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Migraines

Any migraine sufferer will tell you it is a particularly unpleasant condition that can have a huge impact on their daily lives. In this blog post we give you some helpful information on migraines and discuss different ways of managing the condition.

Migraines are a complex neurological condition which can present in different ways. The 2 most common types are migraine with aura (previously called classic migraine) and migraine without aura. Both include a moderate to severely painful, usually one sided headache. The pain is often pulsating in nature and can last anywhere from 4-72 hours. In migraine with aura the headache is preceded or accompanied by other symptoms including nausea (and sometimes vomiting), visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, sound and smell. Whilst migraines can affect anyone at any age, 75% of sufferers are women and 3-7% are children. In the UK there are an estimated 190,000 migraine attacks every day and an estimated 25 million days are lost from work or school because of migraines. This considerable social and economic impact means it is hugely important for sufferers to find an effective way to manage their condition.

Causes

Migraines are a disorder in the way that the nervous system processes information such as pain, light or sound. An alteration in the sensitivity of nerve cells in the membranes surrounding the brain (meninges) can cause them to release chemicals which dilate local blood vessels – this can lead to the pulsating head pain of a migraine. Changes in sensitivity of the trigeminal nerve (which supplies sensation to the face) and it’s nucleus which descends from the brain into the neck have also been implicated in migraines. Changes in the activity of areas of the brainstem that are involved in pain inhibition can also occur in migraine sufferers. These changes happen because of instability in the nervous system, reduced magnesium levels or altered brain electrical activity.

Triggers

migraines2Migraine triggers vary from person to person – and identifying them is not always simple. For some triggers the migraine attack may not occur until 48-72 hours after exposure. Common migraine triggers include: stress, too much or too little sleep, dehydration, missing meals, low blood sugar, caffeine, some cheeses, alcohol, hormonal changes, oral contraceptives, teeth grinding, computer screens and food additives.

A great method for identifying common triggers is to keep a migraine diary. If a pattern of triggers can be identified it can really help a migraine sufferer to take back control over their condition. Things to record include: time of day it began, how long it lasted, location of the pain and the symptoms experienced. Also add in as much detail as possible about the day and the preceding 48-72 hours. Consider any changes in routine, a list of food and drink consumed, any meals missed, sleep pattern, exercise, medication or supplements taken. For women it can also be helpful to record the dates of their menstrual cycle. The migraine trust has a handy online migraine diary which can be accessed at http://diary.migrainetrust.org/.

Treatment

Medical treatment for migraines is divided into medication to treat the attack and medication to prevent attacks occurring. Pain killers such as paracetamol and codeine and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen are commonly given. These may come in combination with an anti-emetic agent to relieve the associated nausea/vomiting. Triptan medications such as Sumatriptan narrow blood vessels and block transmission of pain in the nerves supplying the face so are also prescribed for acute care. Beta blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, calcium channel blockers and anti-convulsant medications may also be prescribed as preventative drugs for migraines. As with any medication there may be side effects associated with them and not every drug is suitable for every migraine sufferer.

Chiropractic

migraines3Several clinical trials support the use of chiropractic adjustments for the reduction of migraine headache frequency, duration, nausea and sensitivity to light. We take a thorough case history from migraine patients to help uncover any patterns and triggering factors. A chiropractic examination also looks at the body as a whole so can help identify factors contributing to migraines including poor posture, joint/spine stiffness, muscle tightness and weakness and neurological imbalances. By combining chiropractic adjustments with specific exercises, nutrition and lifestyle advice we can give a holistic, natural way to manage this debilitating condition.

If you would like to know more about chiropractic treatment for migraines call Zest Chiropractic on 0121 777 1400 today!

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