Did you know, one out of every four women suffers from chronic headaches and migraines? Even if you’re not someone who has to deal with the anguish migraines can bring, you probably know someone who does, and they likely haven’t been able to find anything that works. That’s because most traditional methods seek to cover up the symptoms, instead of actually healing the root cause.
In his new book, A Life Without Migraines, Dr. Grant Dennis shares the revolutionary remedy of upper cervical care and how it can actually stop migraines from occurring entirely. The best part? It does not require any surgery or drugs. In this episode, we discuss how migraines work, how environmental triggers are actually a myth, and why this little-known method for living a headache-free life is not more well-known. Enjoy.
Miles Rote: Hey everyone, my name is Miles Rote and I’m excited to be here today with Dr. Grant Dennis, author of A Life Without Migraines: A Holistic and Little-Known Method for Living a Headache-Free Life. Dr. Dennis, I’m excited you’re here, welcome to the Author Hour Podcast.
Dr. Grant Dennis: Hey, it’s good to be here Miles, been really looking forward to this and I’m excited to have some fun with you this morning.
Miles Rote: You’ve had a lot of experience in this field and done a lot of research into migraines. First, share with us a little bit of your background and, really, why you’re passionate about this subject.
Dr. Grant Dennis: Yeah, early on, as a teen and really even a young adult, one of the things that was super important and apparent to me early on was, I knew I wanted to help people. Healthcare was something that drew really as an early profession, really early on, just because I knew that I gravitated towards my why in life is to help people.
As my life evolved over time, I found myself in the healthcare and chiropractic field, and I just really was looking for a niche that I would find a high success or high level of success in helping people with. As the evolution through my educational process came about, I really found myself drawn to migraines in particular.
As time evolved and my education and training in the chiropractic space, as it relates to the upper neck evolved. A lot of the research I was finding really pointed to the upper neck being an entry point into helping people who are chronic migraine sufferers. That’s what really drew me to learn more about it and draw those patients into my office. I guess you would say, from a marketing standpoint, that was really what I was looking to attract. I’m a big believer in the law of attraction and so I really was looking to attract people in my life who are chronic migraine sufferers. Migraine is a disease, it’s an invisible disease, it’s something that plagues one out of every four women in particular. Also, it plagues a lot of men.
So, it was really something that as I started to evolve my career early on, it was something I really looked to attract, and inherently it was something I was also seeing a very high success rate with. Flash forward five or six years, and I’ve just helped so many people with migraines, and it’s truly in sync with my why in life, and it’s really provided me a lot of purpose, it’s provided me a lot of fulfillment. That’s where we are today.
A Holistic Approach
Miles Rote: Yeah, I can imagine that something as debilitating as migraines–I have never suffered from them myself, but I feel like it’s one of those things that if you’re not suffering from them, someone you’re close to does suffer from them. They seem to be so mysterious and there’s no cure.
Being able to help people, after they feel as though they’ve looked everywhere and haven’t found a cure, must be extremely fulfilling. Is that part of what inspired you to write this book?
Dr. Grant Dennis: Yeah, most definitely. You know, I think just working with so many migraine sufferers over the years–you really hit it on the head that until you really have ever had a migraine, it’s truly impossible to understand what it’s like to live with migraines. A lot of the people I work with say, “I just really feel let down. I really feel almost this sense of worthlessness because nobody really truly understands. They think I’m faking this illness and this disease that I have.”
Many of the people I come across, a lot of the early barrier we have to cross is that it’s not all in your head, it’s actually in your upper neck. It’s something that we’ve seen great things with, and I think part of it is just giving somebody hope. A lot of migraine sufferers really have a sense of hopelessness. Really, what drew me to want to write this book and what really led me and inspired me to do this was, I had so many migraine patients over the years who, after they would get well and see what truly a life without migraines looks like, the number one thing that I would constantly hear from people is, “How come I didn’t hear about this type of care sooner? Why didn’t my general practitioner, why didn’t my neurologist, why wasn’t this common knowledge? And why wasn’t I ever brought here first?”
Because it’s holistic, we’re not adding or taking away anything from the body, we’re not medicating. We’re truly just working with the greatest doctor on planet earth, in my opinion, which is the human healing mechanism that’s inherent in all human beings. We’re designed to heal. Truly, what we’re working with is the intelligence of the body to say, “Hey, we know the body’s designed to work and pain is just a symptom or it’s just a sign or a warning sign that something’s going wrong in the body. We just need to address what that underlying cause is.”
I kept hearing that over and over again, people saying, “This message needs to get out,” and what I say to a lot of folks is, “What if you didn’t hear about this place? What if the message never got to you? You would still be suffering.” It leads them to also leave their story and sometimes that could be difficult to do. I encourage and believe their story because it might help somebody else.
What it really inspired me to do is write a book and get the message out that the results were saying that with migraines in certain candidates, that we find to be candidates for this type of specialty chiropractic care, is really what inspired me to write the book. I just thought, this book can reach somebody and help somebody who literally is on the brink of losing their life and potentially regain their life back. So many people I’ve worked with in the past have been able to do that.
That’s really what pushed me to write this book and inspired me to write this book. That person that I was trying to reach, and hopefully somebody listening to this podcast, was really what pushed me through those days where it was difficult to write, or it was difficult to get the book out. Truly, that person that I hope this podcast and this book reaches, was really who inspired me to write this book.
And of course, the others who came before them who we’ve seen great deals of success with, who I highlight in my book. I talk a lot about the stories that I’ve seen, I talk a lot about why there’s a misconception surrounding chiropractic. Why it’s not common messaging, why it’s not something you’ve seen on the news, why it’s not something that’s readily available, or known to most people. These are a lot of the things that I cover in the book, to try to help the reader better understand, A, that I understand you, B, this is probably why we haven’t met yet, and C, this is what I’d like to do to allow you to see a life without migraines come to fruition.
What is Migraine?
Miles Rote: Yeah, I’d love to talk a lot about that and, specifically, what you do to really help people heal from migraines, but before we jump into that, what is a migraine, exactly? What’s going on in the brain or in the body that causes this in general?
Dr. Grant Dennis: That’s a great question. There are so many layers to it. I don’t want to get too complex but, in the book, one of the things that I simplistically layout is there are really three big things that occur inside the body that cause a migraine. To answer your question, a migraine is a debilitating headache that more or less just takes over your entire body. In fact, the pain in the head is so severe at times, some people are often suicidal. You cannot live with this type of pain.
When we talk about pain scales, 1 to 10, oftentimes they say 1 being no symptoms at all, 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced in your life. Oftentimes, people with migraines will say it’s a 15. It’s literally debilitating. Someone suffering from a migraine versus a headache, and that’s a big distinction I always like to make, there’s a big difference between headaches and migraines. Headaches are a pain in the head that you can take something typically over the counter for and it will either alleviate or alleviate to the point where you can continue on with your normal life.
A migraine is literally head pain to the point that you’re dysfunctional. It leaves you in a dark room, and no medications typically work. Movement, sounds, light are all just literally terrible. One of the main things that we look for as upper cervical providers, is a misalignment of the upper bone in the neck, the C1 vertebrate, which is called the atlas, which holds the head up and actually houses the brain stem.
Unbeknownst to a lot of migraine sufferers, they had a trauma to the head or neck in the past, which misaligned the upper bone in the neck. There is a cascade of things that can happen unbeknownst to them when this happens, if not properly checked, and corrected. One of the big delineations I like to make here is to always say that, just because you have a migraine does not mean that you’re a candidate for upper cervical care, automatically, and just because you have migraines doesn’t automatically mean it’s something we can help you with.
What it does mean though is there is a criteria, that we look for in establishing you as a candidate. If we find that you’re a candidate and this is indeed what’s going on, what we find oftentimes is what’s causing and leading to migraine headaches. It’s also why a lot of the interventions they’ve tried up to that point typically don’t lend very well as far as success goes, whether it’s medications, Botox injections, Zomig, the Daith piercing–there are so many things out there that aim to treat migraines and a lot of them work for the short-term, but when you talk about gaining long-term success or long-term results and literally regaining your life back, what we find is that in a lot of candidates, this is what’s present.
There are three big things though that really go on in the body if this upper cervical misalignment in the upper neck is present. The first is neurological. It causes a neurological compromise to the brain stem which causes irritation of nerves, it causes the whole entire central nervous system to start to undergo dysfunction because the brain stem, we know, is the sort of circuit breaker for the entire nervous system.
You can’t really live a life very well without a well-functioning brain stem. It just doesn’t work well, that’s oftentimes why migraine sufferers also have digestive concerns like nausea, they also sometimes report high blood pressure or vascular type issues. There’s usually a lot of other things that accompany migraines other than just head pain, it’s usually nausea, sometimes to the point of vomiting, light sensitivities, changes in smell, changes in hearing, even sometimes hallucinations or weird visual disturbances.
The second component is really vascular. You know, 80% of the blood flow or more that’s traveling up to the brain, actually travels right through the upper bone in the neck. If that bone is misaligned, it’s going to inhibit, or cramp, or obstruct a large majority of the blood flow traveling to the brain. Well, the brain’s going to get blood, so one of the things that it does is it starts to undergo what’s called vasospasm, or it starts to spasm these vessels to the brain to get adequate blood supply to the brain.
The nerves that are attached to those vessels cause irritation and that’s oftentimes why migraine patients will describe a throbbing or pulsing sensation in their head. It’s literally because their brain is beating in tandem with their heart, more or less, in a way to get blood and oxygen adequately to the brain.
The third thing is cerebral spinal fluids, so it’s more of a fluid disruption. You’ve got an immense amount of fluid that’s surrounding the brain, and that drains down into the spinal cord. Well, that main drainage system occurs at the level of the upper neck, so if there is a misalignment that occurs there, it causes pressure back up into the head, so now we’ve got cerebral spinal fluid involved, we’ve got vascular or blood flow issues involved, and we’ve also got neurological components involved.
You can see quickly when we’ve got those three players that are all being affected, that’s where you start to see someone who is having a massive life impact especially as it relates to their head, and they just can’t figure out what’s causing it.
There are all sorts of medications out there that aim to treat one or more of these issues and, oftentimes, I will say, drugs work, the medications work. The issue is, at some point, you have to continue to take a higher and higher dose, it becomes less and less effective and it oftentimes only accounts for one of these issues. What’s great about what we do as upper cervical providers are by locating this and correcting this upper bone misalignment in the upper neck and the neurological issue when we remove that, it literally clears up all three of these aspects and so it can restore the cerebral spinal fluid flow, it can restore the blood flow, and it can restore the neurological system.
So you’re literally crushing what I call in the book, the choke point at the upper neck out of the park and when that’s removed, what we find is that people’s bodies heal adequately, the body restores back to normal, and it allows migraine sufferers to regain their life.
Triggers are 100% Myth
Miles Rote: That’s amazing. So much of how you’re explaining migraines is internal. I hear so many people talk about triggers in the environment that cause their migraine, but it sounds like a lot of this is, as you’re saying, is internal. In your book, you talked a little bit about triggers and dispel some of those myths. Can you share with us whether or not there are things in the environment that can cause migraines?
Dr. Grant Dennis: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question actually, Miles. I’m glad you brought that up because that’s actually a chapter in my book. The chapter I believe is called ‘Triggers are 100% Myth’ because I’ve come to find that I really am 100% of the belief that they are.
One of the things I find with migraines sufferers is, when you suffer from something like this for as long as a lot of these people have, oftentimes you just want an answer.
You just want something to blame this on–I need something to attribute this to, I need something–literally, I’ve been given no answers for this for so long that inherently, one of those that becomes really popular is a trigger. Well, I just get triggered by wine or I get triggered by chocolate. I get triggered by sunlight, or I get triggered by stress, or I get triggered by all of the above, right?
What happens is they begin to say that “Okay, I get these triggers.” What I have come to find out is triggers are not what cause migraines because, if they were, the same trigger would cause migraines in everybody. You know, everyone who gets migraines would be triggered by stress. Everyone who gets migraines would be triggered by eating or drinking chocolate or wine, or their menstrual cycle, or whatever the case may be.
What I found is in taking care of migraine patients I noticed that each one of them had a different trigger in their head. So, some people would say the trigger is sunlight, someone would say it’s stress, and so I thought if triggers were the issue, then they would all be the same. I think what it is, is it is sort of–I don’t want to say an excuse, but it is an answer in their head to them of what it is causing their problems. By eliminating just this one thing, I am now going to eliminate my migraines.
What happens is they find that is not the case, because now I literally never go out in the sun but I still got a migraine. Maybe it is not the sun. What I found is that the underlying cause that I just described to you previously, about the upper bone in the neck having a misalignment, which is causing that cascade of three events, is actually the fire starter.
That’s what, more or less, has started the fire and it has started this little bit of a flame that is burning in your body, and then what happens is these triggers are just pouring gas on top of that fire. It is this sort of sprinkling gasoline on top of this already burning fire.
There are so many different ways that you can try to eliminate those triggers but, truly–you know one of the ones that are really common, for example, is the weather. A lot of people say I know when there is going to be bad weather because I get a migraine. Well, if that’s the case, explain to me how we’re going to remove the trigger of the weather? How are we going to remove that from your life? I don’t know if that is plausible, because unless we put you in a space orbit and put you in space to avoid weather, I am not actually sure how we’re ever going to allow you to achieve a life without migraines because you now are experiencing a life without the weather trigger.
Well, what I found was by locating the particular misalignment in the upper neck and correcting that, then the weather trigger becomes removed, because we found the underlying cause that is starting the fire all along. In other words, we just put the fire out completely. So, when the weather comes around to pour the gasoline on the fire, there was no fire, which meant there was no trigger, and there was no migraine event, and it’s because we got to the underlying root cause of the problem.
Things like weather, stress, wine–in my book I talk a lot about a patient I had, and I have several also in the same scenario, who said, “I just want to be able to drink wine. Wine is something I enjoy doing. I want to be able to drink wine and not get a migraine.” That is something that is important to them in their life. The first realization to them that they really recognized that, “Hey my life is actually different,” is the ability to drink wine and not get a migraine. Or a bad weather system coming through, and they didn’t get a migraine, which to them instills that we have gotten to the root cause of the issue and so there is no trigger anymore.
That is how I came to the conclusion that triggers are 100% myth, and they are something that I think is just oftentimes an excuse that migraine suffers have for themselves, but I’ve just come to find out that they are 100% myth.
I do think triggers are important to really understand what they are, because if we can get to the root cause of the issue and correct it, and also work with you in eliminating some of these triggers, that’s where I find migraine sufferers go months, if not years, without migraines.
Miles Rote: You talk about stressors and the difference between stressors and triggers a little bit, and how there are stressors in our environment that can lead to headaches, such as blue light on the computer too late at night. What are some stressors that can cause headaches?
Dr. Grant Dennis: Yeah, so one of the interesting things about stressors is oftentimes, especially in my world, by the time that migraine sufferers have gotten to me, most migraine sufferers are also researchers. They have literally looked everywhere to try to identify what could possibly be causing this. So oftentimes, Dr. Google does a great job of telling the most common stressors, and most of the time these folks have eliminated those.
Some of the more common ones are diet, as you mentioned before, blue light screens right before bed at night.Abnormal sleep cycles–I have noticed in migraine folks those who stay up late at night and then sleep in or go to bed early and wake up early–if their sleep cycles are off that can tend to be a stressor. There are a lot of environmental stressors.
A lot of things out in the air, whether it is pollen, it can be a stressor, but there are a lot of different things that are but by the time most migraine sufferers make it to me, by process of elimination, they have eliminated all triggers. They have eliminated all stressors, but I try to help them understand that there is a difference between the two, a trigger and a stressor, and you have already removed most of the stressors. Most migraine patients I know are the best eaters I know.
They’re the healthiest people I know as far as how often they exercise, how often they do self-care, they get massages once a week, they do everything because they are trying to remove the stress trigger, they are trying to remove the dietary stressor.
Like I said, most of the time it’s just that they haven’t reached the underlying root cause, which in any healthcare condition I try to tell the patients, the number one thing we’re looking for is the root cause in everything.
What is the root cause? If we can find the root cause, if we find the hole in the pipe, yes, we can put duct tape over the pipe and it will hold the water, but I need to start using stronger and stronger and stronger pieces of duct tape, or we could just remove the pipe and place a new pipe. But oftentimes in healthcare what I found is that we find ourselves traveling down that road of, putting duct tapes over leaky pipes.
You know a stressor oftentimes is just what’s manifesting the issue, right? So, the water flow increased, which expressed the issue even more right? And so by eliminating the root cause, what I’ve found is stressors and triggers oftentimes just become non-existent, which is an interesting thing.
Upper Cervical Care
Miles Rote: So why have traditional routes failed? You’ve eluded a little bit to this, but why is it if there is something like upper cervical care that can get actually to the root and not just try to mask the symptoms, why isn’t this utilized more often? It seems like all of these different modalities seemed to miss this entirely.
Dr. Grant Dennis: Yeah, you know that is a question I’ve been really looking into and trying to understand myself, and I actually touch on this a little bit in the book. Truly I think one of the main things in healthcare is that it is very apparent is there really is no money in the pharmaceutical industry and getting a person well. If we can keep you on this and get you a little bit of a result but inherently you have to keep taking this, it is a great money maker from a business model.
I mean there really is no money in healthcare and getting someone well, and getting to the root cause of their problem, and sending them out in the environment to never need an ongoing pharmaceutical, or an ongoing intervention, or an ongoing drug, or an ongoing doctor visit. And so it lends to a great business model, not so great from a long-term standpoint result for a patient. That is, I think, number one.
Number two is I think that there just wasn’t enough evidence, from a patient standpoint, to show that upper cervical care lends very great results with migraines. Harvard and several other prominent research institutes, which I highlight in the book a little bit, talk about how what they are finding is that more and more and more results and more and more evidence is pointing towards the upper cervical spine in particular as being a major contributor to not only headaches but also migraines.
There are multiple things done in the medical field, such as vagal stimulators, which go in and stimulate the vagus nerve in the upper neck, which has been shown to decrease a lot of symptoms, not even in migraines but fibromyalgia, and other systemic issues. We are seeing great results with that. Well, we as upper cervical doctors have known that for a long time. It is that we’re not in a place of pre-eminent positioning yet, where we’re taken seriously on healthcare issues.
That is another big reason for me wanting to write this book is it allows me, from a place of authority and a position, to say, “Hey, these are the things that we are seeing. I would love for you to explore this first before going to a more invasive type of intervention.” It just makes sense in the world of healthcare. You always want to move from the least invasive to the most invasive type of intervention.
What I tell patients all the time is, “What if I told you it is just as simple as making a slight correction to the upper neck and allowing all of the systems in your body to restore back to normal, the way your body was designed to heal all along, prior to your car wreck in 2014?” So let’s try this first, if this doesn’t end up being helpful or if we see this that it is helpful, but not getting us to the point where we are completely migraine free, then that is when we can also bring in other ancillary things, like a massage or acupuncture or some other professional that works with another system.
Oftentimes what I find is we’re working backward. People go most invasive and then the last place we try is the least invasive, which I would have argued was the first place we should have started.
Also one of the main reasons I wanted to write the book is to give to other providers, to provide them a comfort level, of knowing that this is what we are doing, this is what we are checking for, and it is not present in all individuals. Oftentimes, co-management can be warranted. It is not the end-all, be-all, but for those that we find that have been everywhere, and tried everything and nothing has worked, especially as it relates to traditional methods, when they make their way in our office and we find this, by process of elimination, we know that this is where the problem is, and when we find it and we correct it, again it’s lent incredible results for people suffering from migraines.
Miles Rote: It must be so life-changing, and thank you for dedicating your life to this and bringing awareness to this, helping people heal from such a debilitating, mysterious thing. I know it has helped so many people.
Writing a book is no joke either, but the fact that you have completed it to help spread awareness and help people is amazing. If readers could take away just one or two things from your book, what would it be?
Dr. Grant Dennis: I think a couple of things, first is don’t give up. If you are reading my book or come across my book or this podcast, and it resonates with you, it is probably because you’re at a point in your life where you’ve really kind of given up, and have come to the realization that this is something I am going to have to learn to live with. I am broken, my migraines are unique, no one can understand what this is like. I am here to tell you–I am not going to say I understand, because I don’t, but I hear what you are saying, and the fact that I know where you’re at.
The first step is not losing hope and kudos to you for not giving up, and if you’re hearing this podcast and you know somebody or this is you that it resonates with–sometimes it takes finding a doctor who understands what you are going through, and is going to walk with you every step of the way, has seen patients just like you, and has worked with patients just like you in the past.
The underlying thing that we’re looking for is the same in all of these patients. What’s cool about it is they get to relish in their own stories of success with each other in my office, which is for me the most glorifying thing when someone comes in and says, “You truly saved my life because I don’t know what my life would have looked like and I couldn’t have lived a life like this any longer.”
The second big thing is when people say to me, “Well, I have been to chiropractors before and it didn’t really lead to success.” This is one of the main reasons I want you to pick up the book and read it is to delineate the difference between traditional chiropractic, and upper cervical chiropractic. I provide a list of questions in the book that provide the reader with the ability to call chiropractors and ask certain questions that will allow them to find the perfect provider for them.
One that looks at things in the way that an upper cervical provider should. I provide them with a checklist of questions. They can call providers, or reach out to me so I can find them a provider, but finding an upper cervical provider, especially in the arena of migraines, it of utmost importance.
The third thing is just understanding that, if you have been suffering from migraines for over 20 years, you need someone who understands that there is going to be a process. I think by this point in your life you could probably agree there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that is going to knock migraines out for life. There is a process, which is why finding an upper cervical provider who gets that and understands that, and can walk you through that process to gaining a life without migraines, is the most important thing that the book can provide for you.
Miles Rote: Dr. Dennis, this has been such a pleasure. Everyone, the book is called, A Life Without Migraines: A Holistic and Little-known Method for Living a Headache-free Life. You can find it on Amazon. So besides checking out the book, where can people find you? I know you mentioned even reaching out to you if they have questions?
Dr. Grant Dennis: Yeah, so I can be found on my website, drgrantdennis.com. That is my personal website. That is where you can also pick up a copy of the book. Reach out to me personally for where to find a doc, or to ask questions and get questions answered on, particularly, where they are in their life and any questions about the book they might have. That is typically the best place, on that website.
Miles Rote: Amazing, thank you again, Dr. Dennis. Everyone, if you or someone you care about suffers from migraines, I encourage you to check this book out. Thank you all for joining us. We will see you next time.
Dr. Grant Dennis: Thanks, Miles.