What causes migraines?
The cause of migraines is unknown, but attack frequency and severity are affected by:
- Dietary factors
- Environmental factors
- Biological factors, such as hormones, immune, physical and emotional factors
The biological systems play a significant role in triggering and maintaining attacks. These systems are interconnected, communicating with each other through complex biochemical reactions. These include the:
- Gastrointestinal (digestive) system
- Musculoskeletal system
- Immune system
- Endocrine (hormone) system
- Nervous system
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
There are 2 types of migraine:
- Migraine without aura (formerly common migraine) is the most common, affecting more than 80% of people who suffer migraines
- Migraine with aura (formerly classic migraine)
Auras are temporary and reversible neurological signs and symptoms that accompany a migraine attack:
- Visual disturbances are the most common, affecting 99%
- Vertigo affects 30–50%, known as a vestibular migraine
- Sensory disturbances, such as numbness, pins-and-needles or tingling affect 31%
- Speech or language disturbances affect 18%
- Movement disorders, such as difficulty moving or co-ordinating muscles and limbs affect 6%
Migraines usually last 4–72 hours and include at least 2 of the following:
- 1-sided (unilateral) pain or headache
- Moderate to severe intensity
- Throbbing pain
- Pain aggravated by movement
Combined with at least 1 of the following:
- Nausea, which affects 80% of people who suffer migraines
- Vomiting, which affects 50%
- Increased sensitivity to light, called photophobia affects 90%
- Increased sensitivity to noise, called phonophobia affects 75%
Migraine attacks are divided into phases. Symptoms are variable and can overlap between phases:
- Prodrome symptoms precede the headache phase by 24—72 hours, signalling an impending attack.
- Aura symptoms are only experienced by those who suffer migraines with aura. Symptoms occur in close succession or simultaneously, lasting 5 minutes or more.
- Headache or pain phase.
- Postdrome phase usually lasts up to 48 hours, but may last several days. Some people don’t experience this phase.
How are migraines treated?
Migraines may occur as infrequently as a few times per year, to as often as several times per week. Chronic migraines occur on 15 or more days per month for more than 3 months, with headache on at least 8 days per month.
Migraines that are not properly treated can become chronic migraines. They significantly reduce your quality of life, affecting work, family and social life as well as your health.
Medications help some people but only have a moderate success rate. Some people don’t like taking medications. Others don’t like the side-effects or can’t tolerate them, while others are concerned about safety. Paradoxically, some medications used to treat acute migraine can cause a medication overuse headache in addition to the migraine being treated. Medication overuse headache is the 3rd most common headache in the world.
Research shows that certain manual treatments and natural medicines are effective at reducing the frequency, severity and duration of attacks by treating the many systems involved in migraines. Only a qualified and experienced Naturopath has the necessary skills to formulate specific nutritional and herbal prescriptions for you that are supported by scientific evidence, and prescribed in a safe and effective manner.
References for further information:
Ashina S, Lipton RB, Bendtsen L, Hajiyeva N, Buse DC, Lyngberg AC, et al. Increased pain sensitivity in migraine and tension-type headache coexistent with low back pain: A cross-sectional population study. Eur J Pain. 2018;22(5):904-914
Buse DC, Rains JC, Pavlovic JM, Fanning KM, Reed ML, Manack Adams A, et al. Sleep Disorders Among People With Migraine: Results From the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) Study. Headache. 2019;59(1):32-45
Stovner, LJ, Nichols E, Steiner TJ, Abd-Allah F, Abdelalim A, Al-Raddadi RM, et al. Global, regional, and national burden of migraine and tension-type headache, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet Neurol 2018;17:954–76