Anyone suffering from migraines knows these afflictions are more than bad headaches. Migraines are more severe than traditional headaches and can become debilitating. The main differences between the two types of headaches are where the pain occurs and the overall severity. A headache can be a mild or severe pain or ache in your head.
You may feel as though there is increased pressure on your head, which can either be on both sides of your head or in specific areas, such as your forehead or the back of your neck.
Migraines are typically only felt on one side of the head and the throbbing pain is so intense it can affect your daily activities. Being able to distinguish between migraines and regular headaches allows you to find quicker relief through the best treatment methods. For information on migraine symptoms and how you can treat migraine, make sure to review the sections below.
What are the symptoms of migraines?
Symptoms of migraines can include seeing spots or flashing lights, feeling nauseous, being extra-sensitive to light and sound and even temporary loss of vision. Migraine headaches are generally placed into two categories: migraines without an aura and migraines with an aura.
The latter type of migraine means sufferers experience certain sensations up to 30 minutes before an attack comes on. These sensations include seeing unusual lines in your vision, feeling less mentally alert, feeling a numbness or tingling sensation in your hands or face and experiencing an unusual sense of taste, smell or touch.
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Some sufferers of migraines with an aura even experience symptoms a day or two before they actually have the migraine. These symptoms are subtler and can include a stiffness of the neck, unusual food cravings, constipation, irritability and depression.
Dealing With Migraines
When you first feel a migraine coming on, you need to retreat from your normal activities as soon as you can. In the early stages of a migraine, drinking caffeine in small amounts can help to relieve the pain.
Placing hot or cold items onto your head or neck can help the pain. Cold items, such as ice packs, have a numbing effect that can dull the pain, whereas hot items, such as heating pads, can relax your muscles. A warm bath or shower may help as well.
Next, lie down in a dark and quiet room and turn off the lights. Although it may be difficult to sleep, especially after drinking caffeine, this may help you with symptom relief. Even just closing your eyes and staying in the dark can help mitigate some migraine pain.
There are steps you can take to potentially prevent migraine frequency. First off, getting a good night’s sleep can make a huge difference. To encourage sound sleep, you need to establish regular sleeping patterns.
Regular sleeping patterns means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on your days off from work. You need to avoid long naps during the daytime too, as these can interfere with your night’s sleep. Keep daytime naps to under 30 minutes.
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Another way of making sure you get a good night’s sleep is to relax at the end of each day. Read a book, soak in a warm bath or listen to soothing music. Do not drink caffeine or alcohol in the evening, as these substances can cause sleeplessness. You must avoid heavy meals and intense exercise in the evenings as well.
Eating habits can influence migraines. By eating at the same time every day and not skipping meals, you may be able to prevent migraine attacks. It is a good idea to keep a record of what you eat to see if certain foods trigger your migraines so you can then avoid those foods in the future.
Stress is known to cause migraines. It may be difficult to avoid daily stress altogether, but you can make sure you keep it under control. Managing your stress can include doing fewer activities in your busy schedule, keeping on top of your to-do-list and maintaining a positive attitude. Doing something you enjoy every day, such as reading a book, playing a game, listening to music or drawing can reduce stress as well.
Migraines are less likely to occur if you quit smoking, although the stress from initially quitting may cause additional migraines to flare up. Regular exercise can also help prevent frequent migraines, just make sure you do not do it in the evening before bedtime.
Working out can reduce obesity, which is known to increase the risk of headaches and migraines. Exercising can be fun, so choose an activity you enjoy, such as swimming, cycling or walking.
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There are support groups and organizations that may be able to help you with your migraines. By talking to others that deal with this condition, you can learn tips on how to prevent and deal with migraines. You may be able to find local groups meeting in person on a designated day each week. Alternatively, you could get involved with an online group.
Some women experience migraines at the time of their menstrual period. If this happens to you, consider taking preventive medication before you start your menstrual period. Be sure to ask your doctor what the best course of medication is.
There are medications available to help with migraines, though these typically can only be used by people who have migraines every now and then. If you are a sufferer of frequent migraines, medications can actually make them worse.
If you take migraine medications for more than 10 days each month, you can experience an effect known as rebound headaches, which makes migraines worse. If you are an occasional sufferer of migraines, medications such as the following may help:
- Mild and moderate pain relievers. These include acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs that are nonsteroidal, like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen sodium.
- Anti-nausea medications. These include drugs like chlorpromazine, promethazine and prochlorperazine.
- Triptans. These are medications like rizatriptan, almotriptan and sumatriptan.
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