Migraine Headaches are CommonMigraines are more common than most people know, and many folks with these horrid headaches end up going to an ER to find a way to end the pain. Although no one knows precisely what causes this neurological disorder, according to Dr. Scott Fuller in the article "What is a Migraine?", migraines are believed to be related to the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in the brain, and the resulting changes of oxygen flow to the brain.
Migraines are not ordinary headaches.
Migraine PainMany people, who have never had a migraine view migraine sufferers as babies who complain about every little bump and bruise and smell and sound, but migraine pain is impossible to describe to those lucky individuals who have never had one.
It cannot be stressed enough: A migraine is no measly little headache. These monsters feel like a combination of having the flu and getting a couple of whacks to the skull. And, because migraines are so individualized / idiopathic, a drug that works for Suzy may do absolutely nothing for Sam.
Many migraine sufferers go undiagnosed. Therefore, it is a good idea to see a doctor to verify that a headache is, indeed, a migraine and not a symptom of another underlying medical problem. Some migraine sufferers are helped by over-the-counter medications. According to "Migraine: Treatment and Drugs", mayoclinic.com, "...medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or aspirin, may help relieve mild migraines."
Over the Counter Pain Relievers“Over the counter” (OTC) means that a medication can be purchased without a prescription. According to Mayoclinic.com, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can bring relief to people with a mild form of migraine. Here are some analgesics to try:
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Excedrin Migraine (acetaminophen, ASPIRIN® and caffeine)
- gastrointestinal bleeding
- rebound headaches
When to See a Doctor for Migraine TreatmentAny headache could be a symptom of a more severe problem, so all headaches should be checked out by a doctor. Moreover, if there are unusual changes in headache patterns, it is imperative to talk to a physician. According to mayoclinic.com, the following symptoms indicate an immediate visit to a doctor or an ER:
- an abrupt, severe headache (something like a thunderclap)
- headache with fever, stiff neck, rash, confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness, or trouble speaking
- headache following a head injury
- chronic headache that is worse after coughing, exertion, straining, or sudden movement
- new headache pain in a person over 50 y/o
Heat and Cold for Migraine PainAnother simple treatment, that needs no prescription, is the use of hot and cold packs. (Try hot or cold compresses in a dark, quiet room, at the beginning stage of a headache.) Unfortunately, the only way to see if “temperature therapy” works is to try different applications and variations of hot and cold.
According to mayoclinic.com, "Migraines: Simple Steps to Head Off the Pain":
- hot compresses, applied to one’s head or neck, can relax tense muscles
- cold compresses applied to the head or back of one’s neck, can have a numbing effect, which may dull the sensation of pain
- placing a cold, wet cloth (or alternating hot and cold cloths) on the back of the neck
- placing a cold compress on the forehead and putting one’s feet in warm water
Alternative MedicineHere are some non-traditional therapies that may help to prevent headaches, and are mentioned in "Migraine: Alternative Medicine" at mayoclinic.com.
- Massage therapy
- Herbs - feverfew and butterbur (Don't use while pregnant.)
- Coenzyme Q10
- Oral magnesium sulfate supplements
People with less severe migraines may be able to find treatments that don’t use costly prescription medications. Over-the-counter analgesics, hot and cold compresses, and alternative therapies do not work for all migraine sufferers, but they are good treatments to consider before bringing out the big guns. Headaches of all kinds can be a symptom of a more severe condition. Please check with a doctor about using OTC medications.
Information from this article is not intended to be a substitute for advice from a physician or other professional. Please consult a professional for specific advice.