(Editor’s note: This is Part 1 in a three part series on migraine headaches and how Upper Cervical Chiropractic care can help.)
We all know someone who has suffered from migraine headaches. Maybe you have personally suffered from migraines. They can be one of the most debilitating conditions in existence, rendering the sufferer useless anywhere from hours to days. I have personally experienced migraines several times in my life, and it was far from fun.
There are a number of causes that may trigger migraine headaches. Many women have reported migraines before and after their periods when estrogen levels drop significantly. Foods and drinks such as cheese, beer, and red wine can cause migraines, as well as excitotoxic substances such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate. Too much stress can contribute to migraines, as well as environmental changes. Sensory stimuli such as bright lights, loud sounds, paint thinners, and cigarette smoke can also cause migraines. Too little or too much sleep can provoke the onset of a migraine, as well as intense physical activity. Migraines can also be a side effect of certain medications.
Approximately 30 million people suffer from migraine headaches, with three-fourths of those sufferers being women. Migraine symptoms include pulsating or throbbing pain typically on one side of the head, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, visual disturbances or aura in 20% of migraine sufferers, and worsening of symptoms with physical exertion.
There are typically four phases to a migraine headache:
About 60% of migraine sufferers experience prodrome. Prodrome is characterized as a set of symptoms that precede the migraine itself, serving as a warning sign. These symptoms may include stiff neck, dizziness, lack of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, photophobia, sound sensitivity, increased urination, fatigue, depression and irritability, difficulty performing mental tasks, feeling cold, hyperactivity, thirst, and euphoria.
About 20% of migraine sufferers will experience visual disturbances prior to the onset of a migraine. These disturbances include flashing lights, geometric patterns that obscure vision, loss of half of visual range, shimmering lights around the edges of vision.
An can also be accompanied by odd smells and hearing sounds, weakness, mild paralysis on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, and a “pins and needles” feeling.
The actual headache phase of the migraine can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. It can start on both sides of the head and eventually migrate to one side, or it can start on one side and spread out to the rest of the head.
This stage is regarded as the aftermath to a migraine, similar to a hang-over from drinking too much alcohol. It can last hours to days and can be attributed to medications to treat the migraine or the actual headache itself. Symptoms of postdrome can be lowered mood levels, especially depression, feelings of well-being and euphoria, fatigue, poor concentration and comprehension, and lowered intellect levels.