Migraine headaches typically occur in one area of the head as a pulsing or throbbing sensation. Additional migraine symptoms include nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to outside noises and artificial and natural light. Migraine headaches are more likely to affect women and approximately 1 out of 10 people, worldwide, suffer from migraines. Typically the migraine lasts anywhere from 2 to 72 hours and people who experience them tend to suffer throughout their life, especially if there is a genetic history. Some people are affected by chronic migraines and are dependent on anti-migraine medicine. While each patient’s cause of migraine can be different, research indicates that hormones, stress and genetics all play a role. The cause of migraines ranges from genetics to environmental issues. The determination of potential causes are generally a starting point for migraine treatments. For example, if the migraines are chronic, meaning they have been ongoing for much of the patient s adult life, the cause may be different than someone who recently moved into a new home who may be reacting to mold or something else in the environment. Effective treatment for migraines will include a discovery phase that is initiated by the physician and taken seriously by the patient. Effective treatment options will include an understanding of triggers, natural reliefs, prevention and treatment techniques.
Migraine Auras and Prodromes
Migraines are different from headaches in that they tend to be chronic and more severe. Migraines, unlike headaches, typically are preceded by unusual sensations that a migraine is about to occur, such as prodromes and auras. Prodromes are sensations that manifest as early on symptoms, and can include fatigue, hunger and nervousness. A migraine aura occurs for some patients as a last warning sign before the migraine attacks and are visually related. Migraine auras are often visually related and may appear as flashing lights, zig-zag lines or a temporary loss of vision and are commonly described as the last sign before onset. Migraine headaches also tend to have after effects, including feelings of exhaustion that may last a day or two after a severe migraine headache has faded. Research indicated that not all people who get migraines have prodromes or after effects. Some patients will encounter more severe after effects than others and relief for after effects is often part of overall therapy for migraine headaches.
Once the headache has started, there is little most people can do to other than utilize some basic relief techniques or rely on migraine medicine. Basic migraine relief techniques include: massage, relaxation techniques and stress management. Massage may be applied more generally, to induce all over body relaxation, or massage directed at pressure points meant to relieve headaches. Relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, particular scents distilled by diffusers and comfortable spaces for resting when migraines onset. Stress management techniques range from learning self-care behaviors, improved communication techniques and counseling to help patients learn coping mechanisms. Many of the natural migraine relief options will naturally occur to sufferers. Most people who suffer from migraines will automatically seek out less stimulation and may need to rest in a quiet, cool room with little to no distractions for several hours. Other natural relief options include butterbur, feverfew, magnesium, riboflavin, Omega 3s, peppermint, ginger, increased hydration and meditation. It is advantageous to include a multi-prong approach to migraine therapy, including considering natural relief options.
A variety of migraine treatment options exist, including clinical services like we offer at Unger Primary Care Medical Center. Commonly, treatment options are split into two main categories, prevention and treatment. Prevention may occur in the form of behavioral changes, such as managing stress, and pharmaceutically, with drugs used to help control the onset of migraines. Behavioral changes may include regular exercise, relaxation techniques and biofeedback mechanisms. Sufferers of migraines may also be encouraged to keep track of potential migraine triggers, including nutrition, adequate hydration, anxiety, exposure to light, certain medication, overuse of pain relieving medication, travel, sleep and changes in hormone levels.
For women, migraine headaches may be related to their menstrual cycle and hormone therapy may be recommend. In addition, a plan for weight loss is often recommended for obese individuals who suffer from migraines. Learning to identify migraine triggers and change the environment to reduce headaches is referred to as migraine remediation. Treatment options begin once the migraine is already affecting the individual and may include sumatriptan, ergotamine drugs, and analgesics such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Drugs already on the market for epilepsy, depression, and high blood pressure have been shown to be effective for both prevention and treatment. Clinical services can be utilized by patients who suffer from chronic and frequent migraines to determine the best prevention, treatment and relief options.
Once an attack has started, research indicates that the sooner these treatments are administered, the more effective they are for the patient. Often a combination of prevention and treatment works best for most patients. Some migraine sufferers are able to use a combination of anti-migraine medication and behavioral changes to limit the frequency of migraine headaches. Most patients require changing their environment once a migraine attack has started, especially if it is not treated early on, and this may require leaving work and returning home for rest and treatment.
According to the scientific community, a migraine cure all does not exist. In part, this is because the cause of migraines can vary so much from patient to patient. However, people who suffer from migraines are trained to detect prodomes, migraine auras and environmental triggers, which can help to greatly reduce the onset and severity of migraines. Women, in particular, are taught to identify triggers that may be related to their menstrual cycle and can be placed on a hormone therapy treatment plan. Botulinum toxin A, commonly known as BOTOX, has been shown to be effective in prevention of migraines. Alternative therapies for migraines exist, but also are lacking in evidence as a cure. Acupuncture and chiropractic work may relieve or reduce, but not cure, migraines.
The migraine solutions we offer our patients at Unger Primary Care Medical Center are individualized to your problems and to your lifestyle. We draw on Dr. Unger’s decades of experience with treating chronic disease states, including migraine and chronic headaches. We would love to help you out, so have us reach out to you today.