Migraines are one of the most prevalent health complaints in the world. It is estimated that approximately 40 million women, men, and children in the United States and approximately 12% of the population worldwide suffer from migraine headaches. That is a staggering number of people struggling with this neurological disorder. (1)
To raise awareness about the serious nature of headaches and migraines, June is designated as National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. There are many types of headache disorders. Most headaches are transitory, while some can be chronic and debilitating. The most notorious classification of headaches is the migraine.(2)
A typical migraine lasts between 4 and 72 hours. It is characterized by unilateral or localized pain that feels pulsating or throbbing in nature. Many migraine sufferers can point to exactly where they feel the pain and describe it in great detail. And the pain is far worse than simply a case of just “having a bad headache.”
Migraine headaches meet specific diagnostic criterion that are distinctive from other types of headaches.(3) For example, about one third of migraine sufferers also experience other neurological symptoms prior to the onset of the migraine. This may be a characteristic visual disturbance called an aura. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo, or dizziness can also occur. Other symptoms that accompany a migraine may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, or sensitivity to sound. This is a combination of symptoms that makes it difficult to even leave bed, much less feel functional.
More than 90% of migraine sufferers are unable to work or perform other tasks of daily living during a migraine attack.(1) For some people migraines are a periodic affliction. However, for others, it is a chronic incapacitating disorder that destroys their quality of life. Most people’s experience with migraines lies in the middle of this spectrum.
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The susceptibility to migraines is often hereditary. Although the lining of the brain (the cortex) normally fluctuates in thickness to some extent, MRI’s have demonstrated that this lining is thicker than normal in migraine sufferers. This may explain why migraine sufferers are more sensitive to changes in their environment and fluctuating weather patterns. (4)
While many people try to manage their headaches and migraines with over the counter pain relievers and NSAIDS, a large number of migraine sufferers require costly prescription medications. This can make the treatment for migraines a substantial investment. A visit to the emergency room for treatment of a migraine is not unusual. Most standard medical treatments fail to provide lasting results and the migraines almost always return again after conventional treatment. (5)
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On the other hand, Naturopathic Medicine recognizes that chronic headaches of all kinds and migraines, in particular, are symptomatic of profound imbalance in the body. To get to the root cause of the disturbance, a person’s entire health picture is explored. Diet, food allergies, cellular toxicity, stress, poor sleep quality, dehydration, and nutritional deficiencies are some of the factors that play contributory roles in the frequency, intensity, and duration of migraine headaches. The more willing the individual is to make the necessary changes to improve their overall health, the more likely they are to experience positive results.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, migraine headache is a condition I am really passionate about and I have found that migraines are a condition that is highly treatable with Naturopathic Medicine. In the past, I had migraines myself, so I know how miserable they are and how much it can affect the quality of life for people who experience them. I also know how liberating it is to be free of them. I have been naturally migraine free for nearly 2 decades.
I am being honest when I say there is no single magic bullet for treating migraines. I help individuals by evaluating the contributing lifestyle and nutritional factors that are inflaming their nervous system. I then recommend a natural individualized multi-pronged approach to stimulate the body’s intrinsic healing process. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the frequency and intensity of the headaches or migraines. Some individuals experience lasting relief while some individuals with chronic headaches and migraines benefit from a combination of naturopathic recommendations and conventional medications.
- Hadjikhani, N. The relevance of cortical thickness in migraine sufferers.Expert Rev Neurother. 2008 Mar; 8(3): 327–329.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3745624/)
- Shao, E., Hughes, J., Eley, R. The presenting and prescribing patterns of migraine in an Australian emergency department: A descriptive exploratory study.World J Emerg Med. 2017; 8(3): 170–176. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5496823/)