Migraine Causes: Triggers and Treatment Options

There are a wide spectrum of migraines to be sure.  Sometimes, differentiating between a migrane headache and other types of headaches can be challenging.  Like all health-related conditions, you should consult with your local health care practitioner to provide you with more accurate information or a diagnosis.  The migraine causes information being presented here is to help you figure out if what you’re feeling is actually related to a migraine or some other type of headache.

One of the main migraine symptoms to be aware of is a debilitating type of headache pain that may or may not be associated with an aura.  This aura is typically a period of time that is hours or so ahead of a migraine onset and is characterized by sensitivity to light, sound and head movement.  One may also experience a lack of energy and feel nauseous, even vomiting in some cases.  Even days before the migraine, there can be a premonition or feeling that one is coming.  This phase or premonition is also called a prodrome or prodromal phase of migraine.

Other symptoms include pain or weakness, even partial paralysis, in the hands, arms or legs.  One can actually experience symptoms that are very similar to a stroke – with speech, vision and motor loss symptoms.  This is why a health care practitioner plays an important role in this condition.  If you’ve never been diagnosed with migraines, you may just be experiencing a tension headache or have sinus headache symptoms that can mimic some aspects of a migraine.  These are easy enough to rule out if you have a background in the health care arena.

What Causes Migraines?

There can be a variety of causes of migraines that have to do with the five senses.  That is to say, as was mentioned, there are  bright light and loud sounds that can activate or bring on a migraine attack.  Additionally, smells and tastes can also initiate an attack.  Sensation in the form of exercise or physical pain or injury can also bring one on.  It seems that there are no clear answers as to the sole cause of one’s migraine pain.  In fact, what causes one for one individual may not bring one on for another.  This is often one of the more frustrating aspects of this type of headache.

It is accepted that stress is also a factor that affects not only the onset of a migraine but also its intensity.  Many people that live with daily stress or more profound emotional or mental trauma may find that their headaches are more frequent or intense.  If you suffer with headaches everyday, then you need to also have other tests and examinations performed as you may be suffering with another form of headache or from something more systemic, hormonal or biophysical in nature.

Migraine Triggers

These triggers are some of the more common or well-understood ways in which migraines can be brought on.  They can happen from dietary factors, chemical factors, physical reasons and mental or emotional roots.  We’ve discussed the physical reasons – sight, sound, smell, touch.  But, what we haven’t touched on is the dietary components.  These include things like:  alcohol, aged cheeses, preserved meats, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavor enhancers (like MSG), chocolate, certain nuts and more.  Part of the understanding about these dietary factors has to do with the way they affect the amine metabolism in the body and also serotonin, a neurotransmitter.

Chemical agents, like indoor cleaning products, pesticides, fertilizers, and even medicines can trigger a migraine.  This may seem ironic as some of the migraine medications on the market have side effects that include headaches.  There are also a certain type of headaches, called ‘rebound headaches’ that happen after a medicine is stopped or some trigger is removed from the environment.  These are usually different than cluster headaches in scope and intensity as well.  The reason the cluster is mentioned here is because it, too, has chemical triggers that can bring them on.   Finally, as mentioned, there are also mental and emotional stresses that can initiate and prolong the effects or make more intense, the symptoms of migraine pain.

It is not perfectly clear why these factors all trigger a migraine because the underlying reason for why migraine occur is not completely understood.  Some argue that migraines have an electrical basis.  This argument uses the idea that the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain fire wildly, much like an epileptic attack, causing a firestorm of electrical activity, which then leads to pain signals being registered in regions of the brain that process this type of signal.  This is why some of the medications prescribed for migraines are anti-epileptics.

Another hypothesis is due to the fact that it is a blood vessel dilation.  Migraines are classified as a type of vascular headache for this reason.  In this case, it is argued that the diameter of the blood vessels in the brain expands and the nerves that wrap around them then send a pain signal that is registered in the brain.  Additionally, the sympathetic nervous system is then activated, causing a decrease in blood flow to the extremities, leading to cold hands and feet and loss of color in the skin.  This sympathetic response can also cause a decrease in absorption of medicines taken for migraines and is also partly to blame for the sensitivities to light and sound.

So, even though 28 million Americans suffer with migraine headaches each year, more women than men, migraine causes are still not that well understood.  It is suggested that as many as 50% of people with migraines go un-diagnosed.  As a chiropractor Gilbert AZ is as likely a place as anywhere for people to experience these types of headaches.  And, medicine is not the only way to treat these types of headaches either.  In fact, more and more people are choosing to follow more natural or holistic forms of health care everyday.  The style of care offered in our office is called Network Spinal Analysis and we use it to help your body unwind the tension that exists within the spine and spinal structures.  Often, people with all sorts of symptoms begin to experience changes.  Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you.


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