by Teresa Richter, ND
A migraine is a very painful headache. Migraines are complex in nature exhibiting many more symptoms than the everyday headache. Migraines are 20-30% more common in women than men. There are a few different types of migraine headaches and all arise from a variety of etiologies.
Migraines can be precipitated by a variety of factors. Some things that bring on migraines include: Alcohol, hormonal changes (especially around menstruation), sleep disturbances, weather changes (sun, barometric pressure changes), chocolate, cheese, meats, MSG, smells (chemicals, perfumes). Migraines can have a genetic predisposition to them.
How do you know if you are having a migraine? Migraines are often accompanied by some additional symptoms beyond head pain. During the time the migraine is building also known as the prodrome, you may notice some changes such as constipation or diarrhea, nausea, flashing lights in the eyes, dark spots in the vision, dizziness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Once the migraine reaches its full symptomatic stage there may be pain that ranges in intensity, lasting anywhere from one to 36 hours. The pain may be one-sided, and may have associated nausea, vomiting, and light-sensitivity.
There are a few different types of migraines. Common migraines occur in about 80% of sufferers and generally have neuropathic components to them. Classic migraines occur in less than 20% of people and generally have nervous system symptoms and the onset of the migraine will have a visual abnormality even transitory blindness. Complicated migraines are rare and occur in 1-5% of migraine sufferers. In complicated migraines the neurological symptoms continue from the onset to the end of the headache and sometimes continue after the headache has finished.
What can you do for a migraine? One of the most important things is to avoid the triggers. Trying to avoid places that have many chemicals or perfumes, avoid consuming alcohol, chocolate, coffee, wine, spicy foods, fried foods and deli meats. Cold packs to the head, forehead, and back of neck can be soothing. Alternating hot and cold packs to the head for severe headaches. Spinal manipulation for the cervical vertebrae can be useful in treatment and prevention. Food intolerances can contribute to migraines, so finding and eliminating those can also help. Regular aerobic exercise helps to decrease the frequency of migraine attacks. Feverfew is a botanical that is commonly used to help relieve migraines. Magnesium citrate or a calcium-magnesium combination can also be helpful in migraine prevention. There are many other treatments, botanicals, and supplements available to use for migraines. Please consult a Naturopathic doctor for the right treatment options for you.
Dr. Teresa Richter
Dr. Teresa Richter is a graduate of Bastyr University. She completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine as well as a Bachelor of Science in Herbal Sciences at Bastyr University.