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Migraines are a severe type of headache and are a recognised medical condition where certain parts of the brain stay in a hypersensitive state, reacting acutely and excessively to normal stimuli. Migraines can be sporadic (once or twice a year) or chronic (two or three times a week) and range from 4-72 hours in duration. Susceptibility to migraines could be inherited and it is believed that hormones play a large role as three times as many women as men suffer from migraines.      



The specific cause of migraines remains unclear and could be multifactorial. Migraines are generally triggered by:  


  • Certain foods or chemicals in your diet (common culprits include cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits and alcohol),  
  • Sleep disturbances (inadequate or excessive),  
  • Hormonal fluctuations especially the menstrual cycle,  
  • External stimuli (such as excessive heat, light, noise or certain chemicals),  
  • Emotional causes (such as stress, depression, excitement or fatigue), and/or  
  • Relaxation after a period of stress.      



A migraine is more acute and severe that a normal tension headache. Typical symptoms can include one or more of the following:  

  • One sided moderate to severe headache,  
  • Throbbing pain,  
  • Aggravating pain with movement,  
  • Nausea and vomiting,  
  • Sensitivity to light, noise and smell,  
  • Aura (visual disturbances such as bright zigzag lines, flashing lights, difficulty in focusing or blind spots),  
  • Difficulty in concentrating or confusion,  
  • Problems with articulation or co-ordination,  
  • Diarrhoea,  
  • Stiffness of the neck and shoulders, and/or  
  • Tingling, pins and needles or numbness or even one-sided limb weakness.      


Migraines usually follow a five phase pattern of:  

1.Early warning symptoms of changing mood or appetite, fatigue or body aches.

2.Aura resulting is visual and sometimes speech disturbances.

3.Headache usually severe and on one side of the head for a few hours or days.

4.Resolution which for some may be assisted by sleep, vomiting, medication or time.  

5.Recovery where symptoms improve but sufferers may feel drained for up to 24hours.  


Treatment options  

Migraines vary greatly from person to person and so does the treatment. Sufferers may find it beneficial to develop a migraine management plan that involves strategies such as:  

  • Staying in a cool dark environment with minimal external stimuli,  
  • Avoiding known triggers (such as food, loud noises or sleep changes),  
  • Relaxation techniques (such as massage, meditation or acupuncture),  
  • Medication to relieve pain and/or  to alter pressure on blood vessels, and/or  
  • Stress management.  



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.   Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.  



Better Health Channel  

Headache Australia