Athletes with Migraines: What Is the Connection?

Another Athlete Struggling with Migraines

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton has been dealing with chronic migraines for several years now. In August 2013 Hamilton left the ballpark and returned to his hotel to take nausea medication and sleep. Hamilton said he gets about three migraines a year, but not usually with nausea.

Hamilton said “It's a tremendous migraine, that's the reason I didn't play today.”

Josh Hamilton like so many other athletes struggle with migraines. Collisions in sports have been linked to migraines in a number of research studies.

Post Traumatic Migraine

Post-traumatic headaches are common, especially following a concussion. Some patients develop a chronic headache after a seemingly minor blow to the head with a basketball or volleyball. Such headaches may present as migraine, tension type headache, or daily headache with varying degrees of symptoms.

Williams and Nukada reviewed 29 subjects with post-traumatic headache as a result of head trauma in a contact sport. The trauma was usually minor. Associated symptoms included stiff neck, confusion, and loss of concentration. Some subjects were unable to continue the sport or exercise because of severe headache. The post-traumatic headache was often associated with concussion.  A post-concussion headache has been reported in as many as 90% and 25% of those people still have headaches 4 years later.

For athletes who are suffering with migraine headaches, the likelihood that trauma created the underlying situation for the migraine to develop is very high.  Head and neck traumas that are common in contact sports, frequently cause a tearing loose of the connective tissue that holds the spine in place. This allows the spine to breakdown and lock into a stressed position. This breakdown, frequently begins in the upper neck.


A misalignment of the top 2 bones in the neck causes the shifting of the weight of the head and brain stem pressure to occur leading to dramatic changes in posture, cerebral spinal fluid flow, blood and nerve flow. This misalignment can be corrected safely, gently and effectively with the NUCCA procedure.

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Dr. Dan Spinato of the San Diego Integrative Spine Center in San Diego, California is a Rancho Penasquitos Chiropractor and an Upper Cervical Specialist trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). Over the past 30 years, Dr. Spinato has helped many people find natural relief in San Diego, California. His upper cervical clinic also serves the communities of Rancho Penasquitos, Carmel Valley, Poway, Scripps Ranch and Rancho Bernardo. He is uniquely trained to correct problems in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different health problems, including migraine headaches, chronic neck and back pain, fibromyalgia, allergy and sinus problems and temporomandibular joint disorders. More information can be found on his website at

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NUCCA Chiropractic Care

What is NUCCA
The National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA) is an organization of Doctors of Chiropractic dedicated to patient care, education and research.

Spinal health care using the NUCCA procedures focuses on detecting and correcting a small misalignment in the upper neck area. Gentle, non-invasive adjustments don’t require any turning, twisting or popping.

Your upper cervical spine (neck) area influences all areas of your body. Injury or chronic misalignments can cause headaches, migraines, neck pain, low back pain, weakness and more.

The NUCCA technique is currently offered by less than 1% of all the Doctors of Chiropractic.

Before the NUCCA procedure can be performed, I will sit down with you and discuss your history and symptoms. If I determine that NUCCA can help, a thorough examination and x-rays will be done. A complete report of your findings and treatment options will be discussed. 

First adjustment
Precision x-rays are taken of the spine before any treatment begins. The adjustment is performed with the patient lying on their side and the doctor applying a very light pressure behind the earlobe. A full demonstration can be seen on the video above.

The NUCCA procedure can be summed up with 5 major distinctions as compared to traditional Chiropractic:

  • Gentle adjustment to the neck with no turning, twisting or popping.
  • Precision x-rays to measure before and after corrections.
  • Total body posture and balance improvement
  • Greater stability to the spine
  • Hold adjustments longer with fewer visits

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