A woman massages her temples while experiencing a migraine headache.

Migraine Headache Information

Migraine Headache Information

Migraine headaches are caused when blood vessels in the head dilate suddenly. About fifteen to twenty percent of men and twenty-five to thirty percent of women have migraine headaches, and more than half of these sufferers have a family history of migraines.

Nobody knows the exact mechanism of migraine headache causes. Some doctors believe that the blood vessels at first constrict and then open up suddenly in compensation. Fortunately, information on how to stop migraine headaches is widely available.

Some clinicians divide migraines into three major types. Common migraines can manifest as pain in the front or one or both sides of the head and can last from one to three days. The typical "classic migraine" only affects one side of the head, has a very intense aura, lasts from two to six hours, and can cause vomiting. A complicated migraine may or may not present pain, but there's an aura, dizziness, faintness, and unsteadiness.

Other clinicians believe migraines are at least influenced by disorders in blood platelets, tiny blood cells that help form blood clots. The platelets of migraine headache sufferers are different than those of people who don't have migraines. They tend to clump up and release a great deal of serotonin in response to stress. Other causes of migraine headaches may be drugs, food allergies, alcohol, or menstruation.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraine headache symptoms are usually a pounding ache on one side of the head that's sometimes preceded by visual disturbances called auras. There's also nausea and loss of appetite. A period of drowsiness follows when the headache stops. An aura is one of the most prominent migraine headache signs. They last a few minutes, and the sufferer may see bright spots or zigzags in their field of vision, or experience blurred vision. They feel anxiety, and a numbness or tingling on one side of the body.

The pain of a migraine headache is often characterized as a sharp throbbing, as if someone is attacking the patient with an ice pick on that side of their head. This is typical for a vascular headache, of which the migraine is a species. Ironically, headache pain doesn't originate in the brain, as the brain is unable to feel pain. The pain comes from the lining of the brain, and the blood vessels and muscles in the scalp. Sometimes, the pain is incapacitating.

Migraine Treatment

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments for migraine relief. One way to stop migraine headaches is to simply reduce stress. When the patient feels a migraine headache beginning, they can apply an ice pack to their head or soothe their face with cold water. They might also sequester themselves in a dark and quiet room and try to relax and help stop migraine pain.

Some doctors may recommend that the patient take an aspirin a day to prevent the attacks and provide migraine relief. Some may prescribe antihistamines or vasoconstrictors to narrow the blood vessels in the head. If the attacks are very severe, some doctors may prescribe calcium channel blockers or antidepressants, even though these drugs have side effects and may not be helpful to all patients.

A more natural migraine headache treatment is for the patient to eliminate foods they're allergic to. Foods that most commonly trigger a migraine headache are cow's milk, wheat, chocolate, eggs, cheese, and oranges. The patient might also wish to begin a regiment of taking 5-HTP as a nutritional supplement. This compound helps prevent migraine attacks by increasing the level of serotonin. Essential fatty acids, riboflavin and magnesium might also be helpful.

Forms of physical therapy have also be shown to help prevent or stop migraine headache symptoms, including chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, and biofeedback. Botanicals like feverfew and ginger also alleviate migraine headaches.

Last Updated: March 01, 2017