The Mechanism of Migraine
What is occurring physiologically while a migraine headache takes place? It seems the origin of a migraine headache is in the brain stem. The brain stem is a bit above the spinal cord, but beneath 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 going back 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
- Difficulty in speaking
- Throbbing or pulsing headache (mostly unilateral)
Migraine attacks frequently recur, and the symptoms will differ from person to person.
A few non-traditional 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 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 using an ice pack on the back of the neck close to the base of the skull. This decreases 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, such as a wet cloth.
Specific environmental triggers seem to initiate a migraine attack. These triggers include some 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. Additional triggers include anger and/or stress, too little sleep, menstruation, and weather changes. Withdrawal from caffeine and ergotamines can as well trigger 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 producing 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 precluding certain stressful lifestyles to relaxation techniques. Migraine headache intensity varies from one individual to the next, and no clear cut remedy at this moment exists.
Certain prescription medications are able to ease the symptoms of migraines. These include Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Midrin, and Migranal. They exert their action by inducing cerebral vasoconstriction.
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, reduction of appetite and vomiting. Often, light sensitivity accompanies the migraine headache. Compare this with the common tension headache, which is distributed over the whole head. In addition, the common headache isn't as severe as a migraine headache. Migraine is best 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 commence with a “aura” that involves changes in visual perception. The auras last approximately 10-30 minutes and are associated with flashing lights and/or colors, and perhaps a temporary loss of vision. You could feel a burning or unusual prickly feeling, and perhaps feel irritable and restless.
A common migraine does not involve an aura. A common migraine starts slower than a classic migraine and the pain may only be unilateral. However, a common migraine lasts longer than a classic one, and might interfere more extensively with your normal activities.
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
Finally, 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, preventing the body from getting migraine pain signals.
Most symptoms of migraines disappear after a few days. If migraines are left untreated, however, they could induce strokes, aneurysms, permanent vision loss, and even comas.
If you have an interest in migraine headaches, you may also want to look into migraine headaches associations or in addition neck migraine headaches symptoms.