MIGRAINENo ordinary headache
Yes it is true, there are headaches and headaches, and migraine. It is estimated that over 5 million people in England suffer from this condition, which may be best described as head pain, brought about due to changes in brain chemistry associated with extreme nerve control of blood vessels. Attacks may begin with sensory disturbances, lasting from minutes to hours, followed by onset of the head pain, which at its peak may be so severe as to cause vomiting.
What causes migraine?
What are the migraine triggers?
Hormonal balance tends to be a major aspect, especially in females. Migraines tend to occur around period time. An association between migraine and menstruation has been reported by 50% of women, with many women reporting that menstrual attacks are more severe, last longer, and respond less well to treatment compared with non-menstrual attacks. It is interesting to note that HRT therapy can often cause or intensify attacks and, medically, it would be advisable to stop therapy should this be the case.
The analysis of 155 women over 693 cycles showed that menstrual attacks tended to be more severe and associated with nausea and vomiting compared with attacks at other times of the cycle.
The greatest effects of menstruation on migraine was during the first 3 days of the cycle.
Melatonin and sleep
The human body is 65% water. Simply put, dehydration occurs as the result of excessive loss of water from the body, when we lose more water than we take in. It's a bit more complicated than that since the body loses valuable electrolytes as well. That's why sports drinks have become so popular; they replenish electrolytes as well as just fluid.
Dehydration can be a major issue, both in and of itself and as a headache or Migraine trigger. Many people mistakenly think it occurs only in hot weather and that you're not dehydrated if you're not thirsty.
Serotonin aids in the chemical transfer of information from one cell to another. More importantly for migraine sufferers, serotonin also plays a major role in the relaxation and constriction of blood vessels. All of the serotonin in the blood is stored in the platelets and is released by platelet aggregation.
This release in migraine sufferers appears to result in a serotonin deficiency. These low serotonin levels are thought to lead to a decrease in the pain threshold of these patients. This concept is strongly supported by 35 years of research, including positive clinical results in double blind studies. These studies show that increasing serotonin levels in the platelets leads to relief from chronic migraine headaches.
Platelets and dilation of blood vessels
Migraine headaches are primarily caused by excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head. Migraine pain occurs when the blood vessels and muscles lining the brain and scalp become stretched or tensed. Migraine headaches seem to be connected to the instability of blood vessels in the brain and to a reduction in blood flow during a migraine attack.
Additionally, the platelets of migraine sufferers are different from normal platelets both during and between migraine attacks. Platelets are small blood cells that clump together to form blood clots. The difference between platelets results in migraine sufferers having a significant increase in spontaneous clumping together of the platelets as well as in a reduction in the release of a chemical called serotonin.
Platelets and dilation of blood vessels
Low blood sugar, or what may be called functional hypoglycaemia, is another common trigger where the attack is triggered after a period of irregular eating or missing out meals.
Low blood pressure, which at face value may be a great asset, tends to be a common finding in migraine sufferers. When considering the neurovascular aspect of migraine “blood vessel headache,” low blood pressure becomes an understandable trigger.
Sleep disturbance is another common, although seldom realized trigger. Many sufferers will admit to either waking up with a migraine or with the sensation of being pre-migraine, the attack to develop later in the day. These sufferers may well also be affected by jetlag or SAD syndrome - “winter blues”.
Dental focus associated with the electrical exchange between amalgam fillings or between different metals in the mouth, could well be a hidden trigger, as may TMJ alignment, (uneven or unstable jaw alignment).
Spinal problems especially relating to the neck, are a certain aggravating factor to migraine. Strangely, it is not necessary to have pain for there to be a “back” or “neck” problem.
VDUs and other electrical devices, such as digital alarm clock radios, fluorescent lighting, have in recent years become known as migraine triggers.
Noise, smells, bright lights can also be triggers for the susceptible sufferer, as will highs and lows of adrenaline related to exercise.
Stress is of course the overall trigger, but is best understood as aggravating the pre-existing weakness. In simple terms “stress goes to the weakness”.
So what can be done about migraine?
From an examination of the triggers, it is obvious that the causes are varied and combine together in varying degrees at different times, to such an extent that the sufferer may well say, "that nothing in particular causes their migraine," or that, "sometimes they may react to certain foods but other times not". The reality is that food reacts when another factor such as hormones is active, or that an hormonal imbalance is aggravated by low blood sugar and trigger foods. From a study of all the overlapping factors it becomes obvious, that a holistic approach, which would examine and attempt to correct all the relevant triggers together, must be the logical choice.
Wimbledon Clinic of Natural Medicine offers a complete assessment of all the above-mentioned triggers, and a complete program of treatment, individual to each patient, can be developed.
New developments in the diagnosis and treatment of migraine.
Hemoencephalography: Brain Blood-Flow Biofeedback
Instead of using brain waves as guidance, we are using feedback about the blood flow in the brain to allow the person to learn to increase the activity level of the area under a sensor.
This is a useful neurofeedback approach especially when we want to target certain skills or areas of damage.
HEG is a non-invasive neurofeedback method for teaching your brain to be more stable and better able to self-regulate the activity of the blood vessels that otherwise can lead to migraine. It uses an infrared temperature sensor on your forehead to measure blood flow in your brain - kind of like a thermometer for your brain. 😉 Using HEG, nothing "goes into" your brain at any time. HEG works by having you "exercise" the area of your brain that can keep it stable. Most people find they feel more alert and energized after a HEG session.
A HEG session uses an infrared thermometer that shines light through the skin and skull to assess the amount of oxygen in the brain's blood in that area. The harder the brain works, the more demand for nutrition there is. This results in faster blood flow and redder blood in the tissues, strengthening the activity of the brain in that area and resulting in improvements of the skills associated with the frontal lobes.
Research on the effectiveness of HEG shows that it helps prevent migraines and can even stop migraine headache pain after it starts. In a study of 100 people with migraine headaches, 95% of those who completed at least 6 weekly sessions reported significant improvement, meaning they had difficulty telling whether or not the headache was a "migraine".
These numbers hold in our experience as well, virtually everyone we have worked with finds that:
- they notice a difference within the 6 sessions and
- within 10-20 sessions, they are virtually headache free and/or that the headaches they do have are much milder - maybe not even requiring any medication
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