Migraine headaches can be ferociously painful. People who get migraines simply cannot function during an attack. They lose days from work and often get physically ill. It’s not uncommon during an attack for people to lock themselves in a dark room, praying that the pain will go away.
All migraines cause pain, but different varieties cause other symptoms, as well. Classic migraines may cause auras – strange visual changes that can make you see sparkling or flashing lights or zigzag lines. People with classic migraines may develop blind spots and are often intensely sensitive to light. The aura usually begins about half an hour before the pain sets in, and then it disappears.
Unlike classic migraines, common migraines don’t cause auras. Instead, some people with common migraines before attacks. A third type of migraine, called the complicated migraine, is a combination of classic and common migraines. People with complicate migraines will have auras before the pain, which don’t always go away once the headache begins. In fact, the auras may last longer than the pain itself.
Doctors still aren’t sure what causes migraines. They appear to be related to the alternating expansion and contraction of blood vessels in the brain. Women are three times as likely as men to get migraines, and there appears to be a hereditary link. And for some reason, migraines rarely occur during pregnancy.
There are also things you can do at home to blunt the pain and possible help prevent them from coming back.
Cool it down . At the first sign of an attack, splash your face with cold water, then apply an ice pack wrapped in towels to your head and lie down in a dark, quiet room. The ice will act to constrict blood vessels, reducing irritation of nerves in the head.
Head for bed. Doctors agree that sleep is one of the best ways of stopping a migraine. It’s not always easy to sleep when you’re in pain, of course, but it’s worth giving in a try. Turn our the lights, breath slowly and deeply, and do everything possible to relax. If you’re able to sleep, there’s a good chance you’ll wake up pain-free.
Relax often . Prevention may be your best bet when it comes to migraines. Research suggests that reducing stress and relaxing will help reduce the risk of migraines, this only works if you do it regularly, however. In fact, people who don’t relax very often are more likely to get migraines during vacations or on weekends than at other times – probably because the body has become so accustomed to an adrenaline-fueled lifestyle that it’s unable to adapt to the change. It’s essential to make rest and relaxation a regular part of your schedule, doctors say.
Watch what you eat . Certain foods are notorious migraine triggers. The worst offenders include red wine, chocolate, aged cheese, milk, chicken livers, meats preserved with nitrates (like, hot dogs, and delicatessen meats), and anything prepared with monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Have a handful of puts. Researches have found that people prone to migraines often get too little magnesium in their diets. Along with dark green, leafy vegetables and fruits, nuts are an excellent source of this important mineral, which has been shown to relax the muscles, including muscles in the head and scalp. Other magnesium sources are brown rice, spinach oatmeal, potatoes, bananas, beans, and yogurt.
Stay in shape . Doctors have found that people who stay in shape are less likely to have migraines than those who are more sedentary – probably because people who exercise tend to have less stress as well as better circulation and stronger blood vessels. It’s good idea to get some aerobic exercise – by walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or even dancing – three or four times a week.
Although exercise can help prevent migraines, it’s not a treatment. Moving around when you’re in the midst of an attack will make you feel worse not better.