Migraine is a common and a very painful type of headache that attacks with varying intensities. An acute attack is excruciating and brings our world to a standstill and a mild one, although tolerable, is bothersome and affects our normal composure. There are different types of Migraines like:-
Brainstem Aura – head ache accompanied with unclear vision and speech; and intolerance to loud sounds.
Chronic – affects for 15 days a month for more than 3 months
Hemiplegic– causes temporary weakness (up to 72 hours) in one side of the body, it is similar to stroke but not the same.
Menstrual – occurs in women at the onset of the menstrual cycle and lasts a couple of days through the periods.
Ocular (retinal) – accompanied with visual disturbances and sometimes loss of vision in one eye for an hour.
Vestibular – accompanied with vertigo.
The causes for Migraine are yet to be discovered but it most definitely involves changes in the brain stem, the trigeminal nerve and a brain chemical called serotonin. However, there are many triggers for a migraine attack; they are Physical, Lifestyle and Environmental changes.
Hormonal Changes – fluctuations in the level of the female hormone estrogens around the time of menstruation, pregnancy and menopause triggers migraine. Women are 3 times more vulnerable to migraine because of this factor.
Physical exertion –sudden and extreme physical exertion in the form of exercise or even sexual activity triggers headache.
Medication – Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement medication can be a trigger as it causes changes in female hormone levels. While it can worsen a migraine, it has alleviated the condition in some women, so its effect is not uniform in all women.
Food and food additives – Processed foods like aged cheese and wine; preservatives like Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG) present in most packed foods and artificial flavouring substances like aspartame all trigger migraine.
Hunger and dehydration – skipping meals and not consuming adequate water (8 glasses per day) can trigger headache. If our body is not in the right condition, the generally beneficial practice of fasting can turn out to be a form of stress which can provoke a Migraine.
Previous Head injuries can provoke Migraine.
Changes in routine – changes in our daily activities like long journeys/ vacations that alter our sleeping and eating schedules can prompt a head ache. Sometimes, even the changes between the weekend and week day can affect.
Sleep – sleeping too much or too less is instrumental in a headache. The key is to try and observe how many hours of sleep is adequate for us individually.
Alcohol and caffeine – consuming more than a glass of alcohol; 4-5 cups of coffee/ tea/ caffeinated soft drinks a day can trigger migraine.
Posture – holding an incorrect posture while working, or watching TV/ laptop/ mobile will cause tension to build in the neck and shoulder muscles resulting in a brain stem aura.
Computers and LEDs – Staring at the computer or mobile screens for too long cause migraine due to bright lights affecting the Retina.
Stress – whether at work or at home stress is a major provocateur for migraine as it causes the brain chemicals to alter.
Weather – changes in the weather conditions that affect the barometric pressure triggers headache.
Sensory stimuli – exposure to bright light, loud noises and strong smells such as wall paint or perfume can assault our senses and trigger an attack.
Treatment and Precautions
Migraine is treated with suitable pain relieving and preventive Medication and Therapy. In case of acute Migraine, your doctor might recommend an MRI or CT scan, this is to make a thorough study of your conditions and rule out other possibilities. If you are experiencing mild episodes of migraine or its symptoms you can take the following measure to curb its aggravation and prevent future episodes.
- Establish a healthy daily routine with sufficient intake of food and water and adequate hours of sleep.
- Adopt relaxation methods like Biofeedback etc. Meditation is an effective way to relax and alter the brain structure for the better.
- Refrain from consuming alcohol, caffeine, artificial and processed foods.
- Take timely breaks from computer screens, use anti-glare screens
- Maintain right posture while working and relaxing
- Exercise regularly, gradually increasing the intensity of work out.
Observation by maintaining a daily journal can give us an insight to our migraine patterns and its triggers.