The Mechanism of Migraine
What is occurring physiologically when a migraine headache occurs? It seems 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 going back to the “control center”.
The ensuing is an incomplete directory of migraine symptoms:
- Auras (light spots)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Serious pain in the head
- Difficulty in speaking
- Throbbing or pulsing headache (generally unilateral)
Migraine attacks frequently recur, and the symptoms will differ from person to person.
A few herbal remedies have been used. These include feverfew, chamomile, valerian, white willow and skullcap. These following supplements also might help individuals suffering from migraines:
- Coenzyme Q10
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B2
Lastly, some further 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, preventing the body from obtaining migraine pain signals.
Certain environmental triggers seem to produce a migraine attack. These triggers include certain foods, stressful lifestyles, and exposure to bright lights or loud sounds. Commonly, certain foods such as red wine, cheese, chocolate, meats cured with nitrates, and MSG might induce migraine headaches. Other triggers include anger and/or stress, not enough sleep, menstruation, and weather changes. Withdrawal from caffeine and ergotamines can as well lead to migraine headaches. The reason why foods like cheese, chocolates and alcohols can trigger migraines is the occurrence of amines that act on the vascular system by causing 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 precluding particular stressful lifestyles to relaxation techniques. Migraine headache intensity varies from one individual to the next, and no clear cut remedy presently exists.
A few prescription medications can ease the symptoms of migraines. These include Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Midrin, and Migranal. They exert their action by causing cerebral vasoconstriction.
Certain unconventional treatments have proven effective. These include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and biofeedback therapy. Magnetic therapy also has been used 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 using an ice pack on the back of the neck close to the base of the skull. This reduces the flow of blood to the head, resulting in diminished pressure in the head. Make sure there is a barrier between the ice pack and the skin, like a wet cloth.
Migraine Versus other Headaches
What is the difference between a migraine and a regular headache? Migraine headaches are mainly one-sided, with concomitant nausea, decrease of appetite and vomiting. Frequently, light sensitivity accompanies the migraine headache. Compare this with the common tension headache, which is distributed over the entire head. Also, the typical headache isn't as extensive as a migraine headache. Migraine is best described as a throbbing headache, whereas a tension headache merely has a dull, constant ache.
Various Types of Migraines
There are normal migraines and classic migraines. Classic migraines commence 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 maybe a temporary loss of vision. You might feel a burning or unusual prickly feeling, and perhaps feel irritable and restless.
A common migraine doesn't involve an aura. A common migraine starts more slowly than a classic migraine and the pain may merely be unilateral. But then, a common migraine lasts longer than a classic one, and may interfere more extensively with your usual activities.
The majority of symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. Providing migraines are left untreated, yet, they can induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
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