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Migraines

Migraines

What is Migraine?

Migraines are the second most common type of primary headache. They are a neurovascular headache and are caused by an interaction between blood vessels and nerve abnormalities. Migraines typically last anywhere between 4 to 72 hours and are associated with severe pain, usually on one side of the head.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Migraines?

medical illustration of the location of a migraine headache over the eyes in the front of the face

Most often, when an individual is pre-disposed to migraines, they have specific aggravating factors that will bring a migraine on. These factors can vary from person to person, and each person has a different threshold for the factors. They can include:

  • Genetics can pre-disposed you to migraines if someone in your family has them
  • An injury or trauma to the head
  • A lack of sleep or stress
  • Joint dysfunction, like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Change in weather
  • Certain foods, such as high sugar, caffeine and alcohol
  • Bright or flickering lights
  • Fluctuating hormone levels in women

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Migraine?

Migraines may have up to four symptom phases. These phases vary depending on the person and on the individual instance of the migraine. They are:

Prodrome Phase

A group of vague symptoms that occur before (even a couple of days before) the migraine. Symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Change in appetite
  • Thirst
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Tight or sore neck

Aura Phase

Sensory disturbances that occur before a migraine in one out of five patients; the symptoms usually build up gradually and last for 20 to 60 minutes. Symptoms include:

  • Positive auras: Bright or shimmering light or shapes at the end of the field of vision. They can get bigger and fill the field of vision
  • Negative auras: Dark holes, blind spots, or tunnel vision
  • Speech disturbances
  • Confusion
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in arm or leg

Attack Phase

The acute phase of the migraine, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Symptoms can include:

  • Throbbing pain on one side of the head (can sometimes spread to affect the whole head
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, or smells
  • Worsening pain with physical activity
  • Blurred vision
  • Light headedness or fainting
  • Facial tingling or numbness

How are Migraines Treated?

Migraines can be treated at home and in a clinical setting. To ease the pain during a migraine, you can:

  • Rest in a calm and dark environment
  • Apply ice to your neck
  • Use painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease the pain
  • Practice meditation and deep breathing techniques

Physiotherapy for Migraines

A pt Health physiotherapist will assess your migraine; depending on the cause and severity of your migraine, treatment can include:

  • Strengthening and range of motion exercises
  • Manual therapy (joint and soft tissue mobilizations)
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Stretches to decrease the frequency and intensity
  • Education on migraines and migraine prevention
  • Pain relieving modalities such as:
    • Therapeutic ultrasound
    • Heat and ice therapy
    • Electrical stimulation
    • Acupuncture

Can Migraines go Away on its Own?

Migraines typically last 4 to 72 hours and then will resolve itself with or without treatment. Most people who experience a migraine once will experience it again if they reach the threshold to their specific aggravating factors, so seeking treatment from your physician or physiotherapist is an important component in treating your migraine.

Can you Prevent Migraines?

If you have an increased risk for migraines (you are genetically predisposed), learn what specifically triggers your migraines and work to avoid or limit those things. In addition to avoiding your migraine triggers, you can take the following steps:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Stretch
  • Practice good posture
  • Practice relaxation and deep breathing techniques