The Mechanism of Migraine
What is occurring physiologically as a migraine headache occurs? It seems the origin 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 returning to the “control center”.
The ensuing is an incomplete list of migraine symptoms:
- Auras (light spots)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Serious pain in the head
- Difficulties in speaking
- Throbbing or pulsing headache (largely unilateral)
Migraine attacks often recur, and the symptoms will vary from person to person.
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. Compare this with the typical tension headache, which is distributed over the entire head. In addition, the common headache is not as extensive as a migraine headache. Migraine is better described as a throbbing headache, whereas a tension headache merely has a dull, constant ache.
Various Types of Migraines
There are standard migraines and classic migraines. Classic migraines begin with a “aura” that involves changes in visual perception. The auras persist about 10-30 minutes and are associated with flashing lights and/or colors, and possibly a temporary loss of vision. You might feel a burning or unusual prickly feeling, and maybe feel irritable and restless.
A common migraine does not involve an aura. A common migraine begins 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 might interfere more extensively with your usual activities.
Specific environmental triggers seem to produce a migraine attack. These triggers include some 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 might induce migraine headaches. More triggers include anger and/or stress, not enough sleep, menstruation, and weather changes. Withdrawal from caffeine and ergotamines can additionally trigger 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 producing venal constriction through release of catecholamines.
There is a broad range of treatments for migraines. They vary from medications like the triptans (sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, frovatriptan) to consuming healthful foodstuffs, to avoiding particular stressful lifestyles to relaxation techniques. Migraine headache intensity varies from one individual to the next, and no clear cut remedy currently exists.
Specific prescription medications are able to ease the symptoms of migraines. These include Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Midrin, and Migranal. They exert their action by causing cerebral vasoconstriction.
Certain 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
To conclude, 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, precluding the body from getting migraine pain signals.
A few alternative treatments have proven effective. These include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and biofeedback therapy. Magnetic therapy in addition has been used with success. Magnetic therapy initiates increased electrical activity in the brain. This steps up neural conductivity which then stimulates in 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 treatment method includes employing 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 diminished pressure in the head. Make sure there is a barrier between the ice pack and the skin, for example a wet cloth.
Most symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. Providing migraines are left untreated, however, they might induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
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