Is it a Migraine?

There are MANY different types of headaches, of which migraines are a common type. This discussion will concentrate on some unique characteristics that are associated with migraine headaches. This information may help you understand what type of headache you’re having. A unique feature of migraine headaches is that prior to the start of the headache, there is often a pre-headache “warning” that the migraine is about to commence. This is often referred to as an “aura,” and it can vary from a few minutes to a few hours, or in some cases, two days prior to the start of the migraine. Here are some of the more common “warning signs” that you are having, or are about to have, a migraine:

Neck pain. In an online survey, the National Headache Foundation found that 38% of migraine patients “always,” and 31% “frequently” had neck pain accompany their migraine headache.

Frequent urination. This can precede the migraine by an hour or as much as two days.

Yawning. A 2006 article in the journal Cephalgia reported that about 36% of migraine sufferers describe yawning as a common pre-migraine warning. This can occur quite frequently, such as every few minutes.

A “sensory aura” may occur on half of the body, moving from the finger tips through the arm, across the face, or elsewhere and usually includes a temporary lack of feeling as if the body region is “half asleep.”

Nausea and vomiting. This is a common aura. According to the American Migraine Study II (a mail survey of more than 3,700 migraine patients) 73% reported nausea and 29% vomiting. Another study reported that migraine sufferers who have nausea/vomiting usually have more severe migraine headaches and get less relief from migraine medications compared to those who do not get nausea or vomiting.

Other common auras or “sensitivities” during the migraine include bright light, noise, and/or smells (like perfumes), and many migraine sufferers seek refuge in a dark, quiet room and try to sleep.

Physical activity. Routine activities such as walking, climbing steps, running, weight lifting, or sexual activity can trigger a migraine and/or increase the intensity of an existing migraine headache.

Trouble speaking. Difficulty “getting the words out” or formulating thought (staying on task) can be another warning sign of an impending migraine. Obviously, if this is the first time this symptom has occurred and it’s “…out of the ordinary,” we’ll have to make sure it’s not something more serious (…like a stroke)!

Weakness. This may occur in an arm or leg or entire half of the body (left or right side) and also could be a more serious sign of a stroke, but it is also a fairly common pre-migraine aura.

Visual aura. This can include double vision and / or vertigo (balance loss with a spinning feeling). This often occurs in a special type of migraine called a “basilar-type migraine” and symptoms can include dizziness, double vision or loss of vision. The balance loss is often associated with a “bad migraine” and occurs when the migraine is stronger or more intense than usual.

“Headache hangover.” This usually occurs after the migraine has passed and people describe a feeling of being “wiped out.” Symptoms can include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and extreme energy loss.

In many cases, adjustments applied to the neck and upper back, especially when delivered BEFORE the migraine, can reduce the intensity and in some cases STOP the migraine from even starting!