Although many people use the term "migraine" to describe any severe headache, a migraine headache is the result of specific physiologic changes that occur within the brain and lead to the characteristic pain and associated symptoms of a migraine. The exact cause of migraines is not known. Changes in neurotransmitter levels within the brain are thought to play a role. A number of factors such as hormonal changes, stress, diet, certain medications, and strong stimuli (loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, etc.) can trigger migraine headaches.
In some cases, patients with migraines experience specific warning symptoms, or an aura, prior to the onset of their headache. These warning symptoms can range from flashing lights or a blind spot in one eye to numbness or weakness involving one side of the body. The aura may last for several minutes, and then resolves as the head pain begins or may last until the headache resolves. For patients who have never experienced an aura, the symptoms can be frightening and can mimic the symptoms of a stroke.
Not all headaches, however, are migraines and migraine is not the only condition that can cause severe and debilitating headaches. For example, tension headaches occur due to contraction of the muscles of the scalp, face, and neck. This type of headache is often described as being bilateral (on both sides of your head) and the pain is not pulsating, but feels like pressure or tightness. While severity can be mild-to-moderate, the headache is not disabling and there is no worsening of the pain with routine physical activity.
Symptoms of Migraine Pain:
- Pounding pain on one side of your head
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light, sound, or smell
Treatments for Migraine Pain:
Tips for Managing Migraine Pain:
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid dietary triggers
- Avoid strong stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, and strong smells
- Create an interdisciplinary pain team