A migraine is more than ‘just a headache.’ Anyone who has ever suffered from the misery of a migraine will tell you that they can be anything from unsettling and uncomfortable to downright incapacitating. Not all people who experience migraines will get the classic headache – and some people don’t experience the headache every time. Because a migraine headache is considered a ‘primary’ headache, which means there is no apparent underlying condition that could be causing it, they can be hard to treat.
A migraine headache is more of a condition than just a headache. Migraine headaches are typically very severe and can come with additional symptoms like dizziness, nausea and even loss of speech and sight which can be extremely frightening. In some people, they are accompanied by sight disturbances and other neurological symptoms that doctors call the ‘migraine aura’. Some people who experience sudden, severe, or recurrent migraines will need to be seen by a doctor and examined for other possible conditions, but in most cases migraines just have to be managed and treated as there is no cure – and often no obvious triggers. It is helpful to keep a "migraine diary" to track your symptoms and identify possible triggers. Keep track of how the weather, foods, hormone cycles, exercise, and stress affect your migraines. If you can identify any triggers, make efforts to avoid them.
Migraines are notorious for sticking around a long time. Some migraines only last for a few hours but if you’re unlucky enough to suffer from severe, prolonged migraines they can last for several days. Sometimes, the migraine sufferer will experience neurological symptoms before, during, and afterwards, including strange floating lights and auras. They might also experience these symptoms between bouts of pain.
Although the exact cause of migraine headaches is not known, most studies think there’s a genetic link that’s exacerbated by other triggers. Migraines tend to run in families and are usually hereditary. Some people can be set off by very strong smells, certain foods, heat, or bright lights. This is where your keeping your "migraine diary" can help you to prevent migraines by avoiding triggers.
As migraine can sometimes be associated with other more severe conditions, if you have what you think is a migraine for the first time, you should seek advice from a medical professional. You can discuss your options available for managing migraines with your healthcare provider. Many people turn to medication, but massage therapy can help to reduce the number of migraines. A 2006 study of migraine sufferers showed that people who had massages experienced fewer migraines and slept better during the weeks they had massages, and the relief from the massage lasted for up to 3 weeks. Read more about migraine and massage studies here.
You may have to try several different treatment options before discovering the best one for you. Other things to try that people with migraines have found helpful are acupuncture and regular exercise. Be sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner to find out what current treatments for migraines are available to you.