What’s a migraine? What does a migraine feel like?
A migraine is a common neurological disease that causes a variety of symptoms, most notably a throbbing, pulsing headache on one side of your head. Your migraine will likely get worse with physical activity, lights, sounds or smells. It may last at least four hours or even days. About 12% of Americans have this genetic disorder. Research shows that it’s the sixth most disabling disease in the world.
What are the types of headaches? What type of headache is a migraine?
There are over 150 types of headaches, divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. A migraine is a primary headache, meaning that it isn’t caused by a different medical condition. Primary headache disorders are clinical diagnoses, meaning there’s no blood test or imaging study to diagnose it. A secondary headache is a symptom of another health issue.
What is an aura?
An aura is a group of sensory, motor and speech symptoms that usually act like warning signals that a migraine headache is about to begin. Commonly misinterpreted as a seizure or stroke, it typically happens before the headache pain, but can sometimes appear during or even after. An aura can last from 10 to 60 minutes. About 15% to 20% of people who experience migraines have auras.
Aura symptoms are reversible, meaning that they can be stopped/healed. An aura produces symptoms that may include:
- Seeing bright flashing dots, sparkles, or lights.
- Blind spots in your vision.
- Numb or tingling skin.
- Speech changes.
- Ringing in your ears (tinnitus).
- Temporary vision loss.
- Seeing wavy or jagged lines.
- Changes in smell or taste.
- A “funny” feeling.
What are the types of migraines?
There are several types of migraines, and the same type may go by different names:
- Migraine with aura (complicated migraine): Around 15% to 20% of people with migraine headaches experience an aura.
- Migraine without aura (common migraine): This type of migraine headache strikes without the warning an aura may give you. The symptoms are the same, but that phase doesn’t happen.
- Migraine without head pain: “Silent migraine” or “acephalgic migraine,” as this type is also known as, includes the aura symptom but not the headache that typically follows.
- Hemiplegic migraine: You’ll have temporary paralysis (hemiplegia) or neurological or sensory changes on one side of your body. The onset of the headache may be associated with temporary numbness, extreme weakness on one side of your body, a tingling sensation, a loss of sensation and dizziness or vision changes. Sometimes it includes head pain and sometimes it doesn’t.
- Retinal migraine (ocular migraine): You may notice temporary, partial or complete loss of vision in one of your eyes, along with a dull ache behind the eye that may spread to the rest of your head. That vision loss may last a minute, or as long as months. You should always report a retinal migraine to a healthcare provider because it could be a sign of a more serious issue.
- Chronic migraine: A chronic migraine is when a migraine occurs at least 15 days per month. The symptoms may change frequently, and so may the severity of the pain. Those who get chronic migraines might be using headache pain medications more than 10 to 15 days a month and that, unfortunately, can lead to headaches that happen even more frequently.
- Migraine with brainstem aura. With this migraine, you’ll have vertigo, slurred speech, double vision or loss of balance, which occur before the headache. The headache pain may affect the back of your head. These symptoms usually occur suddenly and can be associated with the inability to speak properly, ringing in the ears and vomiting.
- Status migrainosus. This is a rare and severe type of migraine that can last longer than 72 hours. The headache pain and nausea can be extremely bad. Certain medications, or medication withdrawal, can cause you to have this type of migraine.
Migraines usually start during the teenage years or early in adult life, affecting more women than men with a ratio of three to one. Migraines are caused from constricted (tightening) arteries that supply blood flow to the brain. When the arteries constrict, blood flow to the brain is reduced as well as the brains oxygen supply.
The brain reacts by dilating (enlarging) arteries to meet the brain’s need for energy.
The dilation spreads to the arteries in the neck and scalp and is the culprit of the pain in migraines.
If you live with migraines, make sure to have your Doctor rule out an underlying illness or other medical conditions that mimic migraines with the appropriate tests: for example , x-rays determining sinus infection, EEG for seizure activity or a CAT scan to detect blood clots or a brain tumor. Your Dr . may determine a drug to help ease your pain.
Eight Migraine Triggers
1 . Cerviogentic Headache:
Some people who have a tender neck and suffer from sore bone and joint problems are diagnosed with this type
2 . Temporomandibular Migraine:
Triggered by teeth grinding
3. Sinus Migraine:
Triggered by allergies and caused by excessive mucous and often accompanied by a fever. If you have this type of migraine, you may experience pain around both eyes and also may feel nauseated and sensitive to light.
4. Genetic Migraines:
Studies have lined a gene to people affected with migraines. Often when the gene for migraines is passed on to the next generation, the recipient will also experience headaches around the same age as the person who passed on the migraine.
5. Stress Migraine:
Stress can be a major contributing factor to the onset of a migraine. Type A personalities are more likely to experience migraines. Type A is ambitious, bright, perfectionist, emotionally repressed, cautious and has a decreased ability to manage stress. However , this is the easiest type of migraine to treat because a type A personality can acquire the skills necessary to manage stress.
6. Hormonal Migraine:
Fluctuating hormones in women are often the cause of migraines and can happen during menstrual cycles.
7. Cigarette Migraine
An equal opportunity source of migraines is because the nicotine alters blood vessels. High carbon monoxide levels in a person who smokes or even inhales second hand smoke can lead to a migraine.
8. Food Migraines
Food allergies are another factor that leads to migraines. However , migraine sufferers are able to eat chocolate without falling prey to a migraine. Some patients actually report relief from eating chocolate.
Foods that Can Cause Migraines
1 . Aged cheese such as Roquefort, Stilton and Sharp Cheddar
2 . Fermented Dairy such as Sour Cream, Buttermilk and Yogurt
3. Citrus: Oranges or Grapefruit, including juice
4. Nuts: Peanuts, Walnuts or Pecans
5. Legumes: Peas, Beans and Soy product 6. Onions and Garlic
8. Pickled foods: picked herring is the most common instigator
9. MSG found in Chinese food
Now that you know the common triggers, also note that skipping meals also causes migraines. Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to drop, which in turn causes a migraine.
Six Ways to Kiss Your Migraine Goodbye
1 . Medicine
Medicines have been used for centuries to treat migraines. Today Dr’s prescribe Beta Blockers to treat migraines by maintaining adequate dilation of blood vessels. Antidepressants: The brain chemical ‘serotonin’ plays a role in migraine attacks because the levels of serotonin may cause or relieve migraine and that’s why Drs sometimes prescribe antidepressants for migraines. Antidepressants reduce migraine frequency by regulating serotonin levels in the brain. Other drugs are triptans available as an injection or nasal spray. This type of drug shuts down the inflammation and transmission of migraine pain.
2 . Surgical Treatment
Nerve stimulators have been used to control back and muscle pain and in 2003 a nerve stimulator was successfully used to treat chronic headaches. With nerve stimulation, one end of a wire is connected to a nerve that controls pain and the other is connected to a small battery powered generator. The patient controls the generator via a remote device. Once turned on, it disconnects the pain signal.
Not only do chronic migraine suffers face agonizing physical disabilities, they also have the psychological fear of not being able to earn a living or manage their home life because daily activities can suddenly become unbearable with the onset of a migraine.
3. Holistic Intervention
Rarely are people offered a non drug approach to treating migraines. Treating a migraine holistically not only can treat the migraine at onset but can also act as prevention.
Create a headache diary listing the 5 W’s.
A. Who were you with?
B. Where? Did someone irritate you? At work with glaring lights?
C. What? What medications were you on?
D. When? When did the headache start?
E. Why? Did some particular food or drink aggravate the situation? Did you get enough sleep?
4. Review your diary after 30 days and see if you can isolate the trigger.
5. Use heat to help dilate the blood vessels in the body. This must be done at direct onset of your migraine. Soak your hands in hot water for 20-30 minutes. As the migraine progresses and the blood vessels enlarge, apply ice to the back of the neck and forehead to help constrict capillaries that are pressing against the nerves.
6. Relaxation techniques
You can use relaxation techniques to manage stress. Research has found that people who consciously practice yoga daily for 30 – 45 minutes can learn to positively manipulate involuntary bodily responses like migraine pain. Studies have shown that relaxation practiced on a regular basis achieves a 45 to 80% reduction or elimination in both migraine severity and frequency. Yoga triggers a boost in the brain chemical serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is involved with your body’s anger, pain, sleep and migraine and can be a cure for headaches.
Frequent headaches are a sign that you are stressed out and it’s your body’s way of saying slow down and take care of me. Especially if you are a type A personality. My type A patients often say they can’t sit still and have a difficult time with the relaxation/mediation part of yoga. My reply?
What’s more difficult to live with. Meditating daily or living with a migraine, a stroke or a heart attack? These are very real situations that afflict people with constricted arteries and that’s why it’s vital that you make time for your health.
Unfortunately for my patients, I often meet them after they’ve suffered from a condition of vascular abnormality. They are very motivated to participate because they have experienced what happens when blood flow to the heart or brain is compromised. Consequently they practice my techniques daily to reduce a recurrence. Why not make time now? There are 1440 minutes in a day.
45 minutes a day practicing yoga is a wise investment in your health that offers a positive life style with increased energy without the use of toxic drugs polluting your liver and fewer Doctor visits which equals fewer co-payments. Yoga Chi for Energy DVD includes medically engineered relaxation techniques with an 11 minute meditation by a crackling fireplace.
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