The Mechanism of Migraine
What is happening physiologically when a migraine headache takes place? It turns out the start of a migraine headache is in the brain stem. The brain stem is a little bit above the spinal cord, but below the cortex of the brain. The migraine “control center” in the brain stem emits signals to the blood vessels lining the brain, requesting these blood vessels to dilate and expand. In the process, pain signals are sent returning to the “control center”.
The ensuing is an incomplete listing of migraine symptoms:
- Auras (light spots)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Serious pain in the head
- Difficulties in speaking
- Throbbing or pulsing headache (usually unilateral)
Migraine attacks frequently recur, and the symptoms will differ from person to person.
Certain environmental triggers seem to initiate a migraine attack. These triggers include certain foods, stressful lifestyles, and exposure to bright lights or loud sounds. Commonly, particular foods such as red wine, cheese, chocolate, meats cured with nitrates, and MSG might induce migraine headaches. Additional triggers include anger and/or stress, too little sleep, menstruation, and weather changes. Withdrawal from caffeine and ergotamines can also cause migraine headaches. The reason why foods like cheese, chocolates and alcohols can trigger migraines is the presence of amines that act on the vascular system by producing venal constriction through release of catecholamines.
There is an extensive range of treatments for migraines. They vary from medications similar to the triptans (sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, frovatriptan) to consuming healthful foodstuffs, to avoiding certain stressful lifestyles to relaxation techniques. Migraine headache intensity varies from one individual to the next, and no clear cut remedy at this moment exists.
Certain prescription medications might ease the symptoms of migraines. These include Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Midrin, and Migranal. They exert their action by causing cerebral vasoconstriction.
Migraine Compared to other Headaches
What is the difference between a migraine and a regular headache? Migraine headaches are primarily one-sided, with concomitant nausea, decrease of appetite and vomiting. Frequently, light sensitivity accompanies the migraine headache. Contrast this with the common tension headache, which is distributed over the entire head. Furthermore, the routine headache isn't as severe as a migraine headache. Migraine is better described as a throbbing headache, whereas a tension headache only has a dull, constant ache.
Several Types of Migraines
There are normal migraines and classic migraines. Classic migraines begin with a “aura” that involves changes in visual perception. The auras last about 10-30 minutes and are associated with flashing lights and/or colors, and possibly a temporary reduction of vision. You could feel a burning or strange prickly feeling, and maybe feel irritable and restless.
A common migraine doesn't involve an aura. A common migraine starts slower than a classic migraine and the pain may merely be unilateral. However, a common migraine lasts longer than a classic one, and might interfere more extensively with your usual activities.
Certain alternative treatments have proven effective. These include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and biofeedback therapy. Magnetic therapy also has been utilized with success. Magnetic therapy initiates increased electrical activity in the brain. This steps up neural conductivity which then stimulates within the brain the secretion of the hormones serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin controls moods and depression tendencies. Magnetic therapy treatment generally involves either:
- A magnetic pillow pad
- A magnetic head band
- A magnetic eye mask
A natural care method includes utilizing an ice pack on the back of the neck close to the base of the skull. This lessens the flow of blood to the head, resulting in reduced pressure in the head. Make sure there is a barrier between the ice pack and the skin, for example a wet cloth.
Some herbal remedies have been utilized. These include feverfew, chamomile, valerian, white willow and skullcap. These following supplements also should help individuals suffering from migraines:
- Coenzyme Q10
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B2
Lastly, some other remedies include extra magnesium in one's diet, regular physical exercise, and relaxation techniques like yoga or transcendental meditation. Recently, a new form of migraine treatment called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has been developed. TENS sends a mild shock of electricity, avoiding the body from receiving migraine pain signals.
A large amount of symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. Providing migraines are left untreated, however, they may induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
If you have an interest in migraine headaches, you may also want to look into migraines and work or in addition health problem migraine.