Migraines | Causes, Symptoms, and Relief from Headache Pain.
In this article we discuss:
Migraines are types of headaches that are very severe and can be debilitating to the sufferer. They are most commonly one-sided and are associated with photophobia (sensitivity to light), phonophobia (sensitivity to noise), and auras (a neurological visual disturbance that occurs prior to the migraines such as flashing or bright lights, a blind spot in your vision, tunnel vision, and many more). Chronic Migraines or chronic headaches exist in sufferers that have returning migraines over a long period of time.
Other types of headaches and head pain include tension headaches, cluster headaches (recurrent and severe pain around one side of the head close to the eye), episodic migraines (headache frequency of 14 or fewer headaches per month), silent migraines (an aura without a headache), and rebound headaches (a returning headache after the overuse of drugs or medication).
People with migraines can experience different types of pain and symptoms.
Many individuals with migraines have more than one type of migraine.
- Migraine without aura: This type of migraine used to be called common migraine
- Migraine with aura: This type of migraine used to be called classic migraine, complicated migraine, and hemiplegic migraine. Medications for this type of migraine are similar to ones used for other types of migraine. This is a rarer type of migraine with aura, but unlike other visual auras, it affects only one eye.. Most people who have an optical migraine have had another type of migraine before. This type of migraine isn't uncommon in people who start having migraines after age 40.With this type of migraine, the aura may gradually occur with symptoms spreading over several minutes and move from one symptom to another.
- Stress migraine isn't a type of migraine recognised by the International Headache Society. (healthline.com)
- Menstrual migraine: Menstrual-related migraines affect up to 60 percent of women who experience any type of migraine. it occurs in a pattern that follows the menstrual cycle of a woman and usually occurs a few days before a bleed. Menstrual headaches are associated with a drop in estrogen levels or withdraw.
- Retinal Migraine : Severe headache that accompanies visual disturbances such as flashing light, blind spots, and temporary loss of vision or blindness in one eye.
There are lots of migraine triggers such as diet, certain foods or food ingredients, hormones, lifestyle factors, and muscular tension. The cause of migraines is not well understood but it is believed that an imbalance of the sympathetic nervous system can cause constriction of small blood vessels in the head which acts as a migraine trigger.
Other contributing factors that could cause a migraine headache include:
- Lack of sleep, quality of sleep, hours of sleep, and sleep patterns
- Underlying health conditions
- Physical activity - being physically over or under-active
- Possibly a side effect of certain medications (medication overuse headache)
- High blood pressure
- Menstrual cycle or hormonal imbalances
- Overconsumption of alcohol or caffeine
A migraine attack can be identified by the following common signs and sensory symptoms:
- Intense throbbing, or dull pain on one or both sides of the head and possibly neck stiffness or neck pain
- Increased sensitivity to light and noise
- Visual symptoms (Double vision, loss of vision, blurred vision etc.)
- General malaise
- Nausea or vomiting
About 40 percent of people who have migraines have some vestibular symptoms.
What Are Symptoms according to the Stages of Migraine Headaches?
One or two days before a migraine, you might notice subtle changes that warn of an upcoming migraine, including:
- Mood changes, from depression to euphoria
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Increased thirst and urination
- Frequent yawning
For some people, aura might occur before or during migraines. Auras are reversible symptoms of the nervous system. They're usually visual but can also include other disturbances. Each symptom usually begins gradually, builds up over several minutes and lasts for 20 to 60 minutes.
Examples of migraine aura include:
- Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
- Vision loss
- Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
- Weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking
- Hearing noises or music
- Uncontrollable jerking or other movements
- A migraine usually lasts from four to 72 hours if untreated. How often migraines occur varies from person to person. Migraines might occur rarely or strike several times a month.
- During a migraine, you might have:
- Pain usually on one side of your head, but often on both sides
- Pain that throbs or pulses
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and sometimes smell and touch
- Nausea and vomiting
After a migraine attack, you might feel drained, confused, and washed out for up to a day. Some people report feeling elated. The sudden head movement might bring on the pain again briefly.
Migraine with aura occurs in 25 percent of people who have migraines.
According to the International Headache Society, people who have migraines without aura have had at least five attacks that have these characteristics: Headache attacks usually lasting 4 to 72 hours if it's not treated or if treatment doesn't work.
In about 20% of individuals, the aura may last longer than 60 minutes and in some, the aura may not precede the headache phase but occur after the headache has already started.
Preventive medication and preventive treatment can ease the onset of a common type of migraine or severe headache.
- Manage your triggers - if you can pinpoint what offsets a migraine or cluster headache then try to avoid this (eg. alcohol, food intolerances, etc.). Keeping a migraine journal helps to track triggers.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) - again could prevent migraine rather than act as a treatment of migraine.
- Taking magnesium and potassium supplements - dehydration and imbalanced electrolytes could be a cause of migraine onset. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxer as well as restores electrolytes into the body. A good source of magnesium would be leafy greens, nuts, avocados, and bananas.
- Exercise - as a preventative measure rather than as a treatment. When the migraine has subsided move and exercise, this releases endorphins which, are chemicals that naturally fight off pain
What are some tips for instant migraine relief?
- Ice packs - placing an ice pack on the forehead reduces the blood flow and swelling around the area which brings inflammation down
- A dark, quiet room - depriving yourself of bright lights and loud noises which are both common triggers helps with reducing the intensity of the pain.
- Sleep it off and drink lots of water!
- Over the counter drugs
Migraine attacks might run in your family, or they can be associated with other nervous system conditions. (healthline.com)
There are many options for migraine treatment.
At-home remedies, natural remedies, or a herbal remedy
- Taking magnesium and potassium supplements
- Ginger - may help in keeping nausea that migraines cause at bay
- Peppermint oil - may relieve headaches as well as nausea, toothaches, indigestion, and spasms
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) - An ancient herb used for many centuries to treat headaches and other ailments
- Caffeine - Although too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawal could be a cause of headaches due to its dehydrating properties, it also has very strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
- Yoga - gentle movement such as yoga can help ease the migraine pain
- Over the counter drugs or anti-sickness medications
Keeping a migraine or headache journal could aid in learning about and tracking the history of migraines in order to get down to its root cause. This would make the case a lot stronger for treatment by a healthcare professional.
People with migraine headaches may find relief by using osteopathic therapy. There is some research to support this.
This study supports the effectiveness of osteopathic manipulative therapy combined with standard medication for women with migraine headaches in regard to decreased pain intensity, reduced number of days with migraine, reduced working disability, and improvement in some areas of HRQoL.
The best outcomes are usually achieved by learning and avoiding personal migraine triggers, managing symptoms, practicing preventive methods, following the advice of your doctor, and reporting any significant changes to your doctor as soon as they occur.
If you are suffering from a migraine or muscular tension headaches, schedule an appointment at The Osteopathic Centre to see how we can help.
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UPDATED: JUNE 2021
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