Almost 30 million people in the United States are affected by migraines and about one in every seven people experience migraines globally. Migraine attacks are also three times higher in women than in men.
A migraine is a type of headache with severe throbbing pain, often on one side of the head, which can last for hours to possibly days. Migraines are assumed to be caused by muscle tightness or spasms of the blood vessels within the brain. Let’s clarify the signs and symptoms of a migraine.
Signs Of A Migraine Attack
- Experience an aura such as visual changes (i.e., flickering lights, spots, or lines) that lasts for five minutes to an hour. The aura usually occurs 1 hour before the migraine.
- 36% of migraine sufferers experience excessive yawning before the onset of the migraine.
- Mood changes, like sudden depression, irritability, and excitement for no reason.
- Numbness or pins and needles on one side of the body, usually from the fingertips through the arm and across the face.
Signs During Or After A Migraine Attack
- Throbbing pain on either one or both sides of the head.
- Severe pain behind the eyes.
- Neck pain and stiffness. In an online survey, the National Headache Foundation found that 38% of affected people always have neck pain or stiffness, while 31% have it frequently.
- Nausea and/or vomiting. According to an American Migraine Study, 73% of the 3,700 test subjects experienced nausea, while 29% experienced vomiting.
- Vertigo or double vision. The stronger the migraine attack, the greater the chance of dizziness, loss of vision, and balancing issues.
- Sinus symptoms such as a stuffy nose, droopy eyelids, and tearing. 90% of people who complain of a sinus headache may actually have a migraine.
- Muscle weakness, often on one side of the body.
- Trouble speaking or focusing.
- Lack of restful sleep correlates with the frequency and intensity of a migraine. A migraine can also cause insomnia, making for a vicious cycle.
The most common triggers of a migraine attack are:
- 78% of migraines are triggered by a wheat intolerance. Other common food triggers are dairy products, processed and pre-packaged ready-made foods, deli meats, bacon, red meat, additives, condiments, and food coloring since they contain MSG.
- Alcohol and caffeine (i.e., coffee, black tea, caffeinated green tea, chocolate, energy drinks, sodas).
- Dehydration can trigger a migraine.
- Changes in sleep cycle such as sleep deprivation, jet lag, or too much sleep.
- Not eating consistently (i.e., fasting or skipping meals).
- Spikes in stress levels or a constant state of chronic stress on a daily basis
- Intense physical exertion through exercise and sexual activity.
- Hormonal changes in women since the fluctuation in estrogen levels can trigger a migraine. Hormone replacements and oral contraceptives can sometimes hurt or help a migraine.
- Certain medications (i.e., pain medications) can trigger or worsen headaches.
- Changes in weather and increased pressure in the atmosphere.
- Bright lights, loud sounds, and strong smells such as perfume, paint thinners, and secondhand smoke.
Treatments For Migraine Attacks
Treating the underlying cause of the migraine can be the most effective way to treat migraines. You can start with trying a few of the treatments below to assess how effectively you can manage your migraines:
- Avoid dietary triggers: Keep a diary to pinpoint which foods are your migraine triggers and make dietary changes to avoid those foods. If you aren’t sure consider removing wheat, dairy, red meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed and pre-packaged foods, and condiments while shifting to a plant-based fresh foods diet.
- Get enough quality sleep: Avoid getting into the vicious cycle of not being able to get a well-rested sleep each night by following these tips to sleep better.
- Acupuncture: According to clinical trials, acupuncture may be very effective at treating migraines both long and short term.
- Massage therapy: This can help reduce the frequency of migraine headaches since it helps reduce stress and soothe tight muscles.
- Stress reducing techniques: There are many ways to reduce stress. Please refer to this ebook for effective stress reducing techniques.
- Avoid sensory triggers: For instance, if you know strong perfume triggers your headaches, avoid perfume shops.
- Certain signs and symptoms of a migraine may also be signs of something worse, like a mild stroke or a pinched nerve. If you experience frequent headaches and are not gaining any relief from some of the suggestions noted above or you need guidance on how to most effectively address your migraines make sure to visit your doctor for thorough tests and treatments.