Migraine Headache – Know It All

Although any head pain can be miserable, this type of headache is often disabling and may incapacitate a person for hours or even days. In some cases, these are preceded or accompanied by a sensory warning sign (aura), such as nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.  Whether or not you have auras, there will be one or more sensations of premonition (prodrome) several hours before headache strikes.

Signs and symptoms

  • Severe pain — many sufferers feel pain on only one side of their head that hinders regular daily activities
  • Nausea with or without vomiting.
  • Pain typically lasts from four to 72 hours, several times a month or just once or twice a year.

Common triggers include:

  • Hormonal changes. Women often experience pain immediately before or during their periods. Others report more during pregnancy or menopause.
  • Hormonal medications, such as contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy.
  • Foods. Common offenders include alcohol; aged cheeses; chocolate; monosodium glutamate — a key ingredient in some Asian foods; certain seasonings; and many canned and processed foods. Skipping meals or fasting also can be triggers.
  • Stress.
  • Sensory stimulus. Bright lights and sun glare can produce head pain. So can unusual smells — including pleasant scents, such as perfume and flowers, and unpleasant odors, such as paint thinner and secondhand smoke.
  • Physical factors. Intense physical exertion, including sexual activity and changes in sleep patterns.
  • Changes in the environment. A change of weather, season, altitude level, barometric pressure or time zone.


Pain-relieving medications
It may help if you rest or sleep in a dark room after taking them:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications, such as ibuprofen or Paracetamol. For best results, take these drugs as soon as you experience signs or symptoms of an impending attack.
  • Triptans. Sumatriptan (Imitrex) was the first drug specifically developed to treat migraines. 


One or more of these suggestions may be helpful for you:

  • Avoid triggers. If certain foods seem to have triggered in the past, eat something else. If certain scents are a problem, try to avoid them. Try to establish a daily routine with regular sleep patterns and regular meals.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise reduces tension and can help.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting.


  • Keep a diary. A diary can help you determine what triggers your migraines. Note how long they last and what if anything, provides relief. Be sure to record your response to any medications you take. Also pay special attention to foods you ate in the 24 hours preceding attacks.
  • Try relaxation exercises. Spend at least a half-hour each day doing something you find relaxing — listening to music, gardening, taking a hot bath or reading.
  • Get enough sleep, but don’t oversleep. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
  • Rest and relax. If possible, rest in a dark, quiet room when you have an attack.
Share This