Headaches are very common. In fact, almost everyone will have a headache at some point. However, when you begin to experience a recurrent throbbing headache, often in one side of the head, frequently accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound, it may be symptoms of a debilitating condition known as a migraine.
When a migraine strikes, it can be crippling. Whether genetic or not a migraine symptom can vary from person to person and from one attack to the next.
How can you tell you are having a migraine? According to studies, migraine symptoms may begin one to two days before the headache itself. Migraine symptoms to look out for include:
- food cravings
- fatigue or low energy
- frequent yawning
- neck stiffness
What Causes a Migraine?
- Sensitivity to foods: According to Dr. Mark Hyman, Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Centre, Migraines can be caused by foods like peanuts or dairy or eggs. According to him “I had a patient who had migraines for 40 years, and we discovered that they were caused by the eggs she was eating. When she stopped eating eggs, the migraines went away; when she started eating them again, the migraines came back”.
- Stress: Any kind of emotional stress, school, work, family, life events can set off migraines.
- Hormonal imbalances. For example, many women get premenstrual migraines, which are often caused by imbalances in oestrogen and progesterone, too much oestrogen, or not enough progesterone. This can be caused by stress; by consuming too much alcohol, sugar, flour, and starches; and by not getting enough exercise or sleep.
- Vitamin B deficiency. Some people who do not get enough riboflavin get migraines.
- Sleep Patterns: Regular sleep patterns are key to preventing migraines. Ironically, migraines can be triggered by too much sleep, such as a vacation or relaxing weekend when you turn off the alarm and catch a few more hours.
- Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is the relaxation mineral. If you are deficient in it, you can often get headaches and migraines.
Ways to get rid of migraines
Avoid foods that trigger migraines. If you suspect that a certain food such as cheese, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol is triggering your migraines, eliminate it from your diet to see what happens.
Add a little pressure: Although it may feel as though your head is undergoing an incredible amount of pressure and pain, getting in touch with certain pressure points on the body can alleviate your discomfort. When you begin to feel the first tinges of a migraine, place a bit of pressure on your craniosacral system. By pressing with your fingers on certain migraine-specific spots, you can force your brain to relax and rest, restarting it from a pain-free place. Though it increases pressure in the cranium, it works to send the tension that’s building in your brain elsewhere.
Reduce caffeine intake: If you regularly consume large amounts of caffeine, you set yourself up for withdrawal headaches, which can stimulate your brain’s migraine centre and turn into migraines. Limit intake to 200 mg a day that’s roughly one 8-ounce cup of coffee.
Establish regular sleep hours. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day even on weekends. If you nap during the day, keep it short. Naps longer than 20 to 30 minutes may interfere with nighttime sleep
Ice Packs: Always opt for cold rather than heat to stop migraine pain. “Ice is an anti-inflammatory,” says Carolyn Bernstein, MD, clinical director of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians Comprehensive Headache Centre at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.
Avoid Alcohol: If you get a “hangover” after one drink, you may actually be experiencing a migraine. Avoid alcohol that gives you a headache within 8 hours of consumption. “The good news is that this cause tends to be very specific,” Dr. Blumenfeld says. “People may do fine with vodka rather than beer, for instance.
Massage the Pain Away: A regular massage may seem like a luxury, but when a migraine strikes, it can be the best way to relive all that’s built up in your head. Learn how to give yourself a calming and pain relieving massage and you can prevent your migraines from growing worse, quickly. As you stretch and massage both the neck and the base of the scalp, you will stimulate blood flow and relaxation, sending the pain away from your head.