‘What Causes Migraines?’ is a common question we receive at the clinic. Migraines are a fairly complex condition and can be hugely debilitating to those who suffer with them.
What is a Migraine
Migraines are not simply a bad headache, they are characterised by a cluster of different symptoms.
The Aura: this is usually an atypical visual or other sensory sensation which comes on before the headache. People will often experience flickering lights in the corner of their visual, or get an scent of a smell. Most but not all migraines will feature an aura
The Headache: typically one sided but can vary, commonly involving the temple and region around the eye often the top of the neck and scalp region as well. General pulsing in sensation
Associated Symptoms: many people will get sensitivity to light (photo-phobia)
Migraine episodes can be triggered by a variety of different factors that we need to look for what causes migraines. Some sufferers will have consistent triggers, whilst others find it hard to identify exactly what’s causing their episodes.
Some of the most common triggers we see for migraines include:
- Stress: periods of very high workload (both mentally and physically) or emotional stress
- Hormonal: migraines can occur in some women pre-menstrually and often change during pregnancy and menopause
- Diet: wine, cheese and coffee will trigger migraines in some people. High or lower blood sugar levels can also contribute to episodes
- Musculoskeletal: neck/upper back pain as well as the jaw can all have a role in causing migraines
- Other factors: different smells, exposure to intense light and intense physical exercise as well as many other triggers can cause migraines in some people
There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding migraines, some of the most common include:
- Migraines are just bad headaches: Migraines are a neurological condition characterised by severe headache and a variety of other associated symptoms
- Migraines only affect women: While migraines are more common in women, men can also suffer from migraines
- Migraines are caused by stress: Stress is a common trigger for migraines, but it is not the only cause
- Migraines can be cured: There is no cure for migraines, but they can be managed with a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and stress management techniques
- Migraines are not serious: Migraines can be debilitating and can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. They can also be a sign of an underlying condition
When it comes to managing migraines, the key is to start with understanding your triggers and what else is contributing to your migraines.
We think the following things are key for successful management of migraines:
- Lifestyle: maintaining healthy sleep, diet and exercise regimes
- Stress: reducing stress and being mindful of positive mental health practices
- Musculoskeletal: working with a chiro/physio/osteo to manage any related neck, upper back or postural issues that could be contributing to migraines
- Medical: if you have persisted with the above, but your migraines are persisting, you might need medical input. GP’s and neurologists can both assist in managing migraines. Medical management can involve trialling different medications to prevent and reduce episodes as well as other treatments such as botox into the facial muscles