Signs and Symptoms
Migraines often (but not always) progress through four stages including: prodrome, aura, attack, and postdrome.
STAGE 1: Prodrome (1-2 days before migraine)
Constipation, depression, irritability, neck stiffness, etc.
STAGE 2: Aura (immediately before or during migraine)
Visual disturbances such as flashes of light, visual field loss, ringing in the ears, or strange smell sensation
STAGE 3: Attack (actual headache)
A throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, made worse by light or sound, lasting from 4 to 72 hours in length. Often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
STAGE 4: Postdrome (time period following attack)
A period following an attack where pain is minimal but the person feels extremely fatigued and washed out.
The Medical Approach
The medical approach to migraines is not curative, but focused on early management of symptoms as they arise. For migraines that are actively in the "attack" stage, physicians prescribe (and hope) that one of any selection of drugs causes the migraine to lessen. These drugs include, but are not limited to the following: Ibuprofen (Advil), acetominophen (Tylenol), triptan vasoconstrictors (Imitrex), anti-nausea medications (Reglan), opioid medication (Oxycontin), or steroids (Prednisone). These medication can cause the following detrimental side effects: Be aware of diarrhea, nausea, weight gain, dizziness, memory difficulties, constipation, dry mouth, and fainting spells.
The Non-Medical Approach
The non-medical approach is fairly limited: acupuncture, biofeedback, magnesium sulfate tablets, and visualization/meditation. Overall, retreating to a dark, quiet room, and trying to sleep seems to be the most consistently effective non-medical/alternative medicine approach.
The Chiropractic Approach
Migraines are thought to be caused by constriction of certain microscopic blood vessels in the head supplying nerve tissue with oxygenated blood. This constriction decreases the blood flow to the nerves causing the nerve tissue to elicit a pain response. Chiropractic adjustments reestablish proper spinal motion, which is thought to aid in the proper flow of blood through microvasculature as well as removal of cellular waste that can also cause improper nerve stimulation. While under regular chiropractic care, along with healthy eating and exercise habits, many have found that not only do their migraines improve, but their overall health as well.