What is a Migraine Headache?
The word ‘migraine’ is often used to describe any kind of severe headache that people may feel. A migraine headache is usually the result of specific physiological changes that can occur inside the brain, and these changes collectively lead to the symptoms and pain associated with a migraine.
Migraines are often associated with one side of the head. However, some patients experience a migraine on both sides, or bilaterally. Migraine headache pain is often explained as a pounding or throbbing in your head, and it can get worse due to any kind of physical exertion.
However, not all types of a headache can be categorized as migraines, and you must keep in mind that a migraine is not the only condition that can cause severe pain and unbearable headaches. There are other headaches such as cluster headaches, and these types of headaches affect one side of your head in a recurring manner.
The pain for cluster headaches has been described as a drilling in the head, and some consider it to be even worse than migraine pain.
What Causes Migraine?
Migraine headaches are usually connected with sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. These headaches are often accompanied by vomiting and nausea. The specific cause of a migraine headache is still not known, but there may be a slight fluctuation in the chemicals called neurotransmitters present in the brain. This fluctuation may be the reason some people experience a migraine.
Sometimes a migraine even comes with an aura, or a warning sign. These warning signs can be flashing lights, numbness in one side of the body, slight weakness in your arms and legs, and even a blind spot in your eyes. These signs, prior to the arrival of a migraine, may last for several minutes and stop, or they might even last for as long as the headache lasts.
Some people experience preceding symptoms that are completely different from the migraine aura mentioned above.
Migraine Signs and Symptoms
For some people, migraine headaches start to hit them in their childhood, puberty and even early adulthood. Migraines standardly progress through 4 stages; prodrome, aura (mentioned above), headache and then post-drome.
However, some people will not experience all stages. Mentioned below are migraine symptoms that are common during a migraine headache.
Prodrome symptoms start to occur a day or two before you are hit with a migraine headache. These warning signs are very easily identified, and include neck stiffness, constipation, food cravings, mood changes, frequent yawning, and an increase in thirst and the need to urinate frequently.
Auras can occur before and even during a migraine. Some people undergo severe migraines without any aura. Auras are usually symptoms of a nervous system and are visual disturbances. For example, you may see a flash of light or wavy patterns.
Sometimes, these auras are also related to disturbances in your sensations of touch, movement, and speech. You may get a weird feeling like someone is touching you, or your muscles may feel weak or you may experience fatigue.
Each of these aura symptoms starts out slowly and gradually, and then they might last for minutes or even hours. Some examples of migraine aura are hearing noises, weakness in your body, jerking, and other uncontrollable movement and even difficulty in speech.
A migraine can last for a long time (up to 72 hours) if it is not treated properly. However, the frequency and harshness of these migraines can vary from one person to another. Some migraines are extremely rare, while others can revisit you several times a week. During a severe migraine attack, you may experience the following warning signs:
- Throbbing pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Pain on both or one part of your head
- Sensitivity to sound, smell, light, and touch
- The feeling of lightheadedness and possibility of fainting
This is usually the final phase that you may undergo after a migraine attack. Some people feel elated, while most feel washed out and drained. Once your migraine is finished you may experience confusion, dizziness, moodiness, sensitivity to sound and light, and even weakness.
- Migraine Medicine
Migraine treatment depends entirely on the frequency of your migraines. You can treat a migraine with migraine medicines that’ll help in preventing any kind of trigger and migraine attacks you may feel, as well as providing you with pain relief.
You can get immediate relief if you use OTC (over-the-counter) medications. However, most of these OTC medicines are not very effective, and this is why doctors prescribe other medications for treating migraines.
- Home Remedies
You can also benefit from some home remedies that’ll help you in lessening the pain you undergo because of a migraine. Popular ones include lying down in a quiet and dark room of the house, or massaging your temples and scalp, or even placing a cloth dipped in icy cold water over your forehead or on the nape of your neck.
If a migraine becomes too frequent and difficult for you to handle, you can always choose to pursue surgical procedure alternatives that can help in treating your migraine. These surgical procedures include MTSDS- migraine trigger side decompression surgery and neurostimulation procedures.
In neurostimulation surgery, the surgeon will place an electrode under your skin that will release an electrical stimulating impulse to specific nerves present in your brain. These include deep brain, occipital nerve, and vagal nerve stimulators.
In an MTSDS surgical procedure, nerves are released around your face and head at the potential trigger sites for chronic migraine. Doctors use Botox injections to determine the trigger points that are fired during migraine attacks. These surgeries are usually performed by plastic surgeons, and there is still research going around on the role of stimulating nerves to treat headaches.
- WebMD – Headache Basics
- Healthline – 18 Remedies to Get Rid of Headaches Naturally
- Healthline – What Causes Migraine and Chronic Migraine?