Alleviating symptoms of migraines
What is a migraine? What causes a migraine? How do I get rid of a migraine? Can I prevent a migraine?
First, what is a migraine?
The American Migraine Foundation describes migraine symptoms as intense, potentially throbbing pain in the head, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, loud noises, and intense odors, all severe enough to make you leave or miss work/school; and it can last for hours to days. Some people report having migraines with an aura, an additional symptom that affects sight.
What causes a migraine?
A neurological study by N J Giffin, et al. collected data on premonitory symptoms of migraines and found that patients in the study were able to accurately predict migraines based on 72% of their diary entries. These symptoms included “feeling tired and weary, difficulty concentrating, and a stiff neck.
The American Migraine Foundation reports potential triggers as “stress, certain foods or skipping meals, sleeping too much or too little, changes in weather or barometric pressure, hormonal changes in women, concussions and traumatic brain injuries. There is evidence that migraine is hereditary or genetic since it often runs in families.”
The Association of Migraine Disorders claims that migraines are due to the “faulty wiring” of the nervous system, and that people who suffer from migraines are more sensitive to stimuli in the environment – overloading the system – leading to “unusual wave of brain activity that leads to a headache.” Most migraine sufferers have an issue with the trigeminal nerve, which is where the faulty wiring is located. It attaches to special sensors in the facial skin, mucous membranes, muscles, tendons, and the teeth. Click here for a video describing this.
How do I get rid of my migraine once it has already started?
Different things work for different people. For me, I have to pop two Excedrin, turn off the lights, lie down, and put a cold compress on my head – that’s if I’m at home. If at work, I’ll take the Excedrin, turn my office lights off, put sunglasses on and continue about my day.
Other options you may want to try are suggested by the Mayo Clinic: over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, migraine-specific pain relievers that contain caffeine (why I take Excedrin). I had one episode that lasted four days, which was new for me. I ended up having a telehealth session with a doctor, who then prescribed sumatriptan, which finally helped! There are several different types of prescription drugs (pill form, injection, or neuromodulation devices) that a doctor can prescribe, depending on the type of migraine you experience.
Are there any preventative measures to keep my migraines at bay?
The Mayo Clinic says that depending upon how your migraine presents, there are different types of drugs a doctor can prescribe, including blood pressure lowering medication, antidepressants, antiseizure drugs, monthly injections, and quarterly Botox injections.
If you don’t want to take a drug, some supplements include magnesium, riboflavin, memantine, melatonin, Coenzyme Q10, Feverfew, and Butterbur.
Managing your stress level can do leaps and bounds in managing migraines and experiencing them less frequently. Find out what causes your anxiety and what tenses up your body. Being able to identify tension in the body and why it is there, and utilizing coping skills like meditation, breathing exercises, and body awareness exercises can help you keep these symptoms at bay. You become connected to your body through your mind; hence the power of mindfulness.
Mayo Clinic also recommends daily exercise, eating wisely, and keeping a migraine diary.
To conclude, migraines are a neurological disorder and to date do not have a cure. If you believe you suffer from chronic migraines, talk with your doctor and open communication to establish what triggers them for you, what works to alleviate them for you when they happen, and how you can prevent them.