What Exactly Is A Migraine Headache?
While some people call any severe headache a “migraine headache,” migraine headaches are usually the result of certain physiological changes in the brain. These changes occur within the brain and lead to the characteristic symptoms associated with having a migraine headache.
Migraine headaches are usually linked to light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, or odor sensitivity. Additionally, migraines are often associated with nausea and vomiting—things not seen in regular headaches.
Migraine headaches are usually only on one side of the head but sometimes, they can be bilateral. Headache pain from a migraine headache is often described as “pounding” or “throbbing” and it can worsen with physical activity.
Some people will have a warning sign (called an aura) that shows up just before the headache pain begins. An aura can involve numbness or weakness on one side of the body, a blind spot in the eye, or the presence of flickering lights in the field of vision. The aura often lasts several minutes, generally going away as the pain begins.
The Five Main Phases of a Migraine
The secret to dealing with migraines is to prevent them in the first place, and if you can’t prevent them, you can take steps to shorten their duration! If you’re like me, you know when a migraine is coming…while migraines vary from person to person and from one migraine episode to the next, most sufferers will experience four or five phases to each of their migraines.
The five phases are:
Many migraine sufferers report “warning signs” such as change in mood, like feeling “high,” irritable, or down in the dumps. They also report their food tasting strange or think they can sense funny smells. Many people also report tiredness and tension in the muscles.
Stress is often a trigger for migraines, as is lack of sleep, so anyone with migraines who lets themselves get run down is at a greater risk of getting a migraine.
Migraines can affect a sufferer’s vision in a number of ways. The most common is an aura, or “halo” or bright light appearing to them, giving everything they look at a strange glow. Some migraine sufferers develop blind spots or a temporary loss of vision in one eye before the migraine starts.
When the migraine arrives, it will usually occur on one side of the head only, though it is possible for it to occur on both sides. The pain is both stabbing and throbbing.
In addition to the pain in the head, disturbances of the senses can continue, including an extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Many with migraine feel nauseous and might even vomit. The headache phase can last hours or days, depending on what steps the person takes to relieve their pain and bring the migraine to an end. Often sleep can help relieve the migraine.
Even after the migraine is gone there can be some lingering effects, such as a loss of appetite, problems with concentration, and extreme tiredness.
Migraine Headache Symptoms
Typical symptoms of migraine headaches include:
- Severe pain (usually on one side of the head)
- A “pounding” sensation in the head
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to sound or light
- Eye pain.
Not all headaches are migraine headaches as there are other causes of headaches that can present themselves with migraine-like headache pain. For example, people with cluster headaches can present in ways that are similar to migraines. The cause of migraine headaches is unknown. Changes in the neurotransmitter levels in the brain are believed to be a part of the etiology behind headaches.
Triggers of Migraine in Men
We know there is a definite connection between hormones and migraine in women, but what could cause it in men? A growing body of research suggests that migraines are triggered by a range of causes, including foods, food additives, drinks, and lifestyle issues.
Common food triggers include salty snacks, mature cheeses, and pre-packaged convenience foods, which a lot of single men are more likely to consume than men living with a partner. Another common trigger is monosodium glutamate, MSG, found in many convenience foods. MSG can be disguised on food labels as “natural flavoring” or “meat tenderizer.”
Being hungry is another trigger for migraines. Men should eat regular meals, not snack all day.
Being dehydrated is a trigger as well. Drinking more pure water (not coffee, tea, energy drinks, juice or alcohol) can help. So can steering away from salty snacks or food high in carbohydrates and low in protein, such as cake, cookies, candy, pasta and white rice. These foods can also be dehydrating.
Men are correct in one sense regarding migraine: stress and tension can lead to migraines. So can a lack of sleep. Too much caffeine and alcohol, often used to cope with stress, can also trigger migraines. Men might think their headaches are due to having too little caffeine and them needing a “pick me up.”
They may also dismiss a headache after alcohol as just a really bad hangover when it is in fact it’s probably a migraine.
Natural Treatments Of Migraine Headaches
You can treat your migraines naturally. There are many natural remedies for headaches. Here are a few to try:
- Exercises, such as yoga, tai chi, or qi gong, which reduce stress and induce relaxation.
- Avoiding dietary triggers.
- Lifestyle modifications – Stop doing what triggers your migraines! Keep a note of when you get one and what led up to it.
- Learn to relax and don’t build up stress. You can only fight it off for so long.
- Hot and cold therapy. Put your feet in cold water…the blood rushes to your feet, away from your head!
- Drink plenty of water, so dehydration is not a cause.
I take magnesium supplements too, and I find these help me to relax and I have reduced my migraines.
If you believe that you are suffering from migraines, see your doctor right away, to further investigate the issues, and get the proper treatment. It is best to know that is what you are dealing with too. Never self-diagnose.
Have you found a natural remedy for migraines? I would love to hear below…
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