Health

Migraine: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

Despite all the misconceptions, migraines aren’t unbearable headaches. Both doctors and researchers believe that an abnormal brain activity causes a migraine. The constriction and dilation of the blood vessels within the brain lead to unexpected migraine attacks that usually last from a few hours to a few days, affecting your ability to perform well at work and at home.

The migraine attacks generate the feelings of throbbing head pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, vomiting, visual distortion, and insomnia, among the others. Finding a safe and quick way to relieve the migraine pain and reduce the frequency of attacks can be troublesome. Knowing your migraine triggers is the biggest defense in managing them.

What are the major causes of migraine?

Numerous studies have shown that migraine headaches affect more often women than men, typically between the age of 10 and 55. The elders can also suffer from them.

Although the exact chain of the migraine events is still unclear, the majority of medical experts are sure that a migraine starts in the brain, and involves the chemicals and nerve pathways. These changes disrupt the bloodstream in the brain and its surrounding tissues.

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Overall, there are several factors that can trigger frequent and intense migraine attacks. Some of them include:

  • Stress, anxiety, frequent panic attacks, mood swings, depression, and other mental disorders and illnesses.
  • A genetic susceptibility. If your family history includes the members with chronic migraine attacks, you’re more likely to suffer from them, too.
  • Reactions to drugs and medications that affect the blood pressure, hormones, and nerves.
  • Sleep deprivation, constant bad dreaming, insomnia, and oversleeping.
  • Any dysfunction or issue in the brain stem because of past illnesses or injury.
  • Poor diet and any eating disorder.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • Changes in the neurotransmitter levels and nerve signals that cause the pain and migraine attacks. This includes the changes in the trigeminal nerve and low serotonin levels, releasing the substances that are called neuropeptides.
  • Chronic and occasional inflammation that tends to affect the normal blood flow, along with the blood vessels, which reach the brain.

Other triggers are:

  • Loud sounds and bright lights;
  • Air pollution and weather changes;
  • Perfumes;
  • Allergies;
  • Smoking, drinking, and other bad habits;
  • Dehydration;
  • Fluctuations in blood sugar

What are the major symptoms of migraine?

There are a few kinds of migraine headaches and each is characterized by its own symptoms. But as experts claim people suffering from migraine attacks are more likely to experience:

  • Aura, or vision disturbances, tunnel vision, seeing unusual lines and shapes as well as rapid flashing lights;
  • Irritability;
  • Enhanced sensitivity to light and sound of any type;
  • An upset stomach, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and other digestive issues;
  • Severe or intense pounding pain on both sides or sometimes one side of the head;
  • Poor concentration and speaking abilities;
  • Increased thirst;
  • Weakness or numbness in the neck or facial muscles;
  • Shakiness or dizziness.

You may feel all or some of these symptoms just a couple of minutes to about 24 hours before a migraine attack and can last 6 hours, or in some cases 48 hours. The migraine “hangover” (the state after an attack) has a few lingering symptoms, such as neck pain, fatigue, increased need for sleep, and brain fog.

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Migraine Treatment

There’s no specific treatment for migraine attacks because the major goal is to prevent and relieve the migraine symptoms, usually by changing or avoiding the major triggers.

Depending on your symptoms, you may need to take medications, such as seizure medicines like topiramate, gabapentin, and valproic acid; blood pressure medicines like verapamil (calcium channel blockers) or beta blockers (metroprolol and propanolol); and in some cases antidepressants like venlafaxine or amitriptyline.

Your doctor may also prescribe ibuprofen, suppositories, nasal sprays, ergots, triptans, and injections. The majorities of migraine medications have terrible side effects, so never take them without a doctor’s supervision – especially if you’re pregnant or you suffer from cardiovascular disease.

17 All-Natural Migraine Treatments

You can also treat and prevent migraine attacks in a natural way, with little to no side effects at all. It starts with your lifestyle changes that involve eating clean food and quitting bad habits. Here are a few natural methods to consider when treating migraine headaches.

1.Start a migraine journal

In order to prevent migraine attacks, it’s important to know what triggers them.

Keep a log of your possible triggers and symptoms, including stress levels, dietary patterns, time, amount of sleep and kind of workout performed. It will help you narrow down all the factors that cause your migraine headaches.

2.Get enough sleep

A lack of sleep or oversleeping can both enhance and even worsen the migraine symptoms.

Be sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep and try to stick to a regular sleep schedule, which means waking up and going to bed at the same time each day. Also, pay attention to the time when you fall asleep. It’s recommended for people with migraines to go to bed before 10 pm.

3.Fight stress

When you’re stressed, you tend to focus on the things in front of you.

Since your brain process negative thoughts faster than positive ones, you concentrate on the negativity and thus experience the negative feeling such as fears, anxiety, and low moods.

Take a small break and look upward, instead. Shy away from all the negativity and focus on the positive things in your life or those happening around the world. Count your blessings, not your stress consequences.

4.Keep your eye on weather changes

Sure, you can’t control the changes in weather, but getting ready for them may help you prevent or relieve your migraine attacks.

As soon as you notice the fluctuation and drop of barometric pressure before or/and during a strong wind and rain or snow, try to stay home and eat healthy food. Avoid the screens and try meditation and yoga. Moreover, try to stay indoors during the extreme temperatures outside.

5.Practice yoga

Starting your morning off with yoga has been shown to help people with migraine headaches.

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Not all asanas are good, though. Opt for more breathing and relaxing poses, such as Corpse Pose (Savasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha), Upward Facing Dog Pose(Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), Twist (Matsyendrasana), Seated Forward Bend (Pascimottanasana), Head to Knee Pose (Janusirsasana), Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), Wide Angle Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana), Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), and Hero Pose (Forward Virasana).

6.Consider acupuncture

The review done by the Technical University of Munich, Germany, which involved over 4,000 migraine sufferers, showed that acupuncture can be as effective as most migraine medications.

Not only does it help to treat migraine attacks, but also helps to prevent them in the long run. Although acupuncture has little side effects, it’s vital to find an expert.

7.Munch on foods that combat inflammation

If your diet is chock-full of sodium-rich foods as well as processed foods, you have an increased risk of migraine attacks.

Nitrates, sugar, salt, flavor enhancers, and artificial food additives can trigger migraine symptoms. Refined grain products, aged cheeses, conventional dairy products, eggs, beer, red wine, whiskey, chocolate, processed meats, baked goods, citrus fruits, and fried and fatty foods can make your migraine headaches unbearable.

Reconsider your eating habits and include the foods that have been shown to relieve migraine headaches, such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, spinach, steel-cut oatmeal, berries, avocado, black beans, yogurt, chard, and other vegetables.

8.Reduce your screen time

The electronic devices can also trigger migraine attacks, so make sure you limit your time spent in front of the screens.

Remove your gadgets from your bedroom, and most importantly, keep your phone away from your bed. People with migraines, who check their phones before bed and as soon as they wake up, tend to suffer from horrible headaches several times a day.

9.Wear sunglasses

Sunlight is good for us, but it can cause a migraine headache, too. When outdoors, wear sunglasses, which are tinted green or blue to block UV rays that reach your eyes and prevent headaches.

10.Protect your ears

When you suffer from migraine attacks, all types of noise can make the symptoms worse. From traffic or music noise to chewing foods, even the seemingly quiet rustle can trigger intense headache.

Use headsets for phone conversations and wear ear plugs in noisy places to protect your ears and reduce the likelihood of migraine headaches.

11.Take advantage of essential oils

Lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and frankincense essential oils are all effective in treating migraine headaches. Apply a drop to the painful side of the neck or head to reduce tension and relieve the pain.

12.Hydrate your body

The well-known dehydrating effects of alcohol, sugary drinks, black tea, and coffee can definitely leave you with a killer migraine headache.

But the biggest problem is, people don’t drink enough water throughout the day. Drinking at least 6 glasses of plain water is essential for your body.

If you can’t make yourself drink plain water, try mixing it with fruit and veggies, such as cucumber, strawberries, and watermelon. You can also enjoy a smoothie made of water-rich fruit and veggies like cantaloupe, spinach, eggplant, cauliflower, zucchini, cabbage, celery, and more.

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13.Give yourself a relaxing scalp massage

Alleviate a migraine pain by doing a scalp massage. It promotes a robust circulation as well as reduces tension and stress. If you’re serious about massages, give reflexology a try. It’s best to find a professional though, since you can do more harm than good.

14.Explore the benefits of feverfew

One of the most renowned herbal headache treatments, feverfew has been using for centuries to treat migraine pains.

According to a study conducted by the Vitro-Bio Research Institute, France, a mix of feverfew and white willow is a powerful homemade remedy for a migraine attack as it contains the properties very similar to aspirin.

While feverfew helps to prevent migraine, white willow treats the pain. Supplementation is the easiest way to get these herbs, but it possesses some health risks, especially for people who are allergic to aspirin.

15.Walk

The air inside the house or the office isn’t healing, is it?

Sure, walking might be the last thing you want to do when you suffer from the migraine headaches, but if the weather permits, why not find a quiet place in the park and enjoy a peaceful walk? The fresh air and relaxing atmosphere will help you reduce the pain and boost your mood. The early morning is the best time for a walk.

16.Have a bowl of buckwheat in the morning

…or for dinner. It’s doesn’t actually matter.

The study posted in the Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment in 2012 claimed that a regular consumption of buckwheat helped to reduce the frequency of headaches in people with migraine.

The thing is, buckwheat is an excellent source of rutin, a flavonoid that has potent antioxidant properties. It helps to prevent the cell damage and relieve most types of headaches, including migraine. If you don’t like the taste of buckwheat, you can hide it in cookies, for instance.

17.Increase your magnesium intake

Magnesium deficiency often leads to chronic migraine, so check out if you get enough of this nutrient.

Before you turn to supplementation, try incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet. Dark leafy greens, seeds, lentils, beans, brown rice, nuts, dark chocolate, avocado, and bananas are some of the best foods high in magnesium.

Remember about moderation, though. If you suffer from chronic magnesium deficiency, talk to your doctor to figure out your daily dosage and find the safest supplements for you.

The final word

The world’s third most prevalent illness, migraine can negatively affect all aspects of your life; not to mention that it can reduce your lifespan.

Keep a detailed migraine journal for a month or so to figure out what triggers your migraine attacks and find the most effective ways to treat the problem.

Before you try any of the migraine treatments, make sure you consult a doctor or other expert.

References:

  • http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/migraine/overview.html
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4416971/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4412887/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3663475/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19160193
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17163262
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