Migraine headaches are the second most common type of headache seen in the general population occurring in 15-20% of women and 4-7% of men.
Thirty percent of migraine patients have what is called an aura as part of their headache. An aura is defined as a short-lived neurological symptom or symptoms that usually change and resolve over 30 to 60 minutes and are followed within one hour by the headache itself. The most common symptoms of aura are visual changes such as shimmering lights, zig zag formations or blank or black spots in a person's visual field. For the vast majority of migraine patients these symptoms resolve completely before the onset of headaches but more rarely they may continue into the headache phase or even persist after the headache resolves. Some patients will have sensory changes such as numbness in one hand or the side of the face or may have difficulty speaking, being unable to remember simple words they want to say or knowing what they want to say but being unable to do so.
The Definition of a Migraine
Seventy percent of migraine patients do not experience an aura but have characteristics of their headaches which classify them as migraine. The headache of migraine is usually moderate to severe intensity, occurring on one side of the head and accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting, light and sound sensitivity and aggravated by routine physical activity. Not all migraine headaches meet all of these criteria but the diagnosis of migraine requires a certain number of these characteristics to be present.
The Cause of a Migraine
Research has shown that there are changes which occur in the physiological activity of the brain during a migraine which are believed to cause the aura. There is less agreement as to what exactly causes the pain of migraine. For the most part the tendency toward migraine runs in families although not everyone in the family will get migraines and it may skip generations, so the genetics is complex.
The Treatment of a Migraine
Treatment of migraine headaches can be as simple as taking an over the counter aspirin, ibuprofen or other headache medication. It may be as complex as taking a prophylactic medication every day to decrease the frequency of migraines along with an abortive medication taken at the first sign of a migraine. This may be in the form of a shot, a pill or a nasal spray. Additional pain medications may be necessary if neither of the other treatments is successful.
At The Pain Center
For the most part the patients we see at The Pain Center have tried these usual treatments unsuccessfully or have a reason to want to treat their headaches without all of the medications. Fortunately we have great success in helping patients decrease the frequency and severity of their migraines through a combination of physical therapy and pain psychology. Particularly beneficial is the use of biofeedback training. The truth is that although migraine patients like myself have inherited the tendency to get migraines, most of the time we don't have a headache so making lifestyle changes and understanding our own physiology and learning to control it can markedly improve our headaches.
News & Updates
discussing the importance of focusing on valued living while in pain and one of our graduate successes (from the WGVU Morning Show with Shelly Irwin).
More than the programs ...
At The Pain Center, all of our doctor's and therapists see patients outside of the programs. If you have a new injury, significant stressor, severe pain flare-up or need to adjust your home exercise program - come back to the team that you trust. We're happy to help.
Have a question about a flare up?
You are still a part of The Pain Center family. If you ever have a question, please give us a call at 616.233.3480 and we'd be happy to answer it.