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What Are Migraines Caused By?

Posted on: 17 Nov 2023

pain management strategy - migraine

Most of us get headaches from time to time, whether that’s because of stress, dehydration, being under the weather, not eating regularly, poor posture or drinking too much alcohol.

These types of headaches usually resolve themselves quite quickly and don’t come back, with paracetamol or ibuprofen particularly effective at dealing with the pain. Migraine is thought to affect around one in seven people globally and it is two to three times more common in women than men, with potential links to the menstrual cycle.

It is essential to have a thorough clinical assessment to clinch a diagnosis of migraine, rather than just assuming that’s what your headaches are.

While it can be easy to confuse migraines with headaches, the two are not the same and migraine attacks can be especially debilitating.

Yes, they are characterised by unpleasant head pain in the same way that headaches are but they also bring with them other symptoms, including the likes of light, sound and smell sensitivity, eyesight problems (like seeing flashing lights), fatigue and nausea.

Migraine can be a chronic long-term condition, one that needs to be treated and managed in a different way to more typical headaches.

You may find that you’re unable to carry on as normal when you’re in the grip of a migraine attack, as they usually last for anything between four hours and three days.

Research suggests that migraines are caused by abnormal brain activity that affects nerve signals, blood vessels and chemicals in the brain. It’s not entirely clear what causes this abnormal activity, but it’s thought that there may be a genetic component at play.

There are ways in which you can help reduce the chances of triggering an attack, such as avoiding alcohol, lifestyle changes, maintaining good nutritional balance, trying to keep stress levels to a minimum and getting good-quality sleep on a regular basis.

How can you manage migraine pain?

Because migraines are so complicated, there are lots of different treatments available and the most appropriate one for you will depend on the type of migraines you get, what your symptoms are, the regularity of your attacks and how severe they are.

Acute medication like simple analgesics, antiemetics and triptans can be taken to address your immediate symptoms, while preventative medication like angiotensin II blockers, anticonvulsants (topiramate), beta blockers (propranolol), antidepressants (amitriptyline) can be taken to help you stop getting attacks in the first instance.

Addressing associated health problems such as sleep apnoea, insomnia, depression and anxiety is extremely crucial, with the aim being to stop medical overuse.

At MACS clinic, we follow a holistic approach with behavioural therapy, acupuncture, electroacupuncture, low level laser therapy, advice on lifestyle changes, nutritional advice, medications, Yoga and meditation and injections.

Interestingly, Botox injections can be used as a pain management strategy if you suffer from migraines. Botox itself is a muscle relaxant that has been found to relieve muscle-related pain, working by blocking the release of acetylcholine from the junction between your nerves and muscles.

Normally, this substance would bind to its receptor at this junction and cause a muscle contraction, but when Botox is injected it blocks the acetylcholine, which lets the muscles relax.

Studies show that for people who get migraine headaches regularly, Botox injections help to decrease headache pain quite significantly, so it’s definitely worth investigating to see if these injections can be beneficial for you.

Another preventive treatment option which has emerged in the recent past for chronic migraines is the greater occipital nerve block. These can be repeated to get maximum benefit.

Simple intervention such as topical sphenopalatine ganglion blocks can be also offered as part of pain management.

If you are struggling with pain because of your migraines, just remember that you don’t have to suffer in silence and there’s a lot you can do to ease your symptoms. Get in touch with the MACS Clinic team today to see how we can help.