Most “mild” headaches can be chalked up to things like too much sun, a tough day at work, or not sleeping well. But when you’ve got a migraine, the pain can be extreme. Just ask the more than 37 million people in the U.S. who suffer from them.
Migraines are throbbing headaches that can cause an upset stomach, and/or light sensitivity. They can happen just once in a while, or every month. About 70 to 80 percent of people who get migraines have some family history of them. Most get migraines between age 15 and 55 (peaking at age 30). Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men, and these headaches are often tied to women’s monthly periods, or other hormonal changes. Caffeine (too little or too much), salty or ready-made foods, sugar substitutes, alcohol (especially wine), or being too hungry or thirsty, can all trigger migraine headaches.
Migraines happen in stages. If you ignore a migraine, it can last from four to 72 hours, so if you think you’ve got one, see your doctor ASAP with any of these signs below. For those symptoms that are most troubling, seek out an urgent care clinic or emergency room:
The prodrome stage (before a migraine occurs): You might experience constipation, food cravings, moodiness, a stiff neck, increased urination, thirst, or yawning as a warning of a migraine starting.
The aura stage (before or during a migraine): Symptoms can include feeling over-tired, being unable to see, seeing flashing lights or spots, or having a “pins-and-needles” sensation on skin. You might also hear noises or music, or have some involuntary or “jerky” movement.
The attack stage (during a migraine): Blurry vision, seeing flashing lights, feeling faint, pain on one side of the head, sensitivity to touch, strange smells, nausea, or vomiting can all be potential migraine signs.
The postdrome stage (after a migraine): Confusion or dizziness, moodiness, over-excitement, or sensitivity to light or sound can happen as the migraine winds down.
When it comes to migraines, your doctor might talk about medication (prescribed or over-the-counter), or suggest ways to let go of stress, like deep breathing, meditation, or walking. Discuss any questions about alternative herbal supplements with your doctor before you try them, as there may be serious safety concerns, including drug interaction! Skip salty foods like aged cheeses, and deli meats. The same goes for processed or take-out meals that may have MSG (monosodium glutamate) — a flavor-booster. Fresh, low-salt choices are always best! Stick to no more than one 10-oz. cup of coffee or tea per day. Drink lots of water (eight glasses daily is ideal). Keep a headache notebook to track pain. Work out for 30 minutes at least three days per week. Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. All of these will not only help with migraines. They’ll help with managing blood pressure levels, and weight, too!
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano