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Understanding Migraines

 

 

If you have ever had a throbbing headache which is often worse on one side of the head then you understand what a migraine feels like. It often brings on nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The pain can be so severe from an attack that it can last anywhere from hours to days if untreated and be quite disabling. Several things can trigger migraines such  as hormones due to fluctuations in estrogen levels, salty or processed foods, food additives, alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, stress,  bright lights or glare from the sun. Strong smells such as perfume or second hand smoke, weather changes and medications such as oral contraceptives or nitroglycerin have also been culprits.

 

Migraines can progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post- drome but you may not experience all four stages. Prodrome can warn you of a migraine coming on as early as a couple of days prior to an attack. Look for subtle changes like increased thirst and urination, frequent yawning, stiffness in your neck, mood changes, food cravings and even constipation. 

While most people may not experience an aura before a migraine attack, some may see flashes of light or loss of vision, pins and needles sensation in arms or legs, hearing noises or even limb weakness. The attack can be throbbing or pulsating pain felt on one or both sides of your head. Sensitivity to light, sounds, smells and even touch and even nausea, vomiting and blurred vision.  Next, you may have the post-drome which comes after the attack.  You may experience confusion, moodiness, dizziness, weakness or even sensitivity to light and sound.

 

While there are many over the counter and prescription medications that can be helpful there are also several alternative options available today. 

Biofeedback uses a monitor to help you recognize the onset of muscle tension and changes in body temperature that are stress signals.

Acupuncture causes the brain to release chemicals that affect pain. A cool wash cloth on the forehead, scalp or neck has been helpful as well as resting in a cool, dark room.

 

There are a few things that may help in the prevention of migraines such as regular exercise, getting enough sleep, taking supplements such as B-2, magnesium or even butterbur has been known to help some people in the reduction of migraines. My favorite is the essential oil peppermint. I keep a roll on bottle in my purse and when I feel a migraine coming on I will dab a bit on my temples and the soothing scent will usually deter the attack before it gets any worse. Just be sure that if you take any supplements to check with your doctor to make sure it will not affect any other medications you may be using or any other condition you may suffer from. Even if you have a history of headaches, see your doctor if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly feel different or are accompanied with fever or a head injury. 

 

 

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