Over three million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. Typically accompanied by severe pain, migraine headaches can last for several hours or several days and cause significant disruption in your daily life.
Migraine headaches can affect the entire head or cause intense pulsing or throbbing sensations in one area. Some headaches are preceded or accompanied by sensory warnings such as blind spots in vision, flashes of light, or tingling in an arm or leg. Most all migraines progress in four stages, although you may not experience all of them. Each stage is accompanied by a variety of symptoms.
Stage One – Prodrome
One or two days prior to a migraine headache, you may notice subtle changes in your body that can signal an oncoming attack. These may include: neck stiffness; excessive and uncontrollable yawning; irritability; hyperactivity; depression; constipation; and food cravings.
Stage Two – Aura
The aura stage involves nervous system problems that may occur before or during a migraine headache. Visual disturbances like flashes of light, bright spots, vision loss, and seeing various shapes are often experienced. Sometimes the aura stage can include sensory disturbances like sensations of pins and needles in an arm or leg or limb weakness. Motor and speech disturbances are also experienced by some migraine sufferers. Aura stage symptoms usually build up gradually over several minutes, then continue for 20 to 60 minutes.
Stage Three – Attack
The frequency of migraine headaches vary from person to person and range from one to several attacks a month. If left untreated, attacks can last from four to 72 hours. During the attack stage, you may experience: pain on one or both sides of your head; throbbing or pulsating pain; nausea and vomiting;
sensitivity to light and sound; lightheaded feelings or fainting; and blurred vision.
Stage Four – Postdrome
The final postdrome stage occurs after a migraine attack. During this period, it’s common to feel drained and exhausted, although some people report feelings of mild euphoria.
Although the exact causes of migraine headaches are not fully understood, studies show that genetics, environmental factors, imbalances in brain chemicals, and changes in the brain stem and nervous system often play a role. If you’re experiencing migraine headaches, it’s important to seek treatment for pain relief. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options. To find out about the benefits of acupuncture for migraine pain relief, click here for information.