Not every a headache is like a migraine. Nevertheless, you should not take a headache lightly. Because depending on the cause and form, headaches should be treated differently. Whether you suffer from migraines or any other type of problems and how you can alleviate them is shown by our health check.
Life can cause us a headache from time to time. However, when headaches are frequent and severe, they can be migraines. About ten percent of the world’s population suffer from a migraine. Among those affected, women are nearly three times more likely to be found.
What is a migraine?
Migraine is a neurological, presumably genetic disease caused by lifestyle and environmental stimuli. The nerve cells of migraine sufferers are hypersensitive to key stimuli such as stress, noise, light, temperature fluctuations, biorhythms or unhealthy diets. Also, untreated headaches can worsen as the nervous system becomes more sensitized with each migraine attack. Therefore, take your headache seriously and come to meet you.
The first step is to observe your pain. When do you occur? How do you comment? How long do they stop and by what harbingers they are announced? Our health check migraine gives you all the critical information from causes, triggers and symptoms to treatment methods and prevention strategies to get your first self-assessment. We want to point out that we can not replace a medical examination. If you have a chronic headache, you should consult a doctor.
Headache or a migraine?
The International Headache Society (IHS) fundamentally differentiates between two headache families. Secondly, secondary headaches that occur as a result of diseases such as brain tumors, brain trauma, cerebral hemorrhage or inflammation, on the other hand, primary headaches that appear as a separate disease. These include:
A tension headache: mild to moderate pain throughout the head area, pushing and pulling, but not pulsating.
A cluster headache: extreme and one-sided headache attacks in the area of the temples and eyes that frequently occur in recurring time clusters but can even last for months even years.
Migraine: regular, often unexpected, pulsatile headache attacks, usually half-sided. Also, migraine headaches are accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light, noise and odor, and in some cases by disorders of perception (migraine aura).
Treatment and symptoms of migraine
The symptoms of migraine
A migraine attack can go through different phases, each with different characteristic symptoms.
The startup phase
In about one-third of those affected the pain starts already one to two days to a few hours before the headache attack. In the so-called harbinger phase, the following symptoms may occur:
- Tiredness, frequent yawning
- Increased sensitivity to light and noise
- Nervousness and concentration disorders
- Emotional fluctuations such as abundance or indifference
- Gastrointestinal problems
The migraine aura
The forerunner phase can be followed by the aura, which is mainly characterized by visual and sensory-perceptual disturbances. Patients of migraine with atmosphere experience the symptoms quite differently. Frequently, patients experience visual disturbances, disorders of the odor, balance, and sense of touch. In rare cases, there are temporary speech disorders and paralysis. The aura usually lasts for a few minutes to an hour and occurs in 15-20 percent of migraine patients.
The headache phase
The actual migraine attack follows this. The severe headache migraine phase can last from a few hours to three days. The following symptoms particularly accompany it:
- Frequent half-sided, throbbing headache in the forehead, temples, and eyes, which are exacerbated by physical activity
- Nausea through to vomiting
- Light and noise sensitivity
- Odor sensitivity
- Balance disorders and dizzy spells
Subsidence of migraine
In the phase of regression of the migraine attack, the headache and other symptoms disappear entirely over a period of up to one day. Those affected usually feel tired and tense in the decay phase.
The causes of a migraine
Why some people suffer from migraines is still not fully understood. Migraine researchers suggest that migraine is mostly caused by a genetic defect in the nerves in the brain. The nerve cells of the mind of migraine patients are extremely sensitive to irritation. If migraine sufferers are exposed to strong stimuli, the nerve cells in the brain release too many messenger substances (such as norepinephrine and serotonin) that cause the blood vessels to ignite and swell. The resulting pressure on the nerves manifests itself in headache attacks.
The trigger of migraine attacks
Because migraine diseases are steadily on the increase, especially in developed countries, it is widely believed that lifestyle and environmental factors are the leading causes of migraine. The most popular and common key stimuli for migraine are:
- Irregular sleep or lack of sleep
- Disorders of biorhythms
- Hormone fluctuations (especially in women related to the menstrual cycle)
- Food and beverages: alcohol, cheese, chocolate, glutamate (flavor enhancer), coffee, citrus fruits
- Environmental attractions: bright light, noise, smoke, intense odors
- Weather changes or temperature fluctuations (for example also by sauna visit)
Diagnosis and drug treatment of migraine
If you suffer from headaches on a regular basis, you should consult a doctor. Because depending on the type of headache, different treatment methods are recommended. The doctor will use the analysis of your medical history, the so-called headache history, to determine the exact type of headache. Additionally, migraine sufferers are often asked to keep a headache diary by recording when, how frequently, in what form and how long the headache attacks are occurring. These data assist the physician in the selection and dosage of medications. Which is the best treatment for migraine, but also causes medical research headache. If it is migraine, it can be alleviated and reduced by various medications and measures, but can not be cured in the current medical knowledge.
To relieve acute migraine complaints, specific migraine medications, known as triptans (e.g., sumatriptan, naratriptan, or eletriptan ), are prescribed to narrow the blood vessels and relieve inflammation. In some cases, non-specific painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents such as aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen are used for mild to moderate migraines in the short term. However, these should not be taken permanently.
Migraine treatment without medication
For acute complaints, the shielding is the top priority. In migraine attacks, sufferers should retire to quiet and darkened rooms and, if possible, not physically active, because this intensifies a headache. Some affected additionally help aromatherapy and on the forehead applied peppermint oil. As migraine is mainly caused by stress or over-stimulation, migraine sufferers may try to reduce the frequency of headache attacks through methods of relaxation and stress management. In particular, the following measures have been recommended for the prevention of migraine:
- Exercising regularly, especially endurance sports
- Regular daily routine and regular meals
- Autogenic training or stress management training
- Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen
- Biofeedback training
- Acupuncture or massages
- Yoga or meditation
- Avoid the stimuli that trigger your migraine
- Cold or heat wind
- Sufficient rest and sleep in the dark
Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis
The effect of acupuncture on migraine patients has been studied in several studies and found to be just as effective as drug prevention measures (e.g., beta-blockers). According to recent studies, it was able to reduce the number of seizures and intensity of migraine in 50 percent of patients. Therefore, acupuncture is now recommended as an additional prophylactic treatment for medical professionals. It is surprising that it does not seem to matter whether the acupuncture is performed according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or whether it is a so-called dummy treatment (incorrect placement of the acupuncture needles according to TCM).
In a study of the University of Duisburg, 950 migraine patients underwent different migraine treatments. The first group was treated with acupuncture according to the methods of traditional Chinese medicine, the second only with dummy acupuncture, which placed the acupuncture needles arbitrarily (placebo), the third group received the usual migraine drugs. With the help of proper acupuncture following TCM, 47 percent of patients experienced only half as many migraine attacks. The same was the case in 39 percent of patients receiving sham acupuncture. Among the patients who took medication daily, 40 percent were able to reduce their headache attacks by half.