Sometimes I notice trends in what people ask me. This week I noticed a certain trend that was associated with migraines. I have had a good handful of my friends and associates asking my advice on how to deal with their migraines. So I figured that I would put a good portion of the general parts of my advice here, where everyone can find it.
So what is a migraine? According to Medical News Today a migraine is “a severe, painful headache that can be preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound.” You can probably tell by this, simplified, definition that migraines are not your typical headache. The scientific community, and western medicine, do not know what causes migraines, but they do identify that migraines are an imbalance of the chemicals in your brain most likely brought on by abnormal brain activity. Some people blame hormones, others stress, but either way they are painful and can last a number of days.
The triggers to migraines are as widely varied as the people who experience them, some people can't even pinpoint their triggers. However, there are a few that I can list here:
- Allergies including seasonal allergies, food allergies, and food sensitivities
- Bright or flickering lights, loud or unexpected noises, smokey rooms, temperature or pressure changes, and strong smells including certain perfumes
- Physical and emotional stress, including tension, anxiety, excitement, and depression
- Physical states such as jet lag, exhaustion, or exercise
- Smoking, or exposure to smoke
- Skipping meals or fasting
- Hormonal triggers such as birth control, PMS, or other menstrual cycle fluctuations
- Tension headaches
- Certain medications such as birth control, hormone replacement, and some sleeping medications
- Lack of sleep
Though the symptoms are varied as well, but there are some more common symptoms that typically indicate migraine. Some of these even occur hours, or days, before the migraine starts. Some of these can even occur after the migraine is over. Most of these symptoms are unique to migraines and not experienced through the course of a normal, tension headache. Also, many of the symptoms of migraine can be confused with minor stroke, so if you are a sufferer of chronic migraine and experience a stroke-like symptom that is unusual for your migraines, please get to an emergency room and get checked out. The list of common migraine symptoms follows:
- Moderate to severe pain, most often throbbing, usually confined to one side or the other
- Increased pain during physical activity or when exposed to bright light, flickering light, loud noise or any of the previously mentioned triggers
- Inability to perform regular activities due to pain
- Feeling sick or being physically sick
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and smell
- Some people experience sweating, temperature changes, stomach ache, or diarrhea
- Soreness and/or tingling in one side
- Vertigo or double vision
- Auras (perceptual disturbances) are common
A word on auras. Auras are disturbances in your sensory perception. Many of the more common ones include visual changes such as loss of vision on one side, zigzags in objects, or a lost of contrast in structures. Auras can also be confusing thoughts or experiences, the perception of strange lights, pins and needles in the extremities, difficulty speaking, unpleasant smells, or muscle stiffness.
Is there a natural way to combat these horrible headaches? Yes, there is, but which one works is all dependent on what causes the particular migraine. The first option is to identify your triggers and do your best to avoid them. As an example, if you get a hangover headache after just one drink, you might be experiencing a migraine. The best way to deal with this particular migraine is to avoid alcohol. Not all triggers are that easy to avoid or even that easy to identify. So what can be done about other migraines?
Hydrate! The number one cause of almost all headaches is dehydration. Even if your migraine is not directly triggered by dehydration, your migraine can be worsened by it. Make sure you drink plenty of water. This goes double for those of us in warmer climates who may sweat out more water than they think.
B Vitamins! B vitamins are linked to reduced stress, loss of weight and even a reduction of headaches. Many people have reported a reduction in frequency of migraines after supplementing with either B12 or B2 (riboflaven).
Relaxation! A lot of headaches and migraines are caused by stress. Using relaxation techniques can help prevent them. Try getting regular massages, meditation, prayer, weekend trips to the forest or beach, etc.
Acupuncture! Acupuncture is amazing at all kinds of pain management. Migraines respond well to acupuncture treatments, but make sure to follow all of the dietary rules that may come with it, or your migraines may come back.
Herbs! There are a good number of herbs that may prove beneficial for migraine sufferers.
- Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium has traditionally been used for headaches, including migraines, fevers, colds, and a number of other ailments. There are a few contraindications, so check with your local herbalist and/or doctor before adding this herb to your daily regimen.
- Butterbur Petasites hybridus got it's common name because it was once used to preserve butter during the warmer months. However, it has also been used for a number of physical ailments including headaches and migraines.
- Peppermint Mentha balsamea essential oil is a fairly effective oil for most pain, including that of headaches and migraines. A tea of the leaves can also be mildly effective in certain situations.
- Willow Salix spp. is one of the plants that contains the active ingredient used to make aspirin. It has been used for headaches and migraines in many cultures for hundreds of years. It's also great for muscle ache, arthritis, and a number of other painful ailments.
There are a number of herbs and solutions out there for quite a few migraine sufferers. I hope this helps you start down to road to health and relief.
Healthline: Migraine Herbal Home Remedies from Around the World: http://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-herbal-home-remedies-from-around-the-world#Overview1
Migraine Trust: Acupuncture: https://www.migrainetrust.org/living-with-migraine/treatments/acupuncture/
Medical News Today: Migraines-Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/148373.php
Prevention: 16 Highly Effective Migraine Solutions: http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/natural-remedies/migraine-causes-and-cures