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Stages of a Migraine

Migraines are severe and often recurrent headache attacks that can cause pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of the head or the front part of your head. They are accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, heightened sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea.

Migraines are a widespread problem, affecting an estimated 1 in 6 American adults. There is limited information regarding the causes of this disorder. 

Experts believe migraines result from abnormal activity in the brain, which can lead to a chemical imbalance and exert stress on nerves and blood vessels in the brain.

Other factors that could lead to migraines include sensory stimuli like loud sounds and bright flashing lights, changes in the weather, poor sleep, dehydration, hormonal changes, emotional stress, and certain medications.

What are the Stages of a Migraine?

Migraines can be debilitating, but understanding the different stages can help you better manage your symptoms. If you think you may be suffering from migraines, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Below are the four stages of a migraine:

Stage One: Prodrome

This stage can occur hours or 1 to 2 days before a migraine attack. Symptoms during this phase may include constipation, mood swings, neck stiffness, increased urination, fluid retention, dehydration, and food cravings. These are signs that a migraine is about to strike.

What you can do: based on the symptoms you experience, treatment options could include:

  • Exercise or gentle stretching to ease tension
  • Drinking enough fluids
  • Engage in relaxation or stress management techniques
  • Get enough sleep

Stage Two: Aura

Auras are neurological symptoms that signal the start of a migraine. They typically last less than 60 minutes and can include visual disturbances such as flashes of light, blind spots, or temporary vision loss.

Other aura symptoms include tingling in the hands or face, difficulty speaking, and muscle weakness. Only about 1 in 3 people with migraines experience auras.

What you can do: If you experience an aura, it’s essential to stay calm and rest in a quiet, dark room. Try to avoid any type of activity that could trigger a migraine attack.

Stage Three: Migraine Attack

This is the main phase of a migraine when patients experience the most severe symptoms. Migraine attacks can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. The pain is often throbbing or pulsing and is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, ringing ears, and sensitivity to light and sound.

What you can do: Treatment options will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce the pain. If these don’t work, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication such as nerve pain medication.

You may also need to rest in a dark, quiet room, apply a cold compress, and avoid sudden movements or other activities that could exacerbate the symptoms.

Stage Four: Postdrome

This final stage occurs after the migraine attack has subsided and is often regarded as the migraine hangover. Patients may feel drained, confused, or euphoric. Some people may also experience temporary cognitive or neurological problems, such as trouble speaking or memory difficulties.

What you can do: Getting enough rest and rehydrating are crucial during this phase. You may also want to avoid vigorous activity as your body tries to recover.

How Frequent are Migraines?

Migraine attacks can be unpredictable and often interfere with work, school, and other activities.

Their frequency can vary from a few attacks per year to one or more attacks per week. Some people may experience chronic migraines, which are defined as 15 or more migraine days per month for over three consecutive months. 

Alternative Treatments for Migraines

In addition to medication, there are several other conventional and alternative remedies that can help relieve migraine symptoms and reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. These remedies include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Stress management
  • Exercise
  • Dietary changes
  • Progressive muscle relaxation 

Final Thoughts

There are a variety of medications and alternative treatments available that can help relieve the symptoms of migraines and improve your quality of life.

If you think you may be suffering from migraines, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor. They can help you identify the triggers and develop a treatment plan that works for you.

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