Migraines | Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
The exact cause of migraines is not fully understood and likely results from a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors.
Migraines can be extremely challenging to manage, and while traditional medical approaches are common, some people explore alternative health options for relief.
It's important to note that not all individuals experience migraines in the same way, and triggers can vary widely among people. Additionally, the specific mechanisms underlying migraines are still an active area of research, and new insights continue to emerge. As we now understand - 100% of pain directly relates to inflammation - so as migraines lead to pain then inflammation is surely prevalent.
The most effective therapy for migraines can vary among individuals, and finding the right approach often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, preventive measures, and treatments.
Migraines are extremely common amongst the general population and more common in women that in men. It is estimated that over 1billion people worldwide experience migraines with 12% of the US population suffering. Migraines can effect all ages but predominately begin during adolescence or early adulthood and are rare in older age groups.
In this article we look at traditional treatments used to treat migraines and new techniques and alternative therapies now adopted to support migraine sufferers.
Different Types of Migraines
Migraines are a complex neurological condition with various subtypes, each characterised by distinct features. It's important to note that individuals may experience different types of migraines at different times, and the classification of the subtype may evolve over time.
Here are the main types of migraines which people suffer from:
Migraine without Aura (Common Migraines)
This is the most common type of migraine. It typically involves moderate to severe headache pain that is usually one-sided and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. There is no preceding aura (a set of visual, sensory, or other symptoms) that can precede the headache.
Migraine with Aura (Classic Migraines)
In this type of migraine, individuals experience a set of sensory disturbances known as an aura before the headache phase. Aura symptoms can include visual disturbances (flashing lights, zigzag patterns), sensory changes (tingling or numbness), and language difficulties. The headache that follows the aura is similar to that of a migraine without aura.
Chronic migraine is diagnosed when a person experiences migraines on 15 or more days per month, with at least eight of those days involving migraine headache symptoms. Chronic migraines can occur with or without aura.
Some women experience migraines that are closely linked to their menstrual cycle. Menstrual migraines can occur before, during, or after menstruation.
Vestibular migraines primarily involve symptoms related to dizziness, vertigo, and problems with balance. Headache may or may not be present, and the episodes can be triggered by various factors.
Hemiplegic migraine is a rare subtype characterised by temporary paralysis or weakness on one side of the body (hemiplegia) during or after the migraine headache. It can also involve other neurological symptoms, such as confusion and difficulty speaking.
Retinal migraines are characterised by temporary visual disturbances or blindness in one eye. These episodes are usually reversible and may be accompanied by or followed by a headache.
Silent Migraine (Migraine Aura without Headache)
This type of migraine involves the aura phase without the subsequent headache.
Individuals experience visual disturbances, sensory changes, or other aura symptoms without the typical headache.
What triggers a Migraine?
With the vast majority of pain now understood to be a direct result of inflammation, finding a way to reduce inflammation naturally may be key.
It is widely accepted that certain aura symptoms could be caused by a reduction in the brain’s normal electrical activity.
It is also believed that genes may play a role in migraines, as around half of all people who experience them also have a close relative with the condition.
Research has shown that there are certain triggers that are now known to make you more likely to get migraines. Here are some of the most common:
Anxiety, depression, loud noises, long-distance travel, periods (menstruation), bright or flickering lights, too much or too little sleep, a smoky or stuffy atmosphere, strong smells, including perfume, changes to mealtimes or missed meals, stress, changes in sleep patterns, like shift work, strenuous exercise, certain food or drink
It obviously may not be possible to avoid these situations or conditions, although most can be treated through some sort of therapy.
Whatever type of migraine - the pain can be debilitating and create significant impact on the persons life. Treatment is important.
Traditional Techniques and Medications used to Treat Migraines
Traditional medications for treating migraines fall into two main categories: preventive (prophylactic) medications and abortive (acute) medications.
The choice of medication depends on the frequency, severity, and specific symptoms of the migraines, as well as individual health considerations.
The most commonly adopted treatment for pain relief from migraines is taking painkillers. The majority of painkillers used to treat the symptoms of a migraine are over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol.
Paracetamol is probably the most common medication for migraine sufferers. Triptans can be used to relieve moderate to severe migraines by constricting blood vessels and reducing inflammation. NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as Ibuprofen (which target inflammation), are commonly used to treat headaches and migraines too - all of which are perfectly safe short term. They do not represent a long term solution however.
There are several reasons why individuals who suffer from migraines may now turn to alternative health options rather than following the more traditional routes.
Medications vary from preventive medications (such as beta blockers and anticonvulsants) to medications used to treat a headache or migraine.
More so than a decade ago, many sufferers are now investigating alternative health options to help them battle their ongoing migraine pain. It's important to note that while some people find relief and benefit from alternative health options, there is limited scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of many alternative therapies for migraines. Additionally, individual responses to these approaches can vary widely.
Alternative Treatments for Migraines
Here are some alternative health options that some individuals find helpful for managing migraines:
Acupuncture for Migraines
This traditional Chinese medicine practice involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. Some people report reduced frequency and severity of migraines after acupuncture sessions.
Biofeedback for Migraines
Biofeedback techniques help individuals gain better control over physiological functions, such as muscle tension and heart rate. It can be useful for managing stress, a common trigger for migraines.
Magnetic Therapy for Migraines
Magnetic therapy is an ever-growing application which has been practised for thousands of years to support migraine pain. With a mixed-reputation historically the advancement of quantum physics and ‘advanced magnetism’ is set to revolutionise how people can use magnetic therapy, such as YOU StreamZ wristbands, to support their migraine pain.
"I wear it (the wristband) everyday and the frequency of my migraines has reduced. Would definitely recommend the wristband to help with migraines." - Alison, Verified Customer Review
"I've tried a million things to stop my migraines and nothing worked. I usually get 2 migraines per month and since wearing this band I've had none. If you're a migraine sufferer I highly recommend you try it." - Lucinda, Verified Customer Review
Natural Herbs and Supplements used on Migraines
Several natural herbs have been traditionally used to help alleviate headaches, although scientific evidence supporting their efficacy can vary.
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
Some studies suggest that butterbur, an herbal supplement, may help prevent migraines. However, it's essential to use a standardised, PA-free extract, as raw butterbur contains compounds that can be harmful.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Another herbal remedy that some people find beneficial. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and blood vessel-dilating properties.
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)
Peppermint oil applied topically or inhaled may have a soothing effect on tension headaches. Some people find relief by massaging diluted peppermint oil onto their temples.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and may help with headaches associated with inflammation. It can be consumed as a tea or taken in supplement form.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing properties. Aromatherapy with lavender oil may help alleviate stress-related headaches. Inhaling the scent or using it in a diffuser is a common method.
Willow Bark (Salix spp.)
Willow bark contains salicin, a compound similar to aspirin. It has been used traditionally for pain relief, including headaches. Individuals with aspirin allergies or sensitivity should avoid willow bark.
Ginkgo biloba is thought to improve blood flow, and some people use it for migraines. Limited studies suggest potential benefits, but more research is needed.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is known for its relaxing properties and may help with tension headaches. It is often used as a supplement or in tea form.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties. Chamomile tea may help with stress-related headaches.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and may help with headaches associated with inflammation.
Mind-Body Practices used to Help Migraines
As well as medications, products or supplements developed to support migraine sufferers in many cases lifestyle modifications are vital and play a big part in helping migraine sufferers cope with the ongoing pain. It is important to establish what triggers a migraine. Many people who experience a migraine regularly are advised to keep a ‘migraine diary’ to help track certain foods, sleeping patterns, stress triggers or hormonal changes.
The following activities are commonly used:
Yoga for Migraines
Regular practice of yoga may help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines by promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
Meditation for Migraines
Mindfulness meditation and other relaxation techniques can be helpful in managing stress, a common migraine trigger.
Swimming for Migraines
Many migraine sufferers are now going swimming to help their migraine pain. Swimming is a physical activity and can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are a natural mood elevators and pain relievers. Endorphins may help reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines for some individuals.
Aromatherapy for Migraines
Certain essential oils, such as lavender and peppermint, may provide relief from migraines. Inhaling the aroma or applying diluted oil to the temples may be soothing.
Chiropractic Care for Migraines
Some individuals find relief from migraines through chiropractic adjustments. The focus is often on aligning the spine and promoting overall well-being. Chiropractors differ to physiotherapists and both can provide a service for migraine sufferers.
Hydration and Diet for Migraines
Ensuring proper hydration is crucial, as dehydration can contribute to headaches. Identifying and avoiding potential trigger foods, such as caffeine, chocolate, and certain additives, may help manage migraines.
Physical Therapy for Migraines
Therapeutic exercises and manual therapy may help relieve tension and improve posture, reducing the frequency of migraines.
Remember, the effectiveness of alternative health options can vary from person to person, and it's essential to approach these methods with an open mind while prioritising safety.
Always consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating new treatments, especially if you're currently on medication or have underlying health conditions and are looking to move over to a more holistic and natural approach.
Not all treatments will provide pain relief; so understanding what may be triggering an attack can be beneficial.
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