Headaches are the most common symptom of patients with Chiari 1 malformation and they often mimic migraines. A Chiari 1 malformation happens when the lower part of the brain, called the cerebellum, pushes through into an opening for the spinal cord. The crowding in this space can cause spinal fluid to back up, which can create pressure and headache pain.

Many patients with Chiari 1 malformations have no symptoms and often are diagnosed by coincidence, such as when a provider orders imaging tests to diagnose migraines. Treatments might include surgery by a neurosurgeon to repair the malformation and medicines to relieve headache symptoms.