Migraine & Headache Relief in St. Louis, MO
Characteristics of a Migraine Headache
Migraine headaches typically involve intense throbbing and what is often described as a pulsing sensation on one side of the head. Many times a person with a migraine also experiences vomiting, nausea and they become extremely sensitive to sound and light. Migraines can last for several hours to several days and can be quite incapacitating.
They are sometimes preceded what are known as aura (sensory warning symptoms) such as light flashes, blind spots in your vision or a tingling sensation in your arms or legs.
Certain medications can reduce the severity and the frequency of migraine headaches and chiropractic medicine has also experienced some success battling them. Often a combination of medicines, wellness programs and lifestyle changes can reduce the severity of or eliminate migraines altogether.
Migraine headaches often times start early in life; they are not altogether uncommon in children, adolescents and young adults. They are known to have four stages of onset but not everyone experiences all four stages every time. Here are the four stages of a migraine headache:
These are subtle changes that sometimes occur 1 or 2 days before a migraine. They may include one or more of the following:
- Food cravings
- Stiff neck
- Uncontrollable yawning
This stage can happen before or in concurrence with the actual migraine itself. These are nervous system disturbances that begin gradually and build up over several minutes. They usually last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes and can affect the senses, movement and speech. Examples of Aura are:
- seeing shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
- loss of vision
- Pins and needles sensations in the legs and arm
- Speech problems
The height of the migraine that usually lasts anywhere from 4 to 72 hours; this varies greatly between people as does the frequency of migraines. They are often accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Pain in your head on one side or both sides
- The pain can be described as throbbing
- Can be accompanied by sensitivity to light, sounds and smells
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Lightheadedness and on rare occasions even fainting
This occurs after the attack phase. It leaves many people feeling drained and mentally wiped out. Some people even experience a slight euphoria during this phase.
When is it time to go to see a Chiropractor?
Rumor has it that Migraine headaches cannot be cured but that is simply untrue. Both doctors and chiropractors have had success stopping or lessening the severity of migraines. Rumors like these make migraines very misunderstood and that is why many people never go see a doctor to try and get relief. If you suffer from migraines on a regular basis then by all means be smart and go see a doctor just like you would with any other illness that continually bothers you.
There are also rare occasions where a migraine can be a symptom of something that is severely wrong with your body. Go see an experienced St. Louis Chiropractor or to the emergency room if your migraine is accompanied by any of these other symptoms.
- An abrupt painful headache that is similar to a thunderclap
- Headache with fever, stiff neck, seizures, double vision, mental confusion, weakness, trouble speaking or numbness
- If you have a headache or dizziness after suffering a head injury, this is especially true if the headache gets worse
- A headache that won’t go away and gets worse after exertion, coughing, straining or sudden movement
- If you are over 50 and a new headache pain is bothersome to you
What causes migraines?
Much about migraines is still not understood. What is certain is there appears to be connection between genetics and the environment of a migraine sufferer.
Medical experts feel there is some connection also between the trigeminal nerve and changes in the brainstem. Imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin may play a part too.
Apparent Triggers for Migraine Headaches
He is a list of events which are thought to contribute to the onset of migraines:
- Hormonal changes in women
- Food additives
- Changes in wake-sleep pattern
- Sensory stimuli
- Sexual activity
- Intense physical activity
- Changes in the weather
Here are several factors that may make you more prone to having a migraine.
- Family history
- Being a female
- Hormonal changes
Complications from migraine treatment
Every once in a while your efforts to bring your migraine pain under control cause problems like the following:
- Abdominal problems from pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Medication-overuse headaches
- Serotonin syndrome from drugs that increase or decrease your serotonin levels
How to prepare for your chiro appointment
The best place to start seeking treatment for your migraines is with your primary care provider. If they have an idea where your headaches are coming but think a specialist can best handle it or they have no idea what the cause is they may refer you to other specialists like neurologists.
The very best way to get to the root of the cause of your migraines in a 30 minute appointment is to have your migraine history well documented. Here are some important steps to help get your doctor the information they need to make a proper diagnoses:
- Write down your migraine symptoms even if they seem insignificant or unrelated to your migraines
- Write down any key personal information or events in your life that may be major stressors.
- Provide info on any vitamins, medications or supplements you are currently taking medications
- Bring along a family member or trusted friend; they can help you remember what the doctor said and also may be familiar with how you act when you have a migraine
- Write down any questions you want to ask your doctor.
The items on this list will help you get the most out of the limited time you will have with your doctor. The more information you have and the more organized you are will help your doctor make as accurate a diagnosis as possible.
As far as questions go to ask your doctor this list will provide you with a guideline of important questions that will give you the information you need about your migraines:
- What is it that could likely be triggering my migraines?
- What are the possible causes given my symptoms?
- Do I need any kinds of tests?
- Do you think my migraines are likely to be temporary or chronic?
- What course of action should I take to get rid of them?
- Are there any alternatives to healing approach that you are suggesting?
- Will a lifestyle change for me help at all?
- How are my other health conditions affecting my migraines and how can I manage them together?
- Is there a cheaper generic alternative to any of the medicines you are prescribing for me?
- Is there any information or brochures that might be helpful for me to read on migraines?
Write down any additional questions on a piece of paper that may come up during your appointment.
What to expect during your appointment
In order to figure out the cause of your migraines and how to best treat them your doctor will ask you a series of questions. These questions will be similar to the following:
- When did your migraine symptoms first start?
- Is the pain continuous when you have a migraine or does it come and go?
- Are your migraine symptoms very severe or just mild?
- Is there anything that you do to treat your migraines that lessen the severity of the symptoms?
- What tends to make your symptoms worse?
- Do you have a family history of migraines?
What should you be doing while waiting for your appointment?
– Keep a diary that has pertinent details about your migraines – Include such things as how often you have them, how long they tend to last and what seems to make them better or worse.
– Lower your stress level – stress can be a trigger for many people’s migraines so reduce it as much as possible
– Get rest – don’t over assert yourself physically until you have been thoroughly examined by your doctor and get as much sleep each night as possible.
Doctors and more specifically a neurologist are well trained to diagnose and recommend treatments for your migraines. They will analyze your family migraine history, your symptoms and the information that was revealed to them during your examination to come up with a treatment for your migraines. They may even order tests to help identify underlying health problems or confirm their diagnosis. This is especially true if you are experiencing migraines that are unusual or extremely severe.
Here are some of the more common tests that can help track the root causes of migraine headaches:
- Blood tests – this will help confirm or eliminate that blood vessels, toxins or infections may be the root cause of your migraines.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans – these sophisticated cross sectional images of your brain can do such things as detect the presence of tumors, infections, bleeding and other brain problems that may be contributing to or causing your migraine headaches.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – This device uses both radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to provide sophisticated images of your brain and the blood vessels in your head. Like CT scans the can detect the presence of tumors, infections, bleeding and other brain problems that may be contributing to or causing your migraine headaches.
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) – this is a procedure where a thin needle is inserted between two vertebrae in your back so a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid can be analyzed.
Common Migraine & Headache Treatments
Your doctor may prescribe or suggest the use of one of several different types of pain relievers that may help give you some relief from your migraines.
– Aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil or Motrin IB.
– Triptans – these constrict blood vessels and block the pain pathways to the brain.
– Ergots – these contain Ergotamine and caffeine.
– Anti-nausea medications
– Opioid medications – narcotic containing medicines such as codeine.
– Glucocorticoids such as dexamethasone or prednisone – These are used in conjunction with other medicines to help improve pain relief
If you are experiencing several migraine attacks per month, they last more than a few hours or they are debilitating then your doctor may prescribe one or more drugs as a means of preventative migraine therapy.
These drugs may lessen the severity, frequency and the lengths of your migraines. They can be taken as part of a medicine regimen or may be prescribed to be taken when one of your migraine triggers is present (an example is menstruation).
Here are some of the more commonly prescribed drugs that have been effective in preventing the onset of migraines:
- Cardiovascular drugs – these are also known as Beta blockers. They are commonly used to treat such things as high blood pressure or coronary artery disease. They have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines too.
- Antidepressants – these have some properties which they have demonstrated that can prevent migraines.
- Anti-seizure drugs – These have shown they can lessen the frequency of migraines.
- Naproxen (Naprosyn) – this drug has been shown to help prevent migraines and lessen the severity of them.
Once again stress has been shown to be a major trigger for migraine headaches. The reduction of stress and other lifestyle changes may help ease the symptoms or even prevent the onset of migraines. Here are some self-care measures to try to eliminate or lessen the severity of your migraines.
- Try doing some muscle relaxation exercises
- Get the proper amount of sleep but don’t sleep too much enough sleep, but don’t oversleep.
- Rest and learn how to relax. Find yourself a dark, quiet place in your home to go to if you feel the warning signs that a migraine is coming on.
- Try putting an ice pack on your scalp where you feel the pain of a migraine.
Most of all don’t despair over your migraines. With your doctor, neurologist and chiropractors help you will find a way to lessen the severity of or eliminate your migraines altogether.