Migraine headaches are caused by a variety of triggering substances and events. Once the trigger occurs, there is a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain followed by a dilation of the same blood vessels.
During the constriction phase, there is a decrease in blood flow to your brain often leading to the classic migraine aura, which are commonly visual abnormalities. Even in people who don’t experience the classic migraine aura, many of them can tell that an attack is imminent.
It’s during the dilation phase when the pounding pain begins. Once the same blood vessels dilate, there is a rapid increase in blood pressure inside the head. It is this increased pressure that leads to the pounding headache. Each time the heart beats it sends another shock wave up the major arteries in the neck to the brain.
There are many theories about why the blood vessels constrict in the first place. There appears to be external triggers in most instances, which can include:
- lack of sleep
- flickering lights
- strong odors
- changing weather patterns
- a variety of foods
- food additives
- nutrient deficiencies
We’ve found that many patients can reduce the likelihood of migraine headaches by making some lifestyle changes.
Typical Characteristics of Migraine Headaches:
- typically experience first attack before age 30
- four out of five migraine sufferers have a family member who suffers from migraines
- affect about 25 million people in the U.S. annually
- typically described as intense and throbbing headaches; often associated with nausea and sensitivity to light or noise.
- they can last from as little as a few hours to as long as a few days
- many migraines are accompanied by migraine auras just prior to an attack
- frequency can range from several times a month to less than once a year, and often become less frequent and severe with age
- most common type of headache
- often described as a constant dull, achy feeling either on one side or both sides of the head, or as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes
- usually begin slowly and gradually and can last for 30 minutes or several days, and tend to begin in the middle or toward the end of the day
- commonly are the result of stress or bad posture, which stresses the spine and muscles in the upper back and neck
- although the pain can at times be severe, tension headaches are usually not associated with other symptoms, such as nausea, throbbing or vomiting
- affect about 1 million people in the U.S. annually
- often described as excruciating headaches, usually felt on one side of the head behind the eyes
- typically very short in duration; and the only type of headache that tends to occur at night
- they tend to occur one to four times per day over a period of several days which is why they are called ‘cluster’ headaches
- frequency can range from once a month to years apart
- likely to be related to a dilation of the blood vessels in the brain, causing a localized increase in pressure, similar to migraines