October 1, 2019

Headache or Migraine?

Some people experiencing a rather painful headache may declare that they are suffering from a migraine – but is it? What exactly constitutes a migraine? 
The term headache has a broad definition that encompasses migraine.  Migraine is a subset of headache and has many different forms.
A migraine is an intense pain or throbbing usually on one side of the head.  It may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, an increased sensitivity to light, sound, or smells, and can prevent the individual from functioning in a normal capacity for up to three days.
Migraine is often, but not always, proceeded by aura.  Aura can take many forms and usually lasts only a few minutes before the head pain of a full migraine attack occurs. 

• Visual Disturbances – blind spots, flashing lights, zigzag vision, etc.
• Confusion
• Inability to articulate
• Coordination issues
• Feeling of pins and needles or tingling on the affected side

Some people may be pre-disposed to migraines simply due to genetics. However other factors such as stress, hormonal changes, sleep disturbances, diet, and environmental factors all play a role.  It is not necessarily one factor that triggers a migraine but a culmination of multiple factors that push the individual into migraine territory. 
Keeping a journal of head pain can help determine what triggers a migraine and therefore can help the individual better manage their environment to avoid a debilitating attack.
As with anything, a balanced lifestyle will help – eat a healthy, balanced diet at regular intervals and stay hydrated.  Get regular exercise and enough quality sleep. 
Meditation, yoga, and other therapies focused on reducing stress and anxiety have proven helpful for some people.  Neck and shoulder stiffness has been reported by sufferers and find massage therapy, physiotherapy, or acupuncture to be beneficial. 
Working with your doctor is your best course of action. They may direct you in more complex therapies including drug therapy to manage the pain and cognitive behavioural therapy to manage the condition as a whole.
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