A light ache or throbbing pain in the head and fatigue are common in standard headaches, but more involved symptoms are signs that you are suffering with migraines. While surprising to hear, most cases of chronic migraines go undiagnosed and untreated, which can reduce a sufferer's quality of life. Considering an estimated 37 million people in the United States suffer from these serious headaches, understanding migraines is smart. Using this guide, you will understand the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for your migraine headaches.
Most people realize when they are having a headache. While uncomfortable, a traditional headache is not nearly as painful or debilitating as a migraine headache.
Many sufferers begin experiencing symptoms a few days before the actual migraine. Known as prodrome, this period of time before the actual migraine may cause the following symptoms:
- Neck Discomfort/Stiffness
- Food Cravings
- Excessive Yawning
Before and during the migraine, you may also experience visual changes. Flashes of light, the appearance of shapes and colors, and bouts of vision loss are all common during the Aura phase of the migraine.
The actual migraine attack causes a throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, increasing and pulsating over time. Nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, blurred vision, dizziness, and even fainting may also occur during the migraine attack.
During the postdrome phase, or after the migraine attack, you will most likely feel intense exhaustion and fatigue.
Migraine attacks can last between 4 and 72 hours, but each patient's experience is different. Due to this longer period of discomfort, proper understanding is essential for receiving effective, efficient treatment of your migraines.
Migraines occur when there is a change in the brain stem and its interaction with pain nerves. These changes may be due to hormonal imbalances and environmental conditions, so avoiding certain triggers may reduce your risk of developing these intense headaches.
Hormonal changes, such as a woman's menstruation or menopause, may increase the risk of migraines. Taking hormones to balance out these changes in estrogen levels may be necessary.
Of course, other triggers may include the following:
- Food – Additives in foods, such as aspartame, may cause migraines. This artificial sweetener has caused migraines in 10 percent of all sufferers. Preservatives in food, such as monosodium glutamate, may also cause migraines.
- Stress – Migraines may also stem from physical and emotional stress and anxiety.
- Weather – Weather changes, such as excessive changes in temperature or barometric pressure, may increase your risk of migraine attacks.
- Medications – Many medications cause headaches and migraines. Asthma medicine, diet pills, and medications for the heart or blood pressure have side effects that include headaches and migraines.
If you are suffering with chronic migraines, visit your primary care physician for treatment options. Many patients will utilize prescription pain medications to reduce the discomfort of the migraines. However, natural options are available to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
A misaligned spine can affect your brain stem and its ability to communicate with the body. This misalignment not only increases the risk of migraines, but it also causes pain and stiffness in the neck, back, and head. Consulting a chiropractor for a spinal adjustment is smart for reducing migraines and the physical discomfort associated with them.
During a spinal adjustment, the chiropractor will use their hands to gently, yet firmly, realign the spine with the neck and head. This improves the spinal cord's position, allowing for better communication between the brain stem and the body while reducing the frequency and pain of your migraines.
Your chiropractor may also suggest massage therapy to reduce your migraine discomfort. Massage improves your body's blood circulation, which reduces inflammation and pain, but also increases your body's production of endorphins. These happiness-inducing chemicals are released by the brain, improving your mood almost instantly.
Migraines can wreak havoc on your life, but treatment is possible. With proper understanding and help from your doctor and chiropractor, you will be able to understand and treat your chronic migraines.