Prevention and Treatment of Migraine

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Information on Prevention and Treatment of Migraine

Migraine headaches, a recurrent throbbing headache often accompanied by nausea and visual disturbance.  Migraines are in the category of headache known as vascular because they involve interaction between the brain and the cranial blood vessels of the face, head and neck.  There are steps you can take to ease the pain of migraine headaches.  A healthy lifestyle and common sense are among them.


Identifying and minimizing trigger factors:

Many headache experts emphasize the importance of carefully trying to determine factors that seem to trigger headache attacks rather than jumping in immediately with drug therapy.  As might be expected, the list of potential "triggers" is almost as long as the list of those who suffer from migraines, but the following seem to be most common -

  • Dietary factors - Changes in eating pattern (fasting or missing meals), specific foods (such as cheese, chocolate), alcohol, excessive caffeine (or sudden withdrawal from caffeine drinks), food preservatives (the nitrates and nitrites of cured meats such as cold cuts and hot dogs), and flavorers (MSG or even salt) can produce headaches in some people.

  • Hormone and drug factors - Hormones (as in birth control pills) and the change in hormones at the time of menstruation are clearly implicated in many women; reserpine (used in treating high blood pressure) is a drug known to produce headaches.

  • Emotional factors - While the stereotype of the migraine personality is rigid and compulsive is far from true for many migraine sufferers, there is general agreement that when perfectionists are subjected to stress, they are more likely to have headaches.  Biofeedback techniques are being widely employed for such persons and for many others with no readily identifiable emotional factor.

  • Environmental factors - Temperature extremes, cigarette smoke, perfume, glaring light and sudden changes in barometric pressure can trigger migraines.


Careful drug therapy:

The word "careful" is used to emphasize the need for attention to both proper use (timing and dosage) and potential side effects.  Indeed, one of the hallmarks of the modern headache expert is the individualized manner in which he or she prescribes drugs for a given patient.  In addition to the usual pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen sodium and ibuprofen, the following drugs are in common use for the treatment of migraine and other headaches -


  • Ergot alkaloids: Long the mainstay of migraine treatment, these drugs act to prevent blood vessels from expanding; therefore, they are most effective in the early stages of a migraine before the throbbing phase of the headache becomes established.  Because of the critical importance of dosage and timing with these drugs and the danger of habituation and other physical side effects, they must be used only under the careful guidance of a knowledgeable physician.

  • Anti-depressants: Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these drugs (particularly amitriptyline) - even in persons without apparent depression.  Obviously, long-term use is less than ideal, but judicious therapy with anti-depressants may be helpful in some people.

  • Propranolol: This drug is being widely used in headache treatment programs.  It has the apparent advantage of minimal side effects when compared to other standard migraine drugs and reports thus far support its effectiveness in many migraine sufferers.

  • Diuretics: Women who suffer from menstrual headaches may benefit by taking diuretic pills to promote fluid loss at the time of their period.

If prescription drugs are recommended, follow directions carefully.


Rest and get adequate amounts of sleep but not oversleeping.  When headaches strike, go to a quiet, darkened room, lie down with eyes closed and relax your body.  Avoid intake of chocolate, aged cheese, red wine and food additives such as nitrates and monosodium glutamate, which may increase symptoms.  Keep a record of the possible foods or agents that trigger your migraine attacks.  Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.  Be sensitive to and avoid your headache triggers.


Exercise regularly and try to stay physically active.  You may also reduce the occurrence of a migraine headaches attack by learning relaxation techniques.


If you suffer from migraine or cluster headaches, consult your doctor or your professional physician for professional assessment and treatment to be recommended.


When a common vascular headache continues despite one week of self-care remedies, consult and work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that will help you.  Several prescription drugs prescribed by a qualified professional physician, can stop a chronic migraine headaches.  However, doctors warn against over-reliance on any OTC medications which can lead to more frequent "rebound" headaches.


More Articles on Migraine Headaches


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