The Mechanism of Migraine
What is happening physiologically when a migraine headache occurs? It appears the origin 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 returning to the “control center”.
The following is an incomplete list of migraine symptoms:
- Auras (light spots)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Intense pain in the head
- Difficulties in speaking
- Throbbing or pulsing headache (usually unilateral)
Migraine attacks frequently recur, and the symptoms will vary from person to person.
Certain alternative treatments have proven effective. These include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and biofeedback therapy. Magnetic therapy moreover has been used with success. Magnetic therapy leads to 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 normally involves either:
- A magnetic pillow pad
- A magnetic head band
- A magnetic eye mask
A natural treatment procedure 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 less pressure in the head. Make sure there is a barrier between the ice pack and the skin, for example a wet cloth.
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, some 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 additionally 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 such as the triptans (sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, frovatriptan) to consuming healthful foodstuffs, to avoiding certain 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.
Some herbal remedies have been utilized. 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
To conclude, 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, avoiding the body from obtaining migraine pain signals.
Migraine Compared to other Headaches
What is the difference between a migraine and a regular headache? Migraine headaches are for the most part one-sided, with concomitant nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting. Frequently, light sensitivity accompanies the migraine headache. Contrast this with the typical tension headache, which is distributed over the entire head. Furthermore, the typical 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.
Several Types of Migraines
There are common 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 maybe a temporary reduction of vision. You could feel a burning or peculiar prickly feeling, and maybe feel irritable and restless.
A common migraine doesn't involve an aura. A common migraine starts slower than a classic migraine and the pain may merely be unilateral. However, a common migraine lasts longer than a classic one, and might interfere more extensively with your normal activities.
The majority of symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. If migraines are left untreated, yet, they can induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
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