What The Heck Is A Migraine Headache? I’ll start by telling you what a migraine isn’t. It isn’t fun and it isn’t just a bad headache! It can take a lot to get family, friends, co-workers and even doctors sometimes to understand that little detail. What are migraine headaches then you ask?
Migraines are a real condition that affects at least 8% of people, 3x as many women to men. Migraines are like getting run over by a mack-truck then having that truck turn around drive back then start shining its high-beams in your eyes, so it hurts every time you open your eyes, then for some reason you decided it was a good idea to ride the tilt-a-whirl at Disneyland so you spend the next 4 to 72 hours feeling nauseous on the verge of throwing up. This may not be the scientific description but it’s very close to what I and millions of migraine sufferers have experienced over and over again throughout our lives. Now although what I described above is the worst part of a migraine attack, migraines are actually typically composed of 4 parts.
1. The prodrome, which occurs hours or days before the headache.
2. The aura, which immediately precedes the headache.
3. The pain phase, also known as headache phase.
4. The postdrome.
There is a lot of variability in the actual experience of any given migraine sufferer thus not all phases may be experienced during a migraine attack. Here’s what to look out for. Prodrome Phase: This phase typically occurs for 40-60% of migraineurs and can precede the headache phase by hours to days. Its symptoms may include the following. -excessive sleepiness -cravings for certain foods (e.g.; chocolate or other sugary foods) -depression -euphoria -fatigue -irritability -stiff muscles (especially in the neck area) -yawning -constipation -diarrhea -increased urination -other visceral symptoms Aura Phase: This phase is experienced by 20-30% of migraineurs. Migrane auras are neurological phenomena that are usually followed directly by the headache pain phase within the hour.
They range from visual disturbances to somatosensory sensations such as: -flashing lights -zigzag lines -blurred, shimmering or clouded vision -feelings of pins and needles that may be felt in the hands and arms all the way to the nose and mouth Other symptoms such as: vertigo, hyper-sensitivity to touch, and auditory or olfactory hallucinations may also occur.
Pain Phase: The pain phase is basically as I described earlier in this article; typically a severe headache that may last between 4-72 hours if untreated. The head pain felt is usually a pounding throbbing pain localized to one side of the head. It is also typically accompanied by nausea, hyper-sensitivity to light, sound and even smells this results in the migraineur seeking refuge in a dark room to wait this phase out. Other symptoms that sometimes occur are pallor (paleness in the skin), sweating, muscle stiffness, light headedness, impaired concentration, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive urination.
There are actually many other documented symptoms however this article would end up too long so I’m only listing the most common. Postdrome Phase: As the name implies this phase occurs at the end of the migrain attack. The migraine sufferer may feel tired, still have head pain, feel “hungover”, have gastrointestinal symptoms, mood changes and weakness. On the flipside some people feel unusually energized or euphoric after an attack, whereas others note depression.
Often, some minor headache phase symptoms may continue, such as loss of appetite, photophobia, and lightheadedness. For some patients, slight headaches may still occur when standing or sitting quickly. Usually these postdrome symptoms go away after a good 5 or 6hour sleep. Now you can’t say you don’t know what a migraine is. And if you’re a migraineur and your friends or family still don’t understand what you’re going through, send them this article with my regards.