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Migraine Headaches:
How To Prevent, Treat, And Manage Them

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1.What is a migraine headache?

Migraine is generally confused with a normal headache, however the severity of the two are incomparable. Migraine presents with a host of other debilitating symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to loud sounds and lights and general discomfort. A migraine is typically characterized as a one sided throbbing headache that doesn’t go away quickly.

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2.Symptoms of migraines to watch out for

There are four stages in which you might experience the migraine and the symptoms for each vary. However, just because you have a migraine does not mean that you necessarily will go through all the stages and exhibit all the migraine symptoms. You might experience some of the symptoms and not others. Here are some of the common headache migraine symptoms particular to each migraine stage.

Stages of Migraine headache

Prodrome

The warning signs of a migraine are many. It can be difficult to pinpoint them but there are some signs you can look out for. For instance, about a day before the migraine, you might experience lots of mood changes. You might feel happy for one instant and the other second you might feel inexplicably depressed.

You might feel your neck is becoming stiff and you might even feel some pain in neck and head. You might develop food cravings and may even be constipated. One of the symptoms at this stage is feeling very thirsty all the time. Due to this, you might want to urinate frequently. You might start to yawn frequently as well.

Aura

The aura stage of the migraine can happen at two times. It can happen as you are experiencing a migraine or it can occur just before a migraine attack occurs. The symptoms at this stage start slowly and then gain momentum.

These symptoms can last for up to one hour for some people. These symptoms are usually related to visual flashes but can include other types of disturbances too. For example, you might find it difficult to speak at this stage. You might experience sensations in your leg or your arm. You might see light flashes and spots. You might experience one sided head pain and pain on one side of your face or body.

Attack

This is the stage when the actual migraine attack is taking place. When a migraine attack takes place you will feel sensitive to sound. You might experience a headache with vomiting. You might experience an isolated headache on one side with throbbing sensation. You might feel like you are unable to bear even the slightest sound. Some people become sensitive to touch and smell as well when they have a migraine attack. You might feel worse during a migraine attack when you move your body, sneeze or cough.

Post-Drome

This is the stage after the migraine attack has come to an end. There are various symptoms of this. Some people have reportedly felt very happy when the migraine is gone. Other people experience confusion as a result of the pain they went through during the migraine attack. Some people prefer to take some time off to get themselves sorted out since they feel drained. After the migraine, you might feel pain again if you move your head too much. This pain might be brief but it can be painful. This stage can last for up to 24 hours.

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3.Causes and triggers of migraine headaches

Triggers of Migraine headache and self treatment

You must have wondered what causes migraines in the first place. Here we explore the common triggers and causes of migraine headaches.

  • Changes in a woman’s hormones during menopause, menstruation, or pregnancy can cause migraines. For instance, some women experience migraines or severe headache during pregnancy.
  • If you are under stress for a prolonged period of time then you may experience migraines.
  • Some medications have said to trigger migraines, such as oral contraceptives.
  • Coffee, wine, and alcoholic beverages are said to trigger migraines.
  • Foods that contain food additives can cause migraines in many people.
  • Genetics can play a part in causing migraines.
  • Changes in sleep pattern can cause a migraine. For example, getting way too much sleep than you normally would or not getting enough sleep can trigger migraines.
  • Smells can trigger migraines in some people; especially strong smells.
  • Intense physical exercise and activities can trigger migraines.
  • A migraine headache can be caused due to weather changes.
  • Sounds that are too loud can also trigger migraines in many people.
  • Bright lighting can cause migraines in some people.
  • Eating particular types of foods such as processed foods and salty food can cause migraines. Aged cheeses are said to cause migraines in some people.
  • Not eating enough can trigger migraines and skipping meals can cause migraines too.
  • If you take too much medication then it can lead to migraines.
  • Use of tobacco can lead to migraine headaches and throbbing pain.
  • Some people get migraines when they eat any type of fermented food.

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4.Are you at risk for migraine?

If you suffer from frequent headaches, then does it mean that you are at risk of migraine? There are risk factors that make you more prone to get a migraine. These are as follows.

  • Women are more likely than men to have migraines. Women are three times more prone to having migraines.
  • You are more prone to developing migraines if you already suffer from other medical problems such as epilepsy or depression.
  • If people in your family suffer from migraine problems then there is a high chance that you might develop migraine too.
  • Women’s menstruation, pregnancy or menopause can cause migraines to develop. Hormonal changes in women trigger migraines.

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5.Complications and contraindications for migraine

Certain medications can cause a pounding headache if you overuse them. If you take ibuprofen for half a month then you may experience migraines. If you take combination painkillers like Excedrin Migraine then you can experience painful migraines.

This is the case if you take the medication in high doses or if you take the medication for over 10 days a month continuously for three months. If you take triptans such as Maxalt and Tosymra for more than nine days a month then you can develop migraines as a result.

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6.Diagnosis and treatment of migraine

How a migraine is diagnosed:

A migraine doctor will ask you for your medical history. If you have a family that has a history of developing migraines then the chances of you getting a migraine are extremely high. Your neurologist will ask you for your medical history as well and he will ask you about the symptoms that you experience.

Your doctor may perform a blood test as well as part of the diagnosis. He might perform a physical exam in addition to a neurological test to diagnose a migraine. At times, your case may be out of the ordinary in which case additional tests may be required. In this case, your doctor might perform the following.

  • CT Scan: In this test, your doctor will try to understand what is causing your migraine. Various medical issues can be causing migraines and your doctor will try and determine the causes with the help of the CT scan.
  • MRI: An MRI is another method that enables your doctor to see the detailed view of your entire brain. It makes use of radio waves and a magnetic field to create the brain images. An MRI is useful for diagnosing problems that you might have such as neurological problems related to your nervous system that can be causing the migraines.

There may be other tests that your doctor might want to perform. The tests will depend on your symptoms and results from the other tests.

Migraine treatment options

You must be wondering how to treat headaches and migraines because the pain is too much to bear at times. While doctors have not found a cure for migraine and headache treatment, there are a plethora of options that you can choose from to relieve migraine symptoms when they occur and to prevent attacks in the future. For example, you can drink more water so that you get better soon. When you get a migraine, you can close your eyes and rest in a dark room where there is no light. This can help relieve you of the pain associated with a migraine attack. You can also place an ice pack on your forehead to relieve migraine pain.

You can take medications for migraine that relieve you of migraine pain. This type of migraine treatment is called abortive treatment and medications need to be taken when you are already experiencing a migraine attack.

These are specifically made to lessen the migraine symptoms. The best time to take these types of medications is the moment you realize you are going to have a migraine. The following are some of the medications that you can take which help you feel better when you are already experiencing a migraine attack.

Triptans are prescription medications and an example is Imitrex. Triptans can be taken in multiple ways including as nasal sprays and pills. These drugs can prove to be effective during a migraine because they block the brain pathways related to pain. If you are prone to a heart attack then Triptans should be avoided at all costs.

Opioid medicines are only prescribed when no other form of migraine treatment is working. These are seen as a last resort to relieve pain due to migraines. These types of medicines can be addictive which is why they are not often prescribed but they do help relieve many migraine symptoms.

Pain relievers such as prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications can help feel better when you have a migraine attack. However prolonged use of pain relievers can cause other health conditions such as ulcers.

Anti-nausea medications are often used for relieving migraine pain in those people who experience severe headaches and vomiting along with nausea. Anti-nausea medicines are usually used in conjunction with pain relievers to alleviate migraine symptoms.

You should speak to your doctor about which medications are safe for you especially if you have a history of allergy or already suffer from a health condition. Prolonged use of OTC drugs can aggravate your condition, hence it is essential to check with a doctor about what you can safely take and what dosages should be prescribed.

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7.How to adapt your lifestyle to avoid migraine

You can make small changes to your lifestyle so that you prevent future migraine attacks. Here are a few steps to take to relieve migraine pain.

  • You should drink a lot of water throughout the day so that you stay hydrated at all times.
  • You should avoid eating less and should eat enough so you are getting all the nutrition that your body needs.
  • Eating proper and healthy food is key to ensure your body is healthy. You should try and eat at the same time daily.
  • Sleeping deficiency can trigger migraines, which is why adequate sleep (8 hours) is important.
  • You should maintain a steady sleep cycle by sleeping at the same time every night and wake up at the same time.

If you don’t take time out for exercising and keeping fit then now is the best time to start. You should exercise consistently. You should focus on aerobic exercise since it helps to reduce tension from your body. This can effectively help you become less prone to getting a migraine. Remember that you should start slow and then increase the pace.

If you abruptly start exercising heavily then it might only lead to aggravation of your migraine headache. Relaxation techniques such as biofeedback can help make you feel better and decrease the chances of you developing a migraine. You should speak to your doctor about this so that you can create an exercise regime together.

You can also try yoga which has proven to be a great and fun way to exercise. Yoga promotes good health and this is why it has proven to be one of the best ways to prevent migraines. Since yoga consists of meditation, breathing techniques and exercise routines combined, it can help trigger a feeling of general wellness and relieve stress. Research has proven that yoga helps to decrease the frequency at which you get migraines and their severity too. You can speak to your doctor about whether yoga is recommended for you and which asanas are safe for you to do.

Women can try hormone therapy when they notice that they experience a migraine attack when they are menstruating. If you are overweight or obese, then talk to a professional dietician about losing weight. Remember that anything extreme can cause headaches and subsequently migraines so you want to find a way to achieve your goal without triggering migraine in the process. Losing weight and staying healthy has proved to be beneficial to many people who suffer from migraine attacks regularly.

It is helpful if you keep a diary, journaling what you eat and what activity you were doing when you get a migraine. This can be helpful to determine which foods are triggering a migraine attack so you can avoid them. You should write about which medications you take as well because some medications can trigger migraine symptoms. You can include details when you slept, when you woke up, when you ate and other activities such as exercise details in your diary. All of these will help give you a chance to understand your migraine triggers.

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8.Migraine FAQs: All your concerns addressed

When do migraines begin in a person’s life? Is there a particular time?

There is no particular time when migraines can develop in a person’s life. Most people have noticed that migraines have started developing when they were teenagers. In the 30s, migraines tend to be at their most severe. In your 40s, migraines tend to become less severe and more bearable as you age. However, a migraine can occur anytime and it varies from person to person. Usually stressful times and menstruation are times people suffer from migraine attacks. There are so many factors involved that it becomes difficult to predict.

How long does a migraine attack last for?

A migraine typically lasts for four hours to up to 3 entire days or 72 hours. This is applicable if you do not do anything to treat your migraine in the meantime. If you do take medication or use natural remedies for relief, then you might find relief from migraine pain earlier.

How often can migraines occur per month?

There is no set answer for this because it depends on many things. If you tend to do things that trigger migraines then you will get many migraine attacks every month. However, if you take preventative measures then you might be less prone to migraine attacks. Some people get a migraine attack a month while others experience migraine attacks weekly.

Are there any preventative medications that I can take?

There are several preventative medications that you can take so that you don’t have to go through migraine pain. These types of medications are usually prescribed to those people who have migraine attacks that last a long time. Examples of preventative medications include antidepressants, Fremanezumab, medications that lower your blood pressure, and anti-seizure drugs.

How can I choose the medications that help alleviate migraine-related pain?

You need to consult your doctor about the medications that you can take for your migraine. Never take a pain relief medication or migraine preventative medication without your doctor’s approval.

When should I see a doctor?

You should see a top migraine specialist the moment you start experiencing migraine symptoms. Oftentimes, people do not realize they have a migraine which is why they go untreated since they are not diagnosed, to begin with. If you know you have a migraine already but you are experiencing a different type of pain that is becoming unbearable then you should contact your doctor immediately. The reason is that you might be suffering from another medical condition which needs quick medical attention.

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9.Natural Remedies for migraines

There are numerous natural remedies for migraines that you can try out to help relieve pain and prevent migraines occurring in the future. Some of them are as follows.

You can opt for acupressure which is the practice of applying pressure on specific points so that you feel relief. There has been research on acupressure and it has been found that many people do feel better as a result of acupressure therapy where headache relief pressure points are used to provide relief. It can help you feel better when you are experiencing migraine pain and its symptoms such as nausea.

There are some non-traditional options that you can try. For instance, cognitive behavioural therapy is useful for people who suffer from frequent migraine attacks. Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help you understand pain perceptions and how our thoughts can have a major impact on that. You can try acupuncture which is great for people with chronic migraine pain. However, we recommend you consult your doctor before you try out any of these alternative therapies that can help prevent a migraine attack.

Getting a massage helps in improving your quality of sleep. Since sleep deficiency is one of migraine triggers, it can help you feel better if you make massage a part of your life. You can get a massage a week if possible as this helps you get relaxed and feel better about life in general. Getting a massage helps to decrease cortisol levels and can help treat anxiety as well.

You can add magnesium to your diet because a deficiency of magnesium in your body can lead to migraine attacks. You can opt for magnesium oxide supplements which can help those women who experience pain due to hormonal changes as well. Else, you can make magnesium-rich foods a part of your diet. Foods such as peanut butter, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, oatmeal, and eggs are rich in magnesium.

Sometimes essential oils can help. For instance, lavender oil can help you feel better when you are experiencing chronic headaches such as headache due to stress or anxiety headache. There has been a published study that has found that people who inhaled lavender oil for 15 minutes felt better. You can even apply diluted lavender oil on your temples when you experience forehead headache such as headache right side of head or headache on left side of head.

You should speak to your doctor about the natural remedies that you want to try because not all remedies are effective for everyone. Your migraine doctor can advise you on the kind of treatments or alternative treatments that will work for you.

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