The Mechanism of Migraine
What is happening physiologically if a migraine headache happens? It seems the start of a migraine headache is in the brain stem. The brain stem is a bit above the spinal cord, but underneath 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 going back to the “control center”.
Particular herbal remedies have been used. 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
To conclude, some additional 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, precluding the body from receiving migraine pain signals.
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, some foods such as red wine, cheese, chocolate, meats cured with nitrates, and MSG are able to induce migraine headaches. Other triggers include anger and/or stress, not enough sleep, menstruation, and weather changes. Withdrawal from caffeine and ergotamines can additionally lead to migraine headaches. The reason why foods like cheese, chocolates and alcohols can lead to migraines is the presence of amines that act on the vascular system by causing venal constriction through release of catecholamines.
There is a broad range of treatments for migraines. They vary from medications similar to the triptans (sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, frovatriptan) to consuming healthful foodstuffs, to precluding certain stressful lifestyles to relaxation techniques. Migraine headache intensity varies from one individual to the next, and no clear cut remedy currently exists.
A few prescription medications are able to ease the symptoms of migraines. These include Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Midrin, and Migranal. They exert their action by inducing cerebral vasoconstriction.
Migraine Compared to other Headaches
What is the difference between a migraine and a regular headache? Migraine headaches are generally one-sided, with concomitant nausea, reduction of appetite and vomiting. Often, light sensitivity accompanies the migraine headache. Compare this with the typical tension headache, which is distributed over the entire head. Also, the common headache isn't as intense as a migraine headache. Migraine is best portrayed as a throbbing headache, whereas a tension headache merely has a dull, constant ache.
Various Types of Migraines
There are common migraines and classic migraines. Classic migraines begin with a “aura” that involves changes in visual perception. The auras go on approximately 10-30 minutes and are associated with flashing lights and/or colors, and perhaps a temporary reduction of vision. You could feel a burning or strange prickly feeling, and possibly feel irritable and restless.
A common migraine doesn't involve an aura. A common migraine begins more slowly than a classic migraine and the pain may only be unilateral. But then, a common migraine lasts longer than a classic one, and may interfere more extensively with your usual activities.
A few unconventional treatments have proven effective. These include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and biofeedback therapy. Magnetic therapy moreover 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 typically involves either:
- A magnetic pillow pad
- A magnetic head band
- A magnetic eye mask
A natural care method includes using an ice pack on the back of the neck around the base of the skull. This reduces 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.
The following is an incomplete list of migraine symptoms:
- Auras (light spots)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Intense pain in the head
- Difficulty in speaking
- Throbbing or pulsing headache (mostly unilateral)
Migraine attacks often recur, and the symptoms will vary from person to person.
Many symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. If migraines are left untreated, however, they could induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
If you have an interest in migraine headaches, you may also want to look into opthamalic migraines and MS or in addition ocular migraine.