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Migraine

What is Migraine?

Migraine is a very painful type of headache that may last for extended periods of time, sometimes for days. In the build up to, and during, an attack of migraine may include other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sensitivity to light and noises, tingling sensations in the limbs, blind spots, and optical flashing. Migraine headaches may result from an expansion of blood vessels and the release of nerve fibre chemicals. An artery in the head expands which prompts a further release of chemicals that generate inflammation and pain. Women are more likely to suffer from this medical condition than men.

What Causes Migraine?

Migraine is a neurological condition of which the cause is not fully known. It is believed to be largely caused by unusual activity in the receptors and ion cells of the nerve cells.

This abnormal activity impacts upon the way the brain processes typical information such as sound, light and pain. The levels of serotonin in the brain have been observed to rise at the beginning of a migraine attack.

In turn this affects the electrical patterns in the brain and blood vessels. Experts still do not know what all of this happens but they are getting nearer to the so-called Migraine Generator.

Genetics are also known to be involved and 60% of migraine sufferers have a parent that also suffered and in the majority of cases this will be the mother.

Migraine Triggers

Migraine triggers do not cause migraine but they can be the cause of migraine attacks. Different triggers affect different migraine sufferers and the list of suspected triggers is very long. In a lot of cases it can be a combination of factors that trigger an attack.

Hormonal Triggers

Changes in the body's own hormones can start a migraine attack. Hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy, taking of birth control pills, menopause, and hormone replacement therapy. In 60% of female migraine sufferers have attacks just before or during menstruation.

Changes to Daily Routine

Migraine sufferers should try to keep to a balanced and regular daily routine. Going to bed at the same time, rising at the same time, and eating at regular intervals throughout the day are all important. Do not skip meals and try to get the same amount of sleep every day.

Weather Conditions

Changes in meteorological conditions can trigger migraine attacks particularly if the barometric conditions fall quickly. Rising barometric pressure, changes in temperature, excessive humidity, and even walking into a strong wind can all trigger an attack.

Dietary and Food Triggers

Certain foods have long been identified as possible trigger of migraine attacks. Foods that high in tyramine such as aged cheese and some deli meats are prime suspects in causing very bad migraine headaches. Other well-known food culprits include alcohol, caffeine, Chinese takeaways and other foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), soy beans, broad bean pods, bananas, and citrus fruits.

Some environmental issues such as perfumes, fresh paint, and cigarette smoke may trigger migraine attacks.

Migraine Symptoms

The symptoms of a migraine attack may begin with the aura even before the headache begins. With aura other symptoms such as changes in the senses; taste, smell, hearing, touch, and vision, may occur. Visual aura is the most frequent and may involve blurring of the vision, flashing lights, and strange patterns.

When the migraine headache arrive, beginning as an ache and develops into very painful throbbing, it is usually confined to one side of the head but may affect both sides. In some sufferers the pain can move from one side to the other during an attack. Commonly migraine sufferers will have two to four attacks per month, although more frequent attacks may occur.

The headache may be accompanied by one or more of the following: a sensitivity to light, sounds, smells, or movement; nausea; vomiting; abdominal pain; diarrhoea; poor appetite; feelings of cold or warmth; tiredness; and dizziness.

Migraine Phases

Migraine attacks can be broken down into three phases:

Pre-Headache Phase

The pre-headache phase can begin up to a full day before the attack. Some sufferers experience euphoria, irritability, tiredness, diarrhoea, or thirst or food cravings.

Headache Phase

The migraine headache is usually on one side of the head and may last from a few hours to three days. Symptoms include:
throbbing pain with nausea and/or vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and movement

Post-headache Phase

The post-headache phase may last from a few hours to a few days. After a migraine headache dissipates, many patients have reported feelings of exhaustion, lethargy, weakness, or even a sense of euphoria.

How to Prevent Migraine Headaches?

To prevent migraine attacks it is important to be aware of what are the triggers for attacks and to adapt your lifestyle to minimise the trigger points and instances. The following tips and advice will help prevent attacks of migraine:

  • Adopt a regular sleeping routine. Avoid too little or too much sleep and remove any possible disturbances that might interfere with your night's sleep.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum and avoid red wine and beer.
  • Keep your stress levels low by practising relaxation techniques. Yoga and Pilates are useful in this regard.
  • Reduce exposure to stimuli such as flashing or strobe lighting. Wear sunglasses in bright sunlight. Avoid strong scents and odours.
  • Caffeine has long been associated with migraine headaches so do not drink coffee or drinks with caffeine.
  • Unless it is absolutely necessary for other reasons avoid any form of hormonal treatments.
  • Take regular exercise to reduce stress but do not engage in sudden or very strenuous exercise as this can actually trigger a migraine attack. Brisk walking is an excellent form of exercise for migraine sufferers.
  • Finally keep a personal migraine headache diary. Different migraine suffers have different and varied triggers so in order to help you to recognise patterns and to take evasion measures is it important to keep a diary of what you eat and your experiences. After a number of migraine attacks you should be able to detect, isolate, and eliminate common factors or patterns in the lead up to your headaches.

    How to Cure Migraine

    There is no known cure for migraine. Scientists do not fully understand the causes of migraine so therefore they cannot cure it. There are medications available to help control the symptoms but they do not cure the underlying conditions. As outlined above there are a number of measures that sufferers can take to minimise the incidences of the attacks. Many migraine sufferers turn to complementary or alternative therapies.

    If you are a regular sufferer of migraine and have not been able to achieve long term relief there are a range of complementary and alternative treatments Reiki, Kinesiology, CranioSacral, and Aromatherapy available. If you have tried conventional methods without finding a migraine cure there are a number of complementary therapists listed on this site that may have the solution to your pain difficulties.

    Disclaimer

    The material and information contained on this site is for educational purposes only. This information should not be interpreted as any form of medical advice. If you are experiencing any medical or health difficulties please consult with your doctor.

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