Headaches & Migraines


There are many different kinds of headaches but current research suggests that they often involve changes in neurotransmitter levels in the brain. These chemicals may be affected by various factors including musculo-skeletal tension, emotional strain and raised histamine levels.
 

What is a migraine?

Migraines usually involve periodic attacks of vascular headaches on one or both sides of the head. These may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity of the eyes to light (photophobia), increased sensitivity to sound (phonophobia), dizziness , blurred vision and cognitive disturbances. Migraines are significantly more common in women than in men.
 

What causes a migraine?

These symptoms may be triggered by musculo-skeletal tension, food sensitivity, stress and hormonal imbalance. The exact physiological cause of migraine headaches is not clearly understood but a decrease followed by an increase in blood flow to part of the brain is thought to be a probable mechanism of this condition. In other words, stretching a blood vessel wall results in pain. It is also thought that migraines may be caused by the release of inflammatory chemicals (see page on 'inflammation') or that levels of serotonin may decrease at the onset of a migraine attack. Some studies have suggested that migraine sufferers can inherit abnormal genes that control specific brain cell activity and are susceptible to over stimulation.

Typically for women the condition begins at puberty and finishes during menopause. Migraines may be worse around the two days before and the first two days of menstruation as this can cause spasms in the blood vessels at the base of the neck leading to severe headaches. Low adrenal and/or thyroid function can also be a contributing factor and certain foods that are high in tyramines, sulphites and nitrates can be problematic. 
 

Treatment

An integrated approach could use therapies such as acupuncture, physical therapy, diet, herbal medicine, lifestyle review and medication depending upon the requirements of the individual.