Migraine Headache in Winnipeg? How to tell the difference between a migraine and other types of headaches.

The headache starts, maybe above one eye or in your temple, you know it is going to be bad, so you finish what you are doing to buckle up and ride it out. As many as one in five women experience migraine headache, but a significant number are never diagnosed with migraine headache.

An accurate diagnosis is essential to receiving the proper care and management strategies for your headache.

A migraine is just a really bad headache, right?

No, migraines are a particular type of headache probably a combination of vascular and neurological issues that affect 1 in 7 adults.  These headaches can be challenging to prevent and treat; they are often intrusive and can cause you to miss work and miss out on the things you like to do.

The pain of a migraine tends to be moderate to severe.  They are different from other headaches, more severe, often one-sided, and they can be associated with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, visual disturbances or even numbness and tingling.  Most often migraines last four hours but may last for longer in some people.

Cervicogenic (migraines coming from the joints in your neck) and muscle contraction headaches, on the other hand, are less intense, do not have an aura and can last for many hours or even days.  Cervicogenic and muscle contraction headaches are often more general in location and can be a band like sensation over your forehead or located at the back of your head just above your neck.

What happens in the brain during a migraine?

Migraines are thought to be a ‘vascular’ headache.  Like all blood vessels the vessels in your brain are lined with muscles that contract and relax to control blood flow.  It is thought in migraine headaches that a ‘spasm’ of these vessels causes reduced blood flow to part of your brain this decreased flow is responsible for the odd neurologic symptoms such as visual disturbances or numbness and tingling.  At some point the muscles become fatigued and relax, causing an increase in flow to that part of the brain.  This increased pressure is responsible for the pain of a migraine and is likely why it is often described as a throbbing pounding pain.

How do I know if my headache is a migraine?

People often confuse migraines with other types of headaches or pain. In some patients, we see they present with headaches that they describe as migraine but are more likely cervicogenic headaches.  Other people will say things like “I think it is my sinuses” but they are describing migraine headaches.

If you experience any of the following with a headache you should consult with your chiropractor to see if you might be having migraines.

• Severe head pain that you rate as 8/10 or worse on a pain scale.

• Throbbing sensations, often on one side of your head

• Nausea or vomiting

• Sensitivity to light, noise, and smells

• Head pain that gets worse with movement

• Head pain that makes you miss work or other activities

Migraine variations.

How you experience, migraines might be quite different from how others experience them.  Although classic migraines are described as starting with an aura of flashing lights, and light sensitivity followed by intense pain, this is not always the case.  Depending on the part of the brain affected you may get different aura symptoms or none at all.  Sometimes people will get visual disturbances and no headache.

How do you treat migraines?

Migraine headache is often best treated with a team approach.  Some people will require medication to deal with the pain, or sometimes even prevent the headache from starting.  Seeing your chiropractor to make sure that your spine and muscles are functioning correctly is an essential piece of well structured migraine treatment and prevention strategy.  Other therapies such as acupuncture can also be beneficial.

Migraine, Canada has many helpful resources as well.  https://migrainecanada.org/library/

To ward off migraine attacks, consider the mnemonic SEEDS:

• Sleep: Get enough sleep and follow roughly the same schedule every day.

• Eating: Have three regular meals per day.

• Exercise: Work out at least three days per week.

• Drinking: Stay hydrated and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol.

• Stress Reduction: Try yoga, biofeedback, or other mindfulness exercises.

We understand that you have a choice on who you trust with the management of your migraine headaches and sincerely appreciate the confidence you place in us.

Dr. Russell Baron


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