Migraine is a physical disease that can be due to many factors which makes any sort of treatment difficult to implement. Nevertheless, as it is very common we need to look at ways to make it manageable. Migraine can be associated with many symptoms such as, headache, nausea, vomiting and difficulties in vision that may include sensitivity to light or even ear problems. So because migraine is so complex medication is not a reliable solution and it may be better in the long-term to seek alternative remedies which look at the causes of the issue rather than the temporary solution to the pain.
There are two main types of migraine commonly recognised migraine (migraine without aura – namely the symptoms) and classic migraine – migraine with aura (the symptoms beforehand). The former is characterised by a moderate to strong headache without warning. This type is the most common and comes with nausea, confusion blurred vision, mood changes, fatigue, sensitivity to light, smells and sounds. The frequency can be from a few times in a year to weeks and it can have a duration from 4 to 72 hours. The second type, Classic migraines, are preceded by visual disturbances such as flashing lights, and other neurological symptoms that are suffered for 10 to 60 minutes before the actual headache comes. Classic migraines generally last up to one hour but can develop slowly into a throbbing ache, which gets worse with movement or noise. The major problem is that both types can be found in the same patient or the symptoms are overlapped which makes it difficult to classify a patient based upon the symptoms and therefore, predict the type of migraine in the short-term.
Migraines are attributed to changes in neurotransmitters and blood vessels diameter in the brain. What causes these changes is not clear however – it has been associated with some external factors such as stress, type of food which include cheese, alcohol, chocolate or even the irregularity in having meals which causes a drop in blood sugar. Other factors associated with migraines are over tiredness and hormonal changes such as menstruation. Women during menstruation are 10% more susceptible to migraines as there is a drop in estrogen at that time.
It seems that the most appropriate way to reduce the headaches is to search for potential causes. The most common headaches tend to fall into certain categories outlined below thus, you need to decide which most closely matches yours from the list below before you continue with further treatments. It is recommended to keep a record of what triggers your headaches. This is because the cause can be everything from feeling low, the weather, your menstrual cycle, what you eat and when and how well you sleep. Look for food triggers and make a list of all the foods you eat in the last two days before an attack to see if there is any relationship.
* Cluster Headaches – These strike with little warning, often waking up sufferers at night. The pain usually affects just one side of the face and centres on the eye area. It lasts from a few minutes up to three hours. The frequency can be up to 10 times a day for six to 10 weeks at a time (not nice) during a cluster period. This type can then disappear for months or even years. No one is really sure of the cause but some studies have found a relationship between irritations on some facial nerves with the appearance of cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are more common in men than women, especially if they smoke or drink.
* Tension Headache – This is very common and is a dull, steady pain on both sides of the head. It can feel like a tight band or heavy weight is pressing on the head. It has a strong correlation with stress. The symptoms associated with stress are an increase in the tension of the muscles of the neck and scalp. As it is a muscular response it can also be due to posture, sitting in a draught, bright lights, too much noise or working for long periods sitting in an awkward position.
* Chronic daily headache – These occur on more than half of each month. They can be due to a neck or head injury such as whiplash or overuse of painkillers. Yes, you read it right! People who take painkillers on a daily basis develop a vicious cycle and as these wear off there is a rebound headache so the person takes more painkillers and these fuel the headaches yet again.
One alternative remedy that has been very successful with many people suffering migraine is the herb Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew). This herb is available at your health food store and should be taken for a minimum period of three months. The taste of Feverfew is bitter but it is worth it! You can even grow your own plants if you are so inspired and have a flesh supply of the herb throughout the year.
The intake of Feverfew has been validated by a study that used a supplement containing this herb and Salix Alba (white willow) which found that the moderate intake of these reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of migraine attacks. Clients with migraine were given a supplement (Mig-RL) containing extracts of Feverfew and white willow twice a day for 12 weeks. Results showed that 70% of patients experienced a 50% reduction in migraines (some even higher) compared to the frequency of attacks experienced during a 6 week baseline period. 57.2% of clients experienced reduced attacks halfway through the study (6 weeks), and a 61.7% reduction at 12 weeks. The actual length of the attacks also decreased. In all patients involved in the study, the duration of attacks reduced by 67.2% at 6 weeks, and 76.2% at 12 weeks. The side effects of the combination of Feverfew and white willow had also a positive impact as it was associated with improvements in health, energy, memory and anxiety.
There are many natural therapies for headaches including chiropractic, cranial osteopathy, homeopathy, reflexology, rolfing, acupressure, herbal remedies, massage, aromatherapy, modification of diet, head balancing and jaw realignment. Head balancing can also be used for snoring, dizziness, grinding of teeth, ringing in the ears and neck and shoulder tension. Consult a practitioner experienced in diagnosis to determine which would be best for you.