Understanding migraines

Understanding Migraines

A migraine can be likened to the more formidable relative of a common headache.

Migraines are less common, and although they can cause a headache, they can also affect the whole body.

Let’s take a closer look at migraines and how they’re different from regular headaches.

Symptoms of a migraine

The symptoms of a migraine can include nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, vomiting and severe pain. Another difference is that while most headaches are over within a couple of hours, a migraine can last several days.

Migraine causes

A common headache can be caused by all sorts of things, from too much time on your computer, to wearing a hat that’s too tight around your head.

But what causes migraines?

The exact causes of migraines are not fully understood. Genetics and environmental factors are thought to play a role, as well as hormonal fluctuations, particularly in women. Migraines are three times more common in women than men. The Trigeminal Nerve, a cranial nerve that carries sensory information from the face and head to the brain is also thought to have a role in migraines.

Migraines Triggers

Migraines are unique to the sufferer, and while not everyone can understand the complex reasons behind their migraines, they can get to know their particular triggers. Understanding what triggers yours or a loved one’s migraines can help with management and prevention.

Some potential triggers may be:

  • Caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Back and/or neck issues
  • Stress, overwhelm and emotional challenges
  • Changes in sleep patterns such as disrupted sleep, too much or too little sleep
  • Hormonal fluctuations for women during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause
  • Certain foods, changes in diet or skipping meals, and food additives, in particular the sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate
  • Sensory overload such as loud noises, flashing lights or strong odours
  • Physical exhaustion or strain
  • Changes in weather or barometric pressure
  • Medications, in particular the contraceptive pill and vasodilators such as nitroglycerin.

The different types of migraines

Another important step in supporting your wellness is pinpointing which type or types of migraine you are experiencing. Let’s unpack the main types of migraine and their symptoms…

Chronic Migraines
Someone with chronic migraines has a condition with migraine attacks that occur regularly over a prolonged period of time. Someone who experiences chronic migraines may have migraine symptoms for at least half the total days in a month.

Hemiplegic Migraines
These are relatively rare, and the symptoms can mimic a stroke. People who experience hemiplegic migraines have symptoms which include slurred speech, weakness on one side of the body and visual disturbances.

Menstrual Migraines
As the name suggests, menstrual migraines are hormone related migraines. Often they occur in either the two days before the menstrual period starts, or the first two to three days of the menstrual period, due to the drop in estrogen at this time, however the hormonal changes of pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause may also trigger these migraines.

Silent Migraines
These are migraines without a headache. People who experience silent migraines have symptoms including visual disturbances, dizziness and nausea, but not the headache usually associated with migraines.

Ocular Migraines
Sometimes known as Retinal Migraines, these are migraines associated with the loss of vision in one eye.

Migraines with Aura
An aura is a sign or collection of signs that a migraine is about to begin. Symptoms of aura include tingling sensations, seeing coloured spots or lines and feeling weak and dizzy. About one in three migraine sufferers experience migraines with aura.

Managing a migraine

Understanding the type of migraines you are experiencing and the triggers are great first steps in managing migraines. You may find it helpful to keep a diary of your migraines and the symptoms you experience. This can help you and your treatment provider make a plan to manage your migraines.

When you feel a migraine coming on, act quickly. Rest, in a dark quiet room if possible, keep hydrated, especially if you have been vomiting, avoid caffeine and alcohol and take over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

If the pain worsens or persists and self care measures are not bringing relief, please seek medical advice.

Managing lifestyle factors can help to prevent migraines. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, avoid trigger foods, get plenty of exercise and movement, be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake and manage your stress levels.

Liberty Health and Happiness can assist with a chiropractic assessment for back and neck pain that may trigger headache and migraine symptoms. We also offer counselling and remedial massage to support your overall wellbeing. Book here to discuss ways we can support you as you navigate the symptoms of migraine.


All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Liberty Health and Happiness can consult with you regarding your individual health needs.


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