I am a migraine sufferer. I have been for most of my life. I had my first migraine at the age of 10 during a family trip to Florida. I get them on a fairly regular basis and they really impact my life. I loose time out of work. I loose time with my family. The impact on my productivity goes well beyond the actual migraine event. My productivity is diminished the day before and for a few days afterward.
What makes a migraine different than a really bad headache?
A migraine is a throbbing pounding headache. The pain can shift from side to side or front to back. It can even encompass your whole head. The person experiencing a migraine is often very sensitive to light, sounds or smells. They often experience nausea and/or vomiting. Dizziness and blurred vision can also occur. I have noticed mild speech aphasia in myself the day before I get a migraine. I think the most classic migraine symptom though is the presence of an aura right before the onset of the migraine. 20-30% of migraine sufferers report the presence of an aura. The aura can be bright flashing lights or dots, blind spots, distorted vision or vision loss, or wavy or jagged lines.
According to the National Headache Foundation most migraine sufferers are women. In fact they estimate that as much as 25% of women suffer from migraine headaches. This isn’t entirely surprising when you research the potential triggers. Emotional Stress is believed to be one of the biggest triggers. The chemicals that are released during the Fight or Flight response act on the blood vessels (and particularly those in the brain) and cause vascular changes that can trigger a migraine. The second most cited trigger is sensitivity to food or an ingredient in food (alcohol, aged cheese, nitrates, MSG). Some other common triggers are hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, excessive fatigue and changes in your normal sleep pattern.
Is there anything I can do?!
While there is not “cure” for migraines, there are some things you can do to try to prevent them? First, have a complete physical by your doctor. Talk to him about your migraines and have a full blood panel tested. Make sure he tests for Thyroid Hormones. Because migraines are so linked with your vascular system you want to rule out any serious medical concerns.
Once you’ve done that it comes down to lifestyle management. Journal, journal journal. If you are getting migraines on a regular basis write down what your eating, how you’re feeling and other contributing factors. I’ve learned that I’m much more likely to get a migraine when my sleep pattern is significantly disrupted. My neck starts to hurt especially in this one place at the base of my skull on the right side. That is my signal to get in with my chiropractor and/or my massage therapist.
Many of my clients use massage as a way to prevent their migraines. It just makes sense when you consider that emotional stress is one of the biggest triggers. Are you someone who wears their shoulders as earrings? Massage, especially therapeutic massage, can address the trigger points, muscle spasm and tension that is creating the pain that can lead to a headache or a migraine. Also, when you are engaging in self-care regularly you are more likely to carry that into other areas of you life. It can help you to make better choices regarding exercise, diet, and sleep.
With migraines prevention really is the key. Engaging in regular self-care can go a long way to helping reduce or eliminate your migraines all together and massage is a wonderful part of the self-care. If you’d like more information on how massage can be an effective part of your migraine treatment plan, please visit http://www.berrihealth.net
Kym Berrien obtained her training and certification through the Pennsylvania School of Muscle Therapy, graduating in 2001. She also possesses specialized training in Pain Management and Women’s Health as well as being a DONA trained Birth and Postpartum Doula. She is dedicated to helping her clients achieve the health they deserve.