Migraine Headaches: Identifying Cause, Types and Treatment Options.

Migraine Headaches

Guest Blog Post By Sophie Addison 

Migraine is a painful, primary type of a headache associated with moderate to severe type of recurrent headaches. It presents with nausea, pounding headache, light sensitivity, stiff neck muscles, vomiting, depression, altered sensitivity to smells or noise, mood swings, fatigue, irritability, euphoria, food cravings, constipation, and diarrhea. This pulsating type of a headache affects one side of the head and has a duration of 2 to 72 hours. Aura is a diagnostic feature of a migraine that signals a headache before it occurs.

The exact cause of a migraine is yet to be understood. However, it is believed to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. It can develop due to brain stem changes which have a direct contact with major trigeminal nerve pathway. According to researchers, serotonin (modulates pain in the nervous system) neurotransmitter imbalance can cause a migraine. Low serotonin levels are evident during migraine episodes. This phenomenon signals neuropeptide release by the trigeminal system causing a painful headache.

Some of the triggering factors of migraine headache include:
Estrogen imbalance can cause headaches in women with pre-existing migraines. Women with previous migraine history can develop headaches before or during their menstrual cycle due to significantly low estrogen levels. Some of them report migraines during pregnancy or menopause. Migraine attack can be worsened by hormonal medications, such as hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives. However, some patients claim these medications had no effect on migraine.

Physical activity can worsen pain. Migraine episode can occur after the intake of wine, alcohol, and certain caffeinated beverages. It can be caused by fasting, skipping meals, intake of salty foods, aged cheeses, and processed foods. The preservatives such as monosodium glutamate and sweetener aspartame can trigger migraines. Work or home related stress can result in migraines. Oversleep or missing sleep due to jet lag can cause a migraine.

Exposure to loud sounds, sun glare, bright lights and unusual smells of paint thinner, perfume, secondhand smoke, and deodorizers can induce a migraine. Severe exertion can result in migraines. Certain medications particularly vasodilators like nitroglycerin and oral contraceptives can aggravate migraines. Environmental factors such as variations in weather or barometric pressure can cause a migraine.

According to the International Headache Society, the types of headaches include: primary headaches like a migraine, tension-type headaches and cluster headaches. The seven sub-classes of migraines include:

  1. Common migraine or a migraine without aura
  2. Classic migraine or a migraine with aura: An aura can be accompanied by a headache or a non-migraine headache.
  3. Other two types of a migraine include: familial hemiplegic migraine and sporadic hemiplegic migraine, in which a motor weakness accompanied migraine occurs with aura.
  4. Another type includes basilar-type of a migraine, in which an aura accompanied headache presents with speaking difficulty, tinnitus, world spinning, or other brain stem associated symptoms. This is caused by the spasm of the basilar artery.
  5. Periodic childhood symptoms are migraine precursors associated with an abdominal migraine, cyclical vomiting, and vertigo.
  6. Retinal migraine presents with headaches along with temporary blindness or visual disturbances.
  7. Probable migraine includes conditions that mimic migraine-like symptoms and triggered by medication overuse.

Other types

  1. Chronic migraine is a headache that includes symptoms of migraines that last for 15 days/month for more than 3 months.
  2. Abdominal migraine: Abdominal pain without a headache is considered as an abdominal migraine, which may or may not presents with a migraine like prodrome.
  3. Other conditions that have symptoms of a migraine headache include: meningitis, temporal arteritis, acute glaucoma, cluster headaches, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Tension headaches affect both sides and are not as severe as a migraine.


Medication therapy
The medication therapy for a migraine includes medications to treat nausea, pain medications such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen to treat a headache. The main triggering factors are identified and avoided. Specific medications such as ergotamines or triptans are effective in patients not responding to pain medications. Migraine attacks are effectively treated with medications such as valproate, metoprolol, and topiramate. Caffeine supplementation is recommended.

First line drugs used in the treatment of a migraine include propranolol, topiramate, Divalproex/sodium valproate, and metoprolol. Timolol is effective in treating migraine-related symptoms, and menstrual migraine is treated with frovatriptan. Other medications include venlafaxine and Amitriptyline. A chronic migraine is treated with Botox.

Analgesics used to treat mild to moderate symptoms include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, diclofenac, Ketorolac, Aspirin in combination with paracetamol, and caffeine. Paracetamol is prescribed in combination with metoclopramide. Triptan drug such as Sumatriptan is effective in treating nausea and pain. Ergotamines such as Dihydroergotamine and ergotamine are older medications used to treat a migraine.

Caution: You should always consult your doctor or medical professional for a diagnosis and to discuss effective treatment options.

Massage for Migraine Relief
Migraine headaches occur when blood vessels around the temples and base of the skull become enlarged, causing a chemical release that inflames the vessels, muscles and nerves in the head and neck. Besides pain, nausea, diarrhea and sensitivity to light can occur and last for hours or days. (According to 2006 information on the American Massage.)

How Therapeutic Massage Can Relieve Headaches and Migraines
Almost everyone has suffered the pain of a headache. Headaches can last for a few hours up to several days, and sometimes involve symptoms such as sensitivity to light and nausea. They can seriously impact daily life when they occur frequently or for an extended period of time. Massage is one natural alternative to allopathic medicine that can help relieve headaches while avoiding an abuse of medications. Most people tend to use over the counter drugs for migraines and this is highly discouraged.

Research shows that most people who suffer from migraines, also complains of headache and neck pains. Manual massage has been shown to give relief to these patients. Massage helps to relieve the muscles that are tense, relax the muscles, reduce muscle spasms and improve blood supply. The main cause of headaches is muscle tension and therefore when it is reduced, the pain in the neck is also decreased. This reduces the pressure exerted on the nerves and the blood vessels that supply the organs located in the skull. There is an improvement in blood circulation and this also helps to ease pain. Massage also aids in relieving stress and anxiety and this prevents the worsening of migraines. It is advisable to go for therapeutic massage regularly as it will reduce muscle tension and overall stress (underlying causes of migraines). In addition, massage helps to maintain an emotional balance in the body and this will eventually prevent stress.

Food supplements
The following are some of the food supplements for a migraine:

Certain vitamins, herbs, and minerals are believed to enhance brain function in patients with a migraine. Herb butterbur or Petasites (75mg bid) can minimize the symptoms or prevent migraines. Feverfew herb (50mg to 82 mg per day) can prevent a migraine according to research studies. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) supplements (400mg per day) can minimize the frequency of a migraine and control the symptoms. Coenzyme Q10 (50 mg to 300mg) supplements can provide effective results. Magnesium supplements (400 to 600mg tablets) are known to control the migraine symptoms. Melatonin supplementation between 0.3 to 10 mg is effective in treating cluster headaches. 5HTP, omega 3 fatty acids, and serotonin are other brain enhancing supplements that can improve brain function.

In fact, migraine has no cure. However, its symptoms can be controlled and prevented by the combination of medications and food supplements.


  1. http://migraineagain.com/10-types-of-migraine-which-do-you-have/
  2. http://thegreentribe.com/2015/09/headaches-migraines-acupuncture/
  3. http://elementsmassage.com/sun-prairie/blog/how-therapeutic-massage-can-relieve-headaches-and-migraines

About the Author
Sophie Addison is a popular blogger and skincare expert. She is very passionate about writing on skincare and beauty. She has posted articles on tips for fine lines under eyes, weight loss and fitness news. Apart from work she likes gardening and listening music. You can also contact her on Facebook, and Pinterest.

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