Migraine is a medical condition that involves severe, recurring headaches and other symptoms.
A migraine episode is a type of headache. An attack usually occurs in stages and can last for several days. Severe cases can affect a person’s daily life, including their ability to work or study.
Migraine can affect people differently, and the triggers, severity, symptoms, and frequency can vary. Some people have more than one episode each week, while others have them only occasionally.
What Does a Migraine Feel Like?
The pain of a migraine headache can be intense. It can get in the way of your daily activities. Migraines aren’t the same for all people. Possible symptoms of migraines are listed below. You may have a “premonition” several hours to a day before your headache starts. Premonitions are feelings you get that can signal a migraine is coming. These feelings can include intense energy, fatigue, food cravings, thirst, and mood changes.
What Are the Types of Headaches?
What type of headache is a migraine?
Over 150 types of headaches divide into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. A migraine is a primary headache, meaning that a different medical condition doesn’t cause it. Primary headache disorders are clinical diagnoses, meaning there’s no blood test or imaging study to diagnose them. A secondary headache is a symptom of another health issue.
What Are the Symptoms of a Migraine?
Individual migraines are moderate to severe in intensity, often characterized by a throbbing or pounding feeling. Although they are frequently one-sided, they may occur anywhere on the head, neck and face — or all over. At their worst, they are typically associated with sensitivity to light, noise and/or smells.
Nausea is one of the most common symptoms, and it worsens with activity, which often results in patient disability. In many respects, migraines are much like alcohol-related hangovers.
Most patients who think they have sinus headaches have migraines. The diagnosis of migraine is that the headaches may be accomplished by other “sinus-like” symptoms, including watering eyes, nasal congestion, and a sense of facial pressure. You can feel migraine pain in the face, where it may be mistaken for sinus headache — or in the neck, where it may be mistaken for arthritis or muscle spasm.
In up to 25 percent of patients, the migraine headache pain may be preceded by an aura, a temporary neurological syndrome that slowly progresses and typically resolves just as the pain begins. While the most common type of migraine aura involves visual disturbances (flashing lights, zigzags, blind spots), many people experience numbness, confusion, trouble speaking, vertigo (spinning dizziness) and other stroke-like neurological symptoms. Some patients may experience auras without headaches.
What Causes Migraines?
The causes of migraine aren’t obvious, but genetics and environment do play a role. Migraine often runs in families, so there’s likely a genetic link.
Most people with migraine will have spontaneous attacks, meaning there is nothing they did or didn’t do to trigger the attack. This is just how the disease behaves. Some people will have attacks that have an identifiable cause. Everyone has different triggers, but there are a few common culprits that affect many people. Common triggers include:
- Stress (good or bad).
- Certain foods.
- Skipping meals, alcohol.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Changes in weather or barometric pressure.
- Hormonal changes in women.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
While migraine can affect people of any gender, sex, age, race, ethnicity, or background, it’s widespread in women. Three times more women live with this disease than men, and research shows that hormones play a role. Girls are more likely to start experiencing attacks when they get their first period, and migraine in women is most common during their childbearing years.
How Are Migraines Treated?
Migraine headaches and their triggers can vary a lot between people. Treatment can depend on how severe the headaches are, how often they happen, and what symptoms a person gets.
Usually, it helps to lie down in a cool, dark, quiet room. Your doctor may prescribe pain relief medicine or medicines that help with nausea and vomiting. Some people need preventive medication taken every day to reduce the number and severity of migraines.
Some doctors teach a technique called biofeedback to their patients with migraines. This helps a person learn to relax and use the brain to gain control over certain body functions (like heart rate and muscle stress) that cause tension and pain. If a migraine begins slowly, some people can use biofeedback to remain calm and stop the attack.
Adding other non-medicine therapies to the treatment plan, such as acupuncture or herbs, helps some people with migraines. This is especially true of herbal treatments because they can affect how other medicines work. But ask your health care provider about these before trying them.
HOW DO Physical Therapy Techniques Help with Migraine Pain?
Specific physical therapy techniques used during a headache (especially at the beginning) can help to reduce the pain of the attack at least temporarily. Patients can be taught the best way to utilize modalities such as ice and relaxation. Family members can be instructed in massage techniques or manual cervical traction.
Migraine headaches may occur with tension and discomfort in the neck. Although this tension is thought to be secondary to the migraine (not the cause of it), stretching exercises can sometimes be helpful in helping to reduce the discomfort.
HOW HELPFUL IS PHYSICAL THERAPY IF THE PAIN PROBLEM STARTS IN MUSCLES OR JOINTS?
There is a group of patients for whom physical therapy is likely to be beneficial and may help to prevent headaches from occurring in the first place. These patients suffer headaches with musculoskeletal problems involving the neck and/or jaw.
There are two ways that the muscles and joints in these areas can produce pain in the head. The first is called referred pain. The most well-known example of referred pain is a heart attack. Most people know that pain in the chest, left shoulder, and left arm can signal a problem with the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is stressed, you can refer the pain experienced to the peninsula. It is likely due to how the nerves from the arm and the heart travel conjointly up to the brain. Similarly, the muscles and joints of the neck can refer to pain in the head.
The second-way structures in the neck can produce headaches is by triggering a migraine event. This is similar to how certain foods or environmental stimuli can trigger a migraine. In some patients, cervical spine and muscle tightness and dysfunction can occur, creating pain and discomfort that starts a migraine headache. In these patients, the hope is that by adequately treating the problems in the neck or jaw, one trigger for the individual’s migraine problem can be eliminated or significantly reduced.