Everyone’s experienced a bad headache before, but not everyone has had the unfortunate experience of suffering through a nasty migraine. Migraines are intense headaches that are usually concentrated on one side of the head. They can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and affect everyone differently. If you are a migraine sufferer, then you know how painful they can be. This article will provide you with more information on who gets migraines and how prevent and treat them!
Is It A Migraine Or Just A Bad Headache?
Some people don’t know that they suffer from migraines because they don’t understand the difference between regular headaches and migraine headaches. Migraine headaches predominantly affect one side of the head and are sometimes located directly behind your eye, causing it to throb and pound. Light, noise and movement can cause your head to pound even more making it very difficult to do anything except just lie in bed with the blinds drawn.
Some of the symptoms of migraines include:
- Severe to moderate pain, usually located on one side of the head
- Pain that throbs or pulsates – the pounding and throbbing can sometimes be so severe that you may feel as though you need to hold on to your head. This is completely normal for migraine sufferers but the pain may be so severe that you may have to visit your doctor.
- Nausea – this may come before or during your migraine
- Sensitivity to light and sounds – because your head hurts as much as it does during a migraine, you will become sensitive to light and sound. Either of these can make your migraine much worse.
These are the general signs of migraines, but in general, a migraine is the type of headache that paralyzes you in the sense that you cannot move or go about doing your regular activities. If you find yourself incapacitated when you get a headache, you may want to talk to your doctor about your symptoms in more detail.
What Causes Migraines?
Doctors and scientists aren’t conclusive about the causes of migraines. Sometimes called “triggers”, causes of migraines can differ from person to person. However, studies have shown that migraines seem to be caused by imbalances in the brain which can be caused by a drop in serotonin levels which in turn causes blood vessels to become inflamed, creating a headache.
Women are likelier to suffer from migraines because of the hormonal changes their bodies go through before each period. What’s more, medications such as birth control can also affect a woman’s hormonal levels, thereby causing migraines.
Other triggers such as food or stress can also alter brain chemicals. For example, alcohol or chocolate or caffeine or even monosodium glutamate (MSG) can affect people in ways that can cause migraines. Stress is not a surprising factor, since work or home stress can affect the body in profound ways. Other things such as changes in your sleeping patterns and changes in the environment can cause migraines.
However, a family history of migraines is also a risk factor. If you have siblings or parents who suffer from migraines, there is a greater chance that you too will develop them.
How To Treat Your Migraines
One of the most common methods of migraine treatment is medication. Some doctors recommend anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (which can be found in Advil); however, these medications might only provide enough pain relief for mild migraines. If you have tried over-the-counter drugs and found they are ineffective in relieving your migraine pain, you should talk to your doctor.
Other medications you may want to try are muscle relaxants and anti-nausea medications such as Gravol. Tight neck muscles may aggravate any existing head pain, which is why muscle relaxants may improve your pain. Similarly, severe migraines can cause nausea, so anti-nausea pills can alleviate this and improve your migraine at the same time.
Alternatives To Medication
However, if you are averse to taking medications, then you may want to start by first applying a cold compress at the first sign of a migraine. Lying down with a cold compress in a dark room may also help combat the pain of a migraine. You should also drink lots of water, find a quiet place and try to lie as still as possible while holding the cold compress on your head.
If you suffer from migraines and haven’t been able to pinpoint the triggers for your migraines, you probably don’t know how to prevent your migraines. One good technique is to keep a journal of everything you have eaten right before a migraine hits. Also, keep track of any other changes in your life, including stress factors, and hormonal changes (for women). You may also want to quit smoking and avoid alcohol as these may be the triggers of your migraines.
Regular exercise is another excellent way to combat and prevent migraines because it helps to relieve stress and keeps your body in tune. Your body will recognize a regular schedule for exercise and this can seriously reduce the effects of your migraine triggers.
When To Contact Your Doctor
If you suffer from migraines and find that you can manage the pain and the triggers, it may not be necessary to pay your doctor a visit. However, if you cannot manage the pain and cannot figure out your triggers, it’s probably a good idea to make an appointment with a physician. For women, if you have determined that your migraines begin each time you start a new cycle of birth control pills, you may want to ask about switching to a different type of pill.
For men, however, the triggers are often less identifiable, which is why you may want to talk to your doctor about your overall lifestyle in general. The doctor may then be able to pinpoint problem areas that you might not even have considered.