Migraines – More than Just a Headache

Migraines – More than Just a Headache

Many people, especially those who have never experienced a migraine, think of them as a really bad headache.  In reality, migraines are a neurological disease characterized by a whole set of unique symptoms, of which a severe headache is only one.

The World Health Organization puts migraines in the top twenty causes of disability, as 90% of sufferers are completely unable to function during an attack, which can last days.  Migraines are quite common, affecting about 18% of women and 6% of men.

In some cases, migraines follow exposure to some sort of trigger, while others seem to occur out of the blue.  The most common triggers are stress, fatigue, hunger and, for women, hormones.  Other commonly reported triggers include perfumes and other smells, pollution, food additives, alcohol, and cold food or beverages.  Triggers don’t actually cause migraines, so avoiding triggers can reduce the frequency of attacks, but not eliminate them.

In some migraine sufferers, the symptoms are fairly limited and may last several hours.  However, other individuals experience migraines in as many as four different stages that, taken together, can last as long as a week.

The prodrome is the first stage and can precede the headache by up to 48 hours.  The sufferer may experience mood changes, digestive issues, sensitivity, especially to sounds and smells, and food cravings.  This stage affects about 60% of migraine sufferers.

Up to an hour before the onset of the headache, up to 30% of migraine sufferers experience some type of sensory disturbance, known as a migraine aura.  The most common auras are visual disturbances, and may involve flashing lights, patterns, blurriness, and blind spots.  Some people experience auditory auras, such as ringing in the ears.  Others may noticephantom smells or tastes.  Some sufferers may even experience dizziness, weakness, or difficulty speaking.

When most people think of migraines, they think of the severe headache stage that can last as long as 72 hours.  Even this stage is not universal, but it’s difficult to estimate how often ‘silent migraines’, those that occur without headache, because it’s unusual for medical treatment to be sought during these migraines.  In about 60% of migraine headaches, the headache is limited to one side of the head.  The headache is usually accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and aggravated by movement.  Many migraine sufferers will seek out a dark, quiet place to rest until the headache subsides.

The migraine hangover, also known as the postdrome, can last days after the headache is done.  During this stage, many sufferers experience residual headache, difficulty thinking, mood changes, weakness, and fatigue.

The cause of migraine is not known.  It was once believed to be neurovascular, and is now thought to involve some combination of vascular structure, the meninges, the scalp, the base of the skull, and the trigeminal nerve.

Some medications can ease the symptoms of migraine, but do not treat the underlying cause.  Some users experience unpleasant side effects and frequent use can result in users developing tolerance to the medication.

Surprisingly, chiropractic care seems to treat the underlying cause of migraines, though that underlying cause is not yet known.  Many sufferers who have resorted to chiropractic report fewer and less severe attacks, while some may experience complete or near-complete long-term or permanent relief.

To find out more about how chiropractic can help you find relief from your migraines, call Chatfield Chiropractic now on (03) 9303 9952 Roxburgh Park or (03) 9746 3977 Sunbury to schedule a consultation.