The Mechanism of Migraine
What is taking place physiologically when a migraine headache happens? It appears 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”.
A few unconventional treatments have proven effective. These include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and biofeedback therapy. Magnetic therapy also has been used with success. Magnetic therapy causes increased electrical activity in the brain. This increases 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 normally involves either:
- A magnetic pillow pad
- A magnetic head band
- A magnetic eye mask
A natural treatment procedure includes utilizing 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 less pressure in the head. Make sure there is a barrier between the ice pack and the skin, such as a wet cloth.
Migraine Contrasted with 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. Frequently, light sensitivity accompanies the migraine headache. Contrast this with the typical tension headache, which is distributed over the whole head. Also, the typical headache isn't as severe as a migraine headache. Migraine is better portrayed as a throbbing headache, whereas a tension headache only has a dull, constant ache.
Different Types of Migraines
There are regular migraines and classic migraines. Classic migraines commence with a “aura” that involves changes in visual perception. The auras persist 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 strange prickly feeling, and perhaps 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 only be unilateral. But then, a common migraine lasts longer than a classic one, and might interfere more extensively with your normal activities.
The ensuing is an incomplete list of migraine symptoms:
- Auras (light spots)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Serious pain in the head
- Difficulty in speaking
- Throbbing or pulsing headache (largely unilateral)
Migraine attacks frequently recur, and the symptoms will differ from person to person.
Some environmental triggers seem to initiate a migraine attack. These triggers include some 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 can induce migraine headaches. More triggers include anger and/or stress, not enough sleep, menstruation, and weather changes. Withdrawal from caffeine and ergotamines can in addition trigger migraine headaches. The rationale why foods like cheese, chocolates and alcohols can trigger migraines is the presence 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 such as the triptans (sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, frovatriptan) to consuming healthful foodstuffs, to avoiding some stressful lifestyles to relaxation techniques. Migraine headache intensity varies from one individual to the next, and no clear cut remedy at this moment 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.
Particular 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 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 getting migraine pain signals.
Most symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. If migraines are left untreated, however, they might induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
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