The Mechanism of Migraine
What is taking place physiologically if a migraine headache occurs? It turns out the start of a migraine headache is in the brain stem. The brain stem is a small 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”.
Migraine Contrasted with other Headaches
What is the difference between a migraine and a regular headache? Migraine headaches are primarily one-sided, with concomitant nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting. Often, light sensitivity accompanies the migraine headache. Contrast this with the ordinary tension headache, which is distributed over the whole head. Furthermore, the typical headache is not as severe as a migraine headache. Migraine is best described as a throbbing headache, whereas a tension headache merely has a dull, constant ache.
Several Types of Migraines
There are regular migraines and classic migraines. Classic migraines commence with a “aura” that involves changes in visual perception. The auras last around 10-30 minutes and are associated with flashing lights and/or colors, and perhaps a temporary reduction of vision. You might feel a burning or peculiar prickly feeling, and possibly 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 typical activities.
Certain unconventional treatments have proven effective. These include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and biofeedback therapy. Magnetic therapy moreover 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 generally 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 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.
Specific environmental triggers seem to initiate 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 can induce migraine headaches. Other triggers include anger and/or stress, too little sleep, menstruation, and weather changes. Withdrawal from caffeine and ergotamines can as well cause migraine headaches. The rationale why foods like cheese, chocolates and alcohols can cause migraines is the occurrence of amines that act on the vascular system by triggering 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 some stressful lifestyles to relaxation techniques. Migraine headache intensity varies from one individual to the next, and no clear cut remedy now exists.
A few prescription medications might ease the symptoms of migraines. These include Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Midrin, and Migranal. They exert their action by inducing cerebral vasoconstriction.
Certain 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
Finally, some other 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, avoiding the body from getting migraine pain signals.
The ensuing is an incomplete listing 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 frequently recur, and the symptoms will vary from person to person.
The majority of symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. Should migraines are left untreated, yet, they could induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
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