiput muscles
  4. OCCIPUT-C1, C1-C2, and C2-C3 joints
  5. C2-C3 intervertebral disc
  6. Skin of the occiput
  7. Vertebral arteries
  8. Carotid arteries
  9. Alar ligaments
  10. Tectorial, Atlanto-Axial Membranes
  11. Transverse ligaments
  12. Trapezius muscle
  13. Sternocleidomastoid muscle

When one or several of these structures are torn, stretched, irritated, inflamed, or otherwise bothered by trauma or malalignment, a pain signal is generated and sent to the “pain central” region known as the trigeminocervical nucleus.

Because these complex nerve pathways from the upper neck, and cranium “splice” in on one another, and land in the same place in the upper spinal cord, (the trigeminocervical nucleus) the brain has some difficulty sorting out exactly where the pain is coming from! However, that doesn’t keep it from sounding an alarm in the form of a pain signal. What this means to the sufferer of headaches or migraines is that an unhappy structure in the neck can cause a “headache-like” pain above or behind the eye, or in the forehead.

…….Or, that a torn ligament in the neck, (not seen on an MRI) can cause pain in the top of the head, scalp, temples, teeth or jaw joint.

…….Or, that an imbalanced bite caused by a slightly high tooth after routine dental work can feel like a migraine or TMJ pain.

…….Or, that a crimped or stretched vertebral or carotid artery can cause pain which mimic sinus pain. You get my point—I could go on and on!

In my practice, it is common to find that headaches and migraines are coming from a twisted atlas-axis-skull base relationship which causes not just one of the above conditions, but several!

Skull Base Atlas (C1) Axis (C2)

Counter rotated atlas-axis-skull base as seen from the top.


For instance, when the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae are counter rotated under the skull base (CO), this can 1.) directly cause irritation to the vertebral arties, 2.) stretch and irritate the cervical occiput muscles, 3.) pull on frayed or damaged alar ligaments, 4.) irritate upper cervical joint capsules, and 5.) twist the dura matter and cord through the dentate ligaments, and 6.) strain the trapezius and other neck muscles.  This simple (and fixable) condition can cause an “over-loading” of the circuits in sensory “pain central” in the upper spinal cord. This overloading equals a headache or migraine.  But when the atlas axis and skull base segments are realigned, the pain can resolve naturally!

Migraines may lead a patient to my clinic, but I usually find a host of other conditions and symptoms not usually put together by the patient, such as:

Light-headedness, memory problems, loss of balance, buzzing or ringing in ears, balance problems, foggy thinking, anxiety and/or depression, vertigo or dizziness, difficulty sleeping, sleep apnea, clenching or grinding teeth and fatigue—just to name a few!  The human body is a closed system and everything is interconnected.  The idea that one system or problem does not affect others is antiquated.  The trick to solving all of the issues, is finding the root elements of the problem.

The good news is: this is usually fixable if you are in the right place—that place is Atlas Epigenetics. So if you have sore neck muscles, especially at the base of your skull, around the top of your neck or under your ear,  this is a big clue and may signal that your headaches or migraines are directly related to your upper cervical spine being out of alignment. If so, a simple and focused examination in my office could be helpful for you.

Call Atlas Epigenetics at (801)655-1801 and schedule a free consultation if you are or someone you know are interested in resolving your migraine or headache without drugs or surgery.