There are some days when I wake up with a blinding pain right behind my left eye. Or sometimes it’s the right. Just depends on what side feels like throbbing that day. Sometimes I know the trigger and other days I have no idea why it feels like my head is about to explode. All I know is that I would be grateful if it did just to make the pain stop. A few years ago, I finally had had enough. I started to research why I kept having this pain.
According to the National Migraine Association a headache and a migraine are not the same thing and they are physiologically different. Headaches are caused by the constricting of blood vessels around the cranium while migraines are caused by the blood vessels dilating. Also during a migraine, the tissue around the brain swells, causing intense pain. Common pain medications normally taken for headaches can worsen a migraine since those types of medications work to dilate the vessels to relieve the pressure and pain. If using an over the counter medication make sure to use one formulated for migraine. The best part about all this, women tend to suffer from migraines more than men. Yay.
The Symptoms of a Migraine Include:
• Vision problems such as blind spots, blurred vision, and eye pain
• Throbbing, pulsating or pounding and pain is worse on one side of the head
• Starts with a dull ache and progressively gets worse within minutes to hours
• Can last up to 6-48 hours
According to the American Academy of Neurology there are four types of headache:
• Vascular– caused by swelling of the blood vessels and increased blood flow to the head. This is what causes migraines, with pain focused on one side or both sides of the head along with nausea, and disturbed vision.
• Tension– caused by tightening and tensing of the facial and neck muscles. This is the most common type of headache. It may be caused by tension build up in the scalp and neck due to stress, depression and anxiety but no exact causes are known.
• Inflammatory– results as a symptom of a disorder or infection such as sinus infection, meningitis or stroke.
• Traction– These are usually caused by pulling or stretching of the pain sensitive parts of the head usually when the eyes are strained or tensed.
Scientists are not really sure what causes headaches and migraines. They have come to the conclusion that certain environmental factors can trigger them. For instance, some triggers can be food allergies, strong odors, such as perfume or cologne, stress, a change in routine, changes in hormonal activity, alcohol, dehydration and hunger, depression, anxiety, and caffeine.
The most common cure is taking an over the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin. As a personal preference, I like to try different alternative remedies before I reach for the ibuprofen. When I feel a migraine coming I run for my freezer where I keep my eye pillow and apply a few drops of lavender oil to it. Then I go find a dark, quiet place to lay down. Usually that will take care of them for me but there are other remedies to explore as well, such as:
• Acupuncture and Chiropractics
• Lifestyle Change
• Essential oils such as lavender, ginger, and peppermint
• Dietary changes
After consulting my naturopath I learned that the most overlooked trigger is a food allergy. After discussing my eating habits, he promptly put me on an elimination diet to figure out what my trigger might be. It turns out it was dairy. Oh my sweet beloved dairy, especially that cheesy deliciousness! It was hard to give up in the beginning but tasting dairy is not worth being sick for two days, especially with all the tasty vegan alternatives out there. So I dumped cheese and thankfully the migraines became less frequent. If you have persistent headaches and migraines consult with your physician to make sure it’s not a symptom of something more serious.
For more information about migraines check out:
The National Migraine Association
The National Headache Foundation
American Council for Headache Education
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