More than 39 million Americans suffer from migraines. They all experience symptoms differently, but they all have the same question: What causes this neurological disease?
Here, Dinash Yanamadula, MD, at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, unpacks the details about migraines to give you a better perspective on the condition and some practical tips to help you prevent them or lessen their severity.
Like any migraine sufferer, you want to know what causes them and what makes them happen. While that may sound like two different ways of asking the same question, it’s not. In fact, terminology matters a lot when it comes to migraines, so let’s take a closer look at two important words: cause and trigger.
Migraine is a neurological condition, and a debilitating headache is one of its many symptoms. What causes the condition is unknown.
Even though experts don’t know what causes migraines, they do know that certain factors can trigger symptoms. Triggers are not the root cause of the neurological condition of migraine, but they can set the symptoms into motion.
Once diagnosed with migraine, it’s important to find out what triggers your episodes. The sooner you narrow down the factors that set off your symptoms, the sooner you can take control of your migraines and mitigate the frequency and severity of your pain. Common triggers include:
The best way to zero in on the culprit or culprits is to keep a migraine diary. When you experience an episode, write down what you consumed and the activities you engaged in leading up to your symptoms. Dr. Yanamadula can help you figure out what’s triggering your pain, so you can make adjustments to prevent future episodes.
Migraine episodes differ from person to person, and the symptoms often come in phases:
A day or two before your migraine, you may get some warning signs that an episode is on its way. Some people crave certain foods, get a stiff neck, feel unusually thirsty, or yawn a lot.
Not all migraine sufferers experience the aura stage, but those who do report visual disturbances, temporary vision loss, tingling in their arms and legs, or weakness on one side of their body. You may also have uncontrollable body jerking, difficulty speaking, or hear music or sounds in your head.
The attack is the phase most people think of when they think of a migraine. The pain typically affects one side of the head, but many people feel it on both sides. The pain is intense and throbs relentlessly for 4-72 hours. In addition to head pain, many also experience nausea and/or vomiting and sensitivity to lights and sounds.
The aftermath of a migraine attack, called the postdrome phase, may leave you feeling drained and weakened. Although the pain is gone, any sudden head movement may cause sharp, albeit brief, pain. Conversely, some people feel elated after the completion of a migraine episode.
One of the best ways to address migraines is to identify and avoid your triggers. However, if you experience a migraine, there are several things you can do to ease the symptoms, including lying down in a dark and quiet room, rubbing your temples, and applying a cold compress to your head and neck.
Once Dr. Yanamadula diagnoses your condition and has a better understanding of your migraine type and triggers, he may prescribe medication to help reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines.
To learn more about how to identify your migraine triggers and how to prevent future migraines, book an appointment online or over the phone with Princeton Pain & Spine Institute today.