What is a Migraine?
A migraine is a kind of headache that triggers a throbbing, pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It usually last for few hours, but can extend to days at a time. The pain is so severe that it is hard to endure and often interferes with your day-to-day activities. Migraines are often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to any noise and sound, as well as feeling nausea, and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, you'll likely want to try a migraine treatment.
One common symptom is feeling an aura. It is felt by many people before their migraine headache hits. An aura can include symptoms like tingling on one side of the arm or in the face or leg, visual disturbances (such as flashes of light or blind spots), or difficulty speaking.
Certain drugs and medications are helpful in preventing some migraines and can help make them less painful. Natural remedies, combined with exercises and the right medications, can also be helpful.
Migraines may be triggered by physical, environmental, emotional, dietary, or hormonal factors. Some common causes include the following:
- Salty foods such as pickled or fermented meat, chocolate, processed meat, caffeine, or alcohol
- Stress, anxiety and/or depression
- Altered sleep patterns, such as oversleeping or not getting adequate sleep
- Food additives, like MSG and artificial sweeteners
- Low blood sugar
- Certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, strong odors or perfumes, smoking, and exposure to second-hand smoke
- Sudden strenuous work out or intense physical exertion (if you are not used to it)
- Fasting or skipping meals
- Flickering screens, such as computer or television screens
- Taking oral contraceptives that contain hormones, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy
- Variations in the environment, such as changes in atmospheric pressure
Signs and Symptoms
Migraine symptoms vary between each person, because everyone is different. However, some common symptoms include the following:
- An upset stomach, abdomen pain, and nausea and vomiting
- Discomfort and pain in the neck
- A dull headache that turns in to throbbing pain
- Feeling fatigue and/or dizziness
- Increased sensitivity to smell, noise, and light; distorted and blurred vision, or seeing flashes of light
- Feeling very cold and/or very warm
Migraine Treatment Options
Over-the-counter prescription medicine: Ibuprofen or aspirin can help decrease pain.
Prescription medications: There are different prescriptions that are recommended doctors to help relieve pain. Triptans are helpful in blocking pain pathways in the brain. You can take them in the form of nasal sprays, shots, and pills. Ergotamines are available as pills or tablets (that dissolve under your tongue), injections, nasal sprays, or suppositories. They are effective when taken as soon as symptoms begin. Be sure to always talk to your doctor about different medications, and what works best for you.
Opioids: Narcotic opioid medications are helpful to those people who cannot take migraine medicines that contain codeine. However, these have one disadvantage: they are highly addictive and are usually recommended only if no other treatment is effective.
Anti-nausea medications: Medications like Gravol can be helpful in relieving nausea symptoms.
Again, be sure to check with your doctor about what options are available and appropriate for you.
Your doctor might advise you to take certain preventive medications if you have long-lasting, severe, and frequent migraine headaches. Preventive medications reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Some medication options include the following:
Blood pressure-lowering medications: Calcium channel blockers like verapamil (Calan, Verelan) can be helpful in preventing migraines accompanied by an aura. Medications that lower blood pressure are helpful in preventing arterial constriction linked with migraine side effects.
Antidepressants: A tricyclic antidepressant can help prevent migraines. There are certain side effects like excessive weight gain and sleepiness, so it's important to consult your doctor.
Anti-seizure drugs: There are a few anti-seizure drugs that might help you have less frequent migraine headaches. However, some side effects of these drugs include nausea, weight changes, and dizziness.
Botox injections: Botox injections have been beneficial in preventing migraine headaches in some people. You should consult with your doctor beforehand, and see a licensed technician for the procedure.
There are many natural remedies that you can try to help ease migraine symptoms, and keep pain at bay.
Lavender oil: Breathing in the fragrance from lavender essential oils can help migraine symptoms. To do this, add two to four drops of oil to two to three cups of boiling water. Then, inhale the vapors. You can also massage a few drops by applying it to your temple.
Peppermint oil: The menthol in peppermint is beneficial in preventing migraine symptoms. Several scientific studies claim that applying a menthol solution to the forehead and temple helps muscles relax.
Avoid certain foods: As mentioned above, salty and processed foods can amplify migraine symptoms. Avoid the following foods to help keep symptoms from getting worse: hot dogs, bacon, cold cuts, red wine, cheese, pickled food, and processed foods.
Ginger: Ginger helps reduce nausea associated with migraines, as well as overall migraine severity and pain.
Add magnesium to your diet: Magnesium deficiency is associated with migraines and headaches. Try adding some of these foods to your diet: sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, eggs, cashews, and oatmeal.
Yoga: Yoga techniques like meditation, deep breathing and different postures are helpful in relieving the duration, frequency, and intensity of migraines. Yoga is also known to help reduce stress and anxiety, which can help with tension-related migraines.
Acupressure: Acupressure is the practice of applying pressure with fingers to specific points on the body to relieve pain. It's been known to help with migraine pain in some patients.
There are a few different things you can easily do to help prevent migraines. Below are some simple steps you can start with. As always, be sure to consult with your doctor about what options will work best for your symptoms and lifestyle.
- Identify your triggers (track them in a notebook) so you can be aware of what they are, and how to avoid them
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough water every day
- Get enough sleep at night, and aim to eat proper meals each day
- Participate in activities, such as yoga or tai chi, to help reduce stress
- Incorporate regular exercise into your routine; even a 30 minute walk per day will help