Migraine Basics

Migraines have become widely known as the headaches that are debilitating and often very stubborn and difficult to treat.  They are often confused with cluster headaches or just plain old bad headaches, sending many to doctors and neurologists only to find that they are not suffering from a migraine at all.


Over 28 million individuals actually do suffer from migraines and women suffer from migraines over 3 times as often as men do.  It is interesting that pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy actually experience a decrease in migraines, a phenomenon that is being studied by researchers.


How do you know if you have a bad headache or a migraine?  For one thing, migraines usually come on with pain on one side of the head or the other.  This is not always the case, though, as up to 40% of migraines can affect both sides of the head. 


Often, migraines come on with other symptoms, such as nausea, extreme sensitivity to light and noise and other symptoms including not being able to tolerate things that you normally tolerate well.  These could include not being able to wear a headband or pull your hair back into a pony tail, not being able to wear a necklace or anything that feels tight around the neck, limbs or body, and not being able to lie down on a pillow.


Migraines are triggered by various stimuli.  Some of these are MSG (found in Chinese and other foods, including meat tenderizer and Accent), nitrites (found in hot dogs and other meats), caffeine, chocolate, certain nuts, alcohol, sleeping too much or not enough, hormonal changes, menstrual periods, pregnancy, humidity, barometric pressure and other foods or smells. 


Migraine medication and treatment has advanced a great deal during the past decade.  There are many types of medications available to treat migraines, as well as treatments including biofeedback, relaxation therapy and more.


If you feel you are having any of these symptoms and are having difficulty eliminating or controlling them, contact your doctor to see what will work for you.  The first thing is knowing how to identify migraines.  The next is knowing that help is available.

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