Migraines are a disorder characterized by chronic, severe headaches of intense throbbing or pulsating pain, usually on only one side of the head that can last from four hours to several days.

Other migraine symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, pale or clammy skin, and sensitivity to light or sound, and gets worse with physical exertion, such as climbing stairs.

About 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. It is most common among people age 25 to 55, though it can affect children and teens as well. Migraines are about three times more prevalent in women than men; roughly one in five women and one in 16 men suffer from migraines.

Migraine headaches, which are often misdiagnosed as sinus or tension headaches, are severe enough to interfere with sleep, work, and other everyday activities. They may occur as often as several times per week or as rarely as once or twice a year. Migraine symptoms are caused by a complex interaction among neurotransmitter chemicals, blood vessels, and nerves in the brain. Because the brain and nervous system control all parts of the body, migraine symptoms can affect more than just the head.

Auras

In 15 to 20 percent of migraine sufferers, auras serve as a sort of warning sign that a migraine headache is about to occur. Aura symptoms generally last for 15 minutes to an hour. Most arise before the onset of headache symptoms. The most common types of auras are visual; flashing lights or dots, wavy or jagged lines, distorted or blurry vision, blind spots or temporary loss of part or all of the field of vision in one or both eyes.

Other less common manifestations of migraine auras are, ringing in the ears, strange odors or tasting strange tastes, numbness or tingling sensation, muscle weakness, dizziness/vertigo, trouble speaking, and confusion. Many of the less common aura symptoms are similar to the symptoms of stroke. If you experience any of the above symptoms and have not had the same symptoms previously before a migraine headache, you should seek medical care.

Risk Factors

There are several (unfortunately uncontrollable) risk factors known to increase your chance of suffering from migraines.

Family History

Genetics are known to play a part in migraine vulnerability, but the specific genes involved have not yet been identified. Approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a close family member who also has migraines. In addition, a child has a 50 percent chance of experiencing migraine headaches if one parent does and a 75 percent chance if both parents do.

Gender and Hormonal Changes

Women are about three times as likely as men to suffer from migraines. Interestingly, among children, migraines are more common in boys than in girls, but after puberty the trend reverses. This is likely because the female hormone estrogen plays some role in migraines. The incidence of migraine headaches is known to sometimes increase in the first trimester of pregnancy, after giving birth, and when taking birth control or hormone replacement therapy medication. It is known to decrease during the last two trimesters of pregnancy.

Age

Half of all migraine sufferers experience their first symptoms before turning 20. However, migraines are most common in people age 25 to 55. The incidence of migraines drops significantly in women after menopause. See a doctor if you do not have a history of migraine headaches and they begin to occur after age 50.

Prevention

Methods for preventing a migraine vary. Migraine prevention methods can make headaches less severe and shorter when they do happen and prevent rebound headaches caused by taking too much acute-treatment medication if used. If you do suffer from migraines, naturally figuring out your personal triggers is one great way to reduce the number of headaches you experience.

Here are some things you can do:

Stay on a Regular Sleep Schedule

Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, even on weekends.

Eat Regularly

Missed meals and low blood sugar are migraine triggers.

Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration can cause migraine headaches.

Avoid Food Triggers

These vary from person to person, but common ones include:

• monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in many Asian dishes

• nitrates and nitrites, found in processed or cured meats

• sulfites, found in many dried fruits

• aged cheeses

• alcohol, especially red wine

• chocolate

• large amounts of caffeine

Exercise Regularly and Receive Chiropractic Treatment

During a migraine headache, exercise worsens pain, but otherwise, light to moderate exercise can relieve stress, another major migraine trigger. Chiropractic care is and can be an extremely effective tool in lessening the frequency and intensity (sometimes to resolution) of migraine headaches.

Avoid / Reduce Stress

If you feel stress building, try to remove yourself from the setting and calm down. There are various techniques available to reduce tension and stress. Studies have shown biofeedback, relaxation therapy and even massage to be effective in preventing migraine headaches.

To learn how chiropractic care can help with your migraine headaches, call Multicare Physicians Group at (712) 276-4325. Multicare Physicians Group is located at 3930 Stadium Drive, between Walmart and Explorers Baseball Stadium in Sioux City.

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