The term migraine is often used interchangeably with “really bad headache”. However, migraines are a specific type of neurological condition associated with multiple symptoms. Migraines often run in families (usually more common in females) – around 12 percent of Americans have this genetic disorder.
A migraine attack lasts approximately 4 hours. Though, migraines have been known to persist for up to a week without treatment.
Migraines occur in four phases:
Prodrome begins up to 24 hours beforehand. Symptoms include food cravings, unexplained mood changes, fluid retention, increased urination, and uncontrollable yawning.
Aura describes flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or other visual disturbances. Other types of auras include numb or tingling skin, speech changes, ringing in ears, changes in smell or taste, and an odd feeling. Auras last 10 to 60 minutes.
Headache is the peak of the migraine. Starting gradually, the pulsating pain will worsen progressively. Other headache phase symptoms include sensitivity to light, noise, or smells; nausea and vomiting; or increased pain on movement, cough, or sneeze.
Postdrome occurs after the headache has subsided. You’ll likely feel weak, exhausted, and confused for up to a day. It occurs in 80 percent of those with migraines.
Unlike more traditional headaches, migraine pain is pulsating, throbbing, pounding, or debilitating. Pain often starts mild, gradually becoming more severe. It is unilateral, meaning it only affects one side of the head, usually focused on the forehead.
Types of migraines
There are several types of migraines, including:
Migraine with aura (complicated migraine) affects 15 to 20 percent of migraine sufferers.
Migraine without aura (common migraine) is the most common type and strikes without warning.
Migraine without head pain, also known as silent migraine, causes aura symptoms but no headache.
Hemiplegic migraine results in temporary paralysis or neurological and sensory changes on one side of your body.
Retinal migraine causes a temporary, partial or complete vision loss to one eye.
Chronic migraine occurs at least 15 days per month.
Migraine with brainstem aura causes vertigo, slurred speech, double vision, and a loss of balance before the headache.
Status migrainosus is a rare and severe migraine type, lasting longer than 72 hours.
Migraines aren’t a curable condition, although some treatments can lead to fewer attacks. Lifestyle changes are perhaps the most common preventative measures. Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, stress and anxiety, loud smells, medication, overexertion, insufficient sleep, and female hormonal changes all increase the likelihood of an attack.
Resting your eyes in a quiet, dark room, drinking fluids, and placing an ice pack on your forehead can help relieve symptoms during an attack. Triptans are also given to alleviate the immediate symptoms. Preventative medications, like antihypertensives or anticonvulsants, can reduce the incidence of attacks but have numerous side effects.
Chiropractors can also assist with the prevalence of migraines through the use of movement, stretching, and manipulation to adjust the cervical spine. In addition to preventions, Chiropractors can also help with exercises to which will provide immediate relief.