Heat or Cold for Migraine Relief…Many migraineurs (people who suffer from migraine headaches) relieve the pain of a migraine with the judicious application of heat or cold. This type of pain abatement is particularly popular with people trying to minimize or avoid prescription medication use, especially among pediatric patients and their families.
Below are a few techniques that can help ease the pain of a migraine. Not all techniques work for all patients. While some migraineurs find comfort in cold, at least as many are more uncomfortable in the presence of cold. The same is true of heat used for pain relief—for some it helps, for others it makes the pain worse. Continue reading
Basilar Migraines…Migraines can be more than just a pain in the head. Basilar migraines, once known as basilar artery migraines or BAMs, are an extraordinarily rare but potentially life-threatening variant of the classic migraine with aura.
Basilar migraine symptoms are caused by constriction of the basilar artery, which supplies blood to the brain stem. BAMs were originally thought to affect only young women and adolescent girls, but research shows that while they are primarily a problem for these groups they can occur in people of all ages and genders. Continue reading
Aromatherapy and Migraines…Most physicians agree that aromatherapy makes an excellent complementary therapy for migraineurs. Aromatherapy has not been shown to eliminate migraine headaches, but when used to complement traditional therapy and medication it can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.
Aromatherapy is a natural healing methodology that uses plant-derived essential oils to achieve a desired therapeutic affect. It is not known precisely how aromatherapy works, whether it is the scent or a chemical action of the essential oil itself that provides relief. Because of this unknown factor some doctors worry about potential essential oil interactions with standard drugs used in treating migraines. Continue reading
Abdominal Migraines…Anyone who has ever had a migraine will say they do not just happen in the head. The headache is usually the worst and most painful part of a migraine, but there’s more. Most migraineurs (people who suffer from migraines) will talk about photosensitivity (sensitivity to light), phonosensitivity (sensitivity to sound), scent sensitivity, gastric pain, cramping, and vomiting.
Sometimes the abdominal symptoms show up without the other typical migraine symptoms. When they do, a patient is said to be experiencing an abdominal migraine. An abdominal migraine is pain, usually varying from mild to medium, in the abdomen. The pain is either along the midline or unspecified and is frequently accompanied by abdominal tenderness, cramp-like spasms, bloating, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Continue reading
Migraines and Depression…
Being in pain so fierce that the only recourse is to hide in a dark, quiet room until it is over several times a year would make anyone sad. Migraineurs, though, are five times more likely to develop clinical depression than people who do not have these debilitating headaches. Conversely, people who are depressed are three times likelier than happy people to become migraineurs.
Many scientists view the intertwining of migraine and depression as a chicken or egg situation. They are patently comorbid, but does one cause the other? If so, which one starts the process, the migraine or the depression? The answer is not that simple. Migraines, depression, and, unsurprisingly, insomnia, a state associated with both conditions have something in common. All three are associated with neurotransmitter deficiencies in the brain. Continue reading
Migraines and Insomnia…A bout of insomnia will often bring on a migraine in someone prone to them. Having a migraine will often lead to insomnia. It sounds like a vicious cycle, and, for some migraineurs, it can be.
Insomnia is characterized by the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or fall back to sleep if awakened unexpectedly. Head and abdominal pain from a migraine may exacerbate the inability to sleep in people already inclined to sleep disorders.
A 2005 study published in Headache, the journal of the American Headache Society, discusses the links between poor sleep and migraines. Most of the study participants reported some form of sleep trouble and over 50% attributed migraine onset to sleep disturbances at least some of the time.
Almost 40% of participants admitted to sleeping six or less hours a night. These “short sleepers” experienced more frequent and severe migraines than other migraineurs. Short sleepers were also more likely to wake up with daily headaches, a condition known as transformed migraines.
Over 85% of the study participants said they chose to sleep or rest because of headache pain and 75% said the pain forced them to sleep.
Insomnia and migraines have something in common. Serotonin deficiency is linked to a number of disorders, including migraines and insomnia. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter thought to be an important part of the body’s regulation of sleep, mood, appetite, vomiting, and body temperature. It is manufactured in the gastrointestinal tract, where 90% of it is produced, and the central nervous system, and then stored in the blood.
Insufficient serotonin levels are also associated with several gastric disorders. This may explain why so many migraine sufferers experience stomach problems prior to or during a headache. Lack of serotonin is also likely to be a major component in the phenomenon known as abdominal migraines.
Migraines and Caffeine…Migraineurs have a love-hate relationship with caffeine. For many, the vasoconstrictor helps alleviate their migraine pain. For an equal number, the chemical is a migraine headache trigger. The relationship between caffeine and migraines is anything but straightforward.
For caffeine addicts who discover that their daily cuppa is a migraine trigger the problem of caffeine is particularly thorny. People who regularly consume large quantities of caffeine often experience withdrawal headaches if they do not get their regular java jolt. If they are predisposed to migraines, the headache they get if they cut out the caffeine is going to be a doozy. Many people think caffeine withdrawal alone can bring on a migraine. Regular caffeine-aholics are advised to lower their caffeine intake slowly so they do not send their body into withdrawal.
Many migraine pain relievers include caffeine. The vasoconstrictive action of caffeine helps relieve migraine pain for some people. One current theory of what exactly goes on in the head during migraine proposes that arteries in the temple get inflamed during an attack and vasoconstriction would reduce the inflammation. Another possible reason to include caffeine in a migraine medication is because it acts as a supplement to the main analgesic. Studies have shown that many analgesics function more efficiently and pack a greater punch when paired with caffeine, though no one is sure exactly why.
Caffeine shows up in many unexpected places, so migraineurs who are sensitive to it (not all are) need to be vigilant label readers. Everyone knows about beverages, things like coffee and colas. Caffeine is also found in many clear or fruit-flavoured sodas. Caffeine can be found in chocolate; the darker the chocolate the more caffeine it contains. Caffeine is in many over-the-counter analgesics, and not always clearly labelled. Migraineurs should be especially wary of caffeine in over-the-counter migraine formulas of regular medications.
So you can see migraines and caffeine are linked but when you are aware of the triggers, you can better manage your migraine headaches.
Exercise to Ease Migraines…The relationship between exercise and migraines is quixotic. Science says that exercise, by promoting the regular release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain controllers, should help ease the frequency and severity of migraines. Many migraineurs claim that their attacks are triggered by physical exertion. Who is right?
Like many other aspects of migraines, the answer is contradictory because both groups are correct. Strenuous exercise can cause migraines in people who are prone to them. Regular exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches as well as increasing overall health and wellness.
Regular exercise reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It also helps improve sleep patterns and relieves stress. All of which can subtly affect the likelihood of migraines.
Migraineurs who gave up exercise as a headache trigger should try again. Common exercise migraine triggers are things like:
* Not eating properly before exercising and causing a dramatic drop in blood sugar to occur
* Not taking in enough fluid and becoming dehydrated while exercising
* Starting a new eating plan and a new exercise plan at the same time
* Attempting strenuous exercise without warming up properly
To pinpoint exertion-related migraine triggers, migraineurs should keep an exercise log. It should include specific information:
* Time of day when exercising
* Last meal prior to workout
* Fluid intake
* Medication details
* Whether or not a headache occurred during or after the workout
The best type of exercise for migraineurs is regular, moderate aerobic exercise, at least 30 minutes three times a week. Recommended activities include:
* Power Walking
Any new exercise plan needs at least six weeks to discover if it has a beneficial effect on migraines.
Smoking and Migraines…Is there a connection between smoking and migraines?
The correct answer is “maybe” to “probably”. There is currently no study data specifically addressing this issue. Studies of smoking and chronic headaches in general (not all chronic headaches are migraines) are available, but their application to migraines is limited.
A study of smoking and patients with chronic cluster headaches yielded some telling results. Smoking patients who decreased their smoking by less than a half of a pack daily reduced their headache frequency by an amazing 50%. This study just asked patients to cut down n their smoking, not to eliminate it. Imagine the results that might have been achieved if the smokers quit entirely!
In another study, 53% of migraine patients who eliminated smoking in conjunction with the elimination of personally identified food triggers experienced a complete cessation of migraines. By contrast, only 13% of non-smoking patients who eliminated their food triggers became migraine-free.
Many migraineurs (people who suffer from migraine headaches) are sensitive to strong smells, like perfume, food odors, and, yes, tobacco smoke. Others are specifically sensitive only to the scent of tobacco smoke. Still others are allergic to cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke.
All of these people report having smoking or secondhand smoke trigger a migraine. Sometimes the smoke is the only trigger, sometimes it is part of a combination of triggers. Experts and sufferers agree there must be a link between smoking and migraines, somewhere, waiting to be uncovered.
Many of the commonly known effects of smoking are particularly detrimental to those prone to headaches and head pain. These side effects include elevated blood pressure, inflammation or irritation of the sinus cavities and nasal passages, and higher risk of stroke. Health officials all agree on one thing, smoking is contraindicated for everyone in every situation and migraine sufferers are no exception.