Migraine is a disorder characterized by crippling headache, usually on one side of the head, photosensitivity, and nausea. It is more common in adult women than men, however, before puberty, it affects more boys than girls. Around 15% of the world’s population suffers from migraines. Although there is no way to completely cure it, migraine treatment with the help of medicine can help ease the discomfort.
What you need to know about migraines
The earliest description of a migraine can be found in Mesopotamian poems dating back to 3000 B.C. Hippocrates, a Greek physician states in one of his accounts that the patient saw something shining in front of him, like a bright light, mostly is a certain region of the right eye. After this, he felt a strong pain in his temple, and then it spread to the neck and the head. Vomiting led to temporary alleviation of pain. Cases of painful headaches were also recorded b the ancient Egyptians, as long ago as 1200 BC.
However, it was Aretaeus of Cappadocia who is credited with the discovery of migraine, since he classified headaches into three different types: Cephalalgia which is characterized by mild intensity headaches of short duration, Cephalea which is chronic and severe headache and finally Heterocrania, which is headache occurring on one side of the head, usually varying in intensity and duration, and characterized by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, photophobia, and change in sensory perception. Heterocrania is what we know today as migraine.
The word migraine is derived from the Latin word “hemicrania”, first used by Galenus of Pergamon to describe a headache he experienced. The word means “half skull”. The famous Islamic philosopher Avicenna, in one of his books, refers to migraines and describes how loud sounds, light, eating and drinking all worsened the condition of people suffering from migraines.
However, in olden times, people did not know how to get rid of a migraine. Andalusian-born physician Abulcasis suggests applying hot rods to the head in order to treat migraines. He also suggested applying garlic to the site of the pain. Bloodletting and witchcraft were also used as migraine treatment during the Middle Ages.
While the exact causes of migraines are not yet clear to us, it is believed to be caused by some disturbance in the blood vessels in the brain. It is also believed to be hereditary to a certain degree. Several triggers can cause an individual to experience migraines:
- Physical triggers: Overexertion, lack of sleep, bad posture and jet lag can trigger migraines.
- Medical triggers: Some pills can cause migraines as a side effect, the most common being sleeping pills and contraceptive pills.
- Hormonal triggers: Change in the hormone level may cause migraines in women, especially during menstruation.
- Emotional triggers: Hypertension, anxiety, depression, and shock are related to migraines.
- Dietary triggers: Consumption of certain foods and beverages can trigger migraines. Examples are coffee, alcohol, cheese, foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), foods containing nitrates like bacon and sausage, processed food and those that are served cold such as ice cream.
- Environmental triggers: Loud noises and bright lights are known to trigger migraines. It can also be caused by airless rooms, flickering screens, and smoke.
- Weather triggers: Some people have reported headaches caused by a change in the weather. Changes in barometric pressure, storms and fluctuating temperature may lead to change in the serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn may lead to migraine attacks. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun may lead to the widening of blood vessels due to the release of chemicals in the skin, causing migraines. Direct sunlight may also activate sensitive nerve cells that reside in the brain, triggering migraines.
Migraine symptoms may vary according to the individual suffering from it. Common symptoms include eye pain, photosensitivity, nausea and vomiting, severe throbbing pain on a particular region of the head. About 20% of migraines may be preceded by auras which are characterized by blind spots in the vision and sensory irregularities such as flashing lights, distorted shapes and a tingling sensation in your arms and legs.
A certain kind of migraine may cause temporary vision impairment in one eye that can potentially last for months. Others may resemble symptoms of a stroke, like loss of sensation on one side of the body. There is also a kind of migraine where headaches do not occur, but where sensory disturbances and irregularities in vision, much alike aura are common. These symptoms, which cause severe discomfort for the patient, might be reduced or eliminated by migraine treatment.
If migraine runs in our family, it can easily be diagnosed by a doctor using medical history and physical examination. However, the more severe kind of migraines may require complex tests to be performed on the patient to properly determine how to get rid of a migraine. These include:
- CT Scan: This involves the use of X-rays to capture images of different areas of your body from different angles, which are then combined to get cross-sectional images. CT Scan can be used to detect tumors, bone defects, hemorrhage, etc.
- MRI Scan: MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging involves the usage of powerful magnets and radio waves to capture a detailed picture of the inside of your body which can be viewed on a computer.
Migraine treatment is about relief from the severe pain and prevention of future occurrences. The type of medication may vary based on each scenario and also depends on the severity of the symptoms. Migraine medicines are of two types:
Preventive medications are used to prevent future attacks from occurring. These are taken regularly. If your migraine is frequent and long-lasting, you should consider taking preventive medications. These may include:
Drugs such as amitriptyline, used to treat depression, may be used to treat migraines that are caused by severe depression. Side effects include sleepiness and weight gain.
OnabotulinumtoxinA or botox is a neuro-muscular blocker. It can be used to treat chronic migraines in some adults. Side effects include swallowing and breathing difficulties. These are not recommended for children since they are more susceptible to the side effects.
Blood pressure medications
Medicines that lower blood pressure, like propranolol and metoprolol tartrate, are useful in migraine treatment. Aura migraines can be treated with channel blocker drugs such as Calan and Verelan.
Drugs such as valproate and topiramate can be used to treat infrequent migraines. Side effects include nausea and dizziness.
Calcitonin gene-related peptide inhibitors include drugs such as Erenumab and Fremanezumaband that can be used to block calcitonin peptide, a small protein found in the sensory nerves in the head and neck. They are administered by injection. Side effects include allergies and rashes in the injection area.
Relief medications that are aimed at getting rid of the symptoms of migraines like headaches and other discomforts. While it is not known how to get rid of migraine permanently, these are usually administered as the symptoms begin to show. They include:
Migraines are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Hence, drugs like chlorpromazine, metoclopramide or prochlorperazine are used to combat such symptoms.
This drug can be used to treat common migraines as well as aura migraines. It can get rid of the headache, nausea, and photosensitivity. Side effects include disorientation and dizziness. Patients are advised to be cautious and not take part in activities where concentration is paramount.
This is generally used for long-lasting migraine treatment. It can be taken as a nasal spray or injected directly into the bloodstream. Side effects include further nausea. Those with heart complications and high blood pressure should avoid this medicine.
Opioids, especially those containing codeine are used only when other medications fail since they are highly addictive.
These are tryptamine-based drugs used to stimulate serotonin in the brain, in order to reduce the pain from headaches. They can be administered as a nasal spray or shot. Side effects include dizziness, dry mouth, muscle weakness, sleepiness, nausea, and skin allergies.
Aspirin or ibuprofen can be used to lessen the pain one experiences form migraine. But these should be used in moderation, for they might lead to ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Mild migraines can be controlled using several home remedies that are free of the side effects of migraine medicines. While serious varieties of migraine require medical intervention and the administration of drugs, these home remedies for migraine treatment can reduce the severity of migraine symptoms and even help prevent them from occurring:
Migraine can be triggered by many foods and drinks, eg. Nitrate containing foods such as bacon, sausages, and hot dogs. They may also be caused by chocolate, beans, processed food, dairy products such as sour milk and yogurt, alcohol and cheese. Avoiding these foods and drinks can help prevent a migraine from occurring.
It is a traditional Chinese therapy used to relieve pain, nausea, and depression. In this treatment, the pressure is applied to various points on the body in order to clear blockages.
This is a variation of Acupressure where thin needles are inserted at various predefined points in your body.
This is a relaxation technique used to control physical responses to stress. This can lessen muscle tension has been found to be effective in relieving the pain.
Essential oils such as this can be inhaled or directly applied to the temple to experience relief from migraine pain.
This oil can be used as a preventive measure for migraine treatment. It may ease the pain, nausea, and photosensitivity.
A known remedy for nausea, ginger can be used to decrease the severity of migraines.
While yoga cannot be used as a standalone migraine treatment, it helps release tension, reduce anxiety and improve overall health and may help eliminate migraine triggers.
Magnesium deficiency may lead to headaches and migraines. So if you are wondering how to get rid of a migraine, it is a good idea to include magnesium in your diet. It can be found in foods such as nuts, almonds, peanut butter, milk, and eggs.
Your behavior determines how you recognize pain. Cognitive therapy may be beneficial for some patients suffering from migraines.
Massage: A massage once in a while can help reduce anxiety and stress, which are known migraine triggers.
If you are wondering how to get rid of a migraine, make slight adjustments to your lifestyle. Some of these practices include:
- Heading to a dark room when the migraine occurs. Close your eyes and take a nap. You may also place a wet cloth or an icepack on your forehead.
- Drowning out loud sounds. Wear earplugs and turn down the volume if loud music is playing nearby. Head to a soundproof room or close the door.
- Remove or move away from strong odors. Strong smells can trigger migraines and you should consider not being near them while experiencing discomfort.
- Sit in a comfortable position and adjust your posture. Bad posture is one of the known triggers for migraines.
- Stay hydrated.
- Adjusting your sleep cycle. Try to follow a consistent sleep and wake schedule. Don’t confuse your body clock.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, running, walking and cycling reduces stress and may help prevent migraines. However, you shouldn’t overexert yourself since it may lead to a migraine instance.
Although no one knows how to how to get rid of a migraine completely, its symptoms can be managed and prevented with adjustments in lifestyle and in more severe cases, with the administration of medication. Rarest of cases may also require the patient to undergo a surgery, where the affected nerves in the head and the neck are surgically decompressed.
Patients must identify what triggers the migraine episodes so that they can effectively prevent them from reoccurring. They also need to be aware of how their lifestyle is affecting the severity and frequency of the migraine symptoms so that they can be countered.