Causes Migraines

What Causes Migraines?

Migraine pain can be debilitating. Migraine attacks are intense headaches that can cause nausea, vomiting, throbbing pain and sensitivity to light and sound. These severe headaches can rob sufferers of an hour, a day or even a week and cause extreme pain and discomfort. The intensity of symptoms and duration varies from person to person. To best understand how to prevent migraines, it helps to be aware of what may cause them as well as triggers and warning signs.

Causes

While many people suffer from migraines, doctors and researchers have not yet pinpointed one specific cause. Age, gender and genetics can increase your likelihood of suffering from migraines. As you age the severity of your migraines may decrease, however, women are far more likely to experience them than men. Additionally, heredity factors come into play. If you have a family history of migraines, you may be more susceptible to them.

Warning Signs

If you have experienced migraines, you may have noticed some warning signs before they started. These signs can happen a few hours or even days beforehand. Food cravings, exhaustion, and sensitivity to light or noise can all be indicators of an oncoming migraine.

Triggers

Many migraine sufferers will find that they can identify specific triggers that bring on migraine headaches. Examples of common triggers are: hormonal changes, allergies and stress. If your specific trigger is within your control, you can address your trigger to manage your migraine. For instance, if stress is a specific trigger, you can manage your stress through exercise, meditation or therapy.  

Hormone fluctuations

Hormone fluctuations are another common trigger. Some women will find that migraines come just before their menstrual cycle due to the accompanying change in their hormone levels, specifically the drop in estrogen that occurs. If hormone changes are causing your migraines, a medical team may be able to offer you some relief. Some women are prescribed birth control pills to combat migraines. Preventative medication may be prescribed to be taken a few days before your period as well. Women may also experience migraines that occur before or during menopause and during pregnancy due to fluctuating estrogen.  

Bad Health Habits

Life gets busy and all too often, we forget to take care of ourselves. Physically, the best things that you can do for your body can also help you avoid migraine headaches. Common bad habits such as sleep deprivation, stress, poor diet and too much caffeine and/or alcohol can all contribute to these types of headaches. The best way to avoid these habits is to consciously take care of your body.

Sensory Overload

As part of your nervous system, your senses can contribute to the severity of your migraines if they are overloaded. If you are already sensitive to lights or loud noises, exposure to them can trigger a severe migraine. If possible, avoid places that may overwhelm your senses. You will also want to limit time in places such as casinos, shopping malls and movie theatres. Preemptively schedule your time so that you limit your exposure to your triggers. If it’s not possible, prepare by working with your doctor to discuss how to help minimize your symptoms.  

Food

Unfortunately, too much salt or caffeine can cause you to experience migraines. Additionally, skipped meals can create a drop in blood sugar and trigger migraines as well. This is yet another reason to take time for yourself and care for your physical well-being.

How to Treat Migraines

The first step in treating your migraine is to identify the cause. If you have specific triggers, work to avoid or minimize them. In addition, the treatments below may be helpful in eliminating or decreasing the intensity of your headaches.

  • Exercise

Exercise can help your body release endorphins and reduce stress. Regular exercise may also help you sleep more regularly. All of these things can reduce the likelihood of severe headaches.

  • Diet

Certain foods and beverages have been identified as triggers. Cutting back or eliminating alcohol, caffeine and salt may decrease the occurrences of your migraines.

  • Stress Relief

Emotional stress can take a tremendous toll on your body. The best thing you can do is find healthy ways to manage your stress. Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health and needs to be prioritized as well.

  • Hormone Adjustments

Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy may alleviate your symptoms.

Because estrogen plays such an important role in the body and there are specific types of migraines directly related to changes in hormones, it may be beneficial to regulate your hormones. Birth control and estrogen replacement therapies are possible solutions. Consult a doctor to decide if this is the best route for you.

  • Medication

Over the counter medications such as NSAIDs, Ergotamines and Triptans may be prescribed. NSAIDs are pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications. Common examples are aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen. Ergotamines constrict the blood vessels around the brain and while some medications are used preemptively, ergotamines are taken to treat a current migraine. Triptans relieve severe headaches by increasing serotonin levels in the brain and constricting blood vessels. Each of these medications have their own benefits, appropriate uses and side effects; some of which are serious. Always consult your physician before starting any new treatment and make sure that you work with a medical team to find the best treatment for you.

  • Ice

Placing ice on the back of your neck may help numb the area and constrict your blood vessels, which may decrease your pain.  

  • Acupuncture

There have been mixed results from studies using acupuncture to treat migraines. Some patients have reported having fewer and less intense migraines after receiving consistent treatment. Acupuncture may increase endorphins and blood flow by inserting needles into specific pressure points or near a patient’s nerves. The increase in endorphins may help relieve headaches and pain.
Regardless of your trigger, if you are suffering from severe migraines and accompanying symptoms, there is help available. At Arizona Pain and Spine, we can help you achieve a better quality of life by listening to your symptoms, identifying possible root causes and pinpointing the best treatment for you. A combination of treatments and lifestyle changes may be needed to achieve the best possible results. We are a team of experienced professionals that are here to listen and work with you. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Contact our office today!