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Migraine Headaches

Migraines can begin at any point starting in childhood through adulthood and can become extremely debilitating. The symptoms involved with migraine headaches can last anywhere between a couple of hours to a couple of day. These painful headaches can easily prevent you from enjoying everyday activities and severely inhibit your quality of life. Although there is much that is unknown about what causes these headaches, some of the most common causes of migraine headaches include:

  • Genetics

    • Migraine headaches may run in multiple family members because of a genetic component

  • Chemical imbalances in the brain

    • There is high suspicion that low levels of chemicals like seratonin can be be responsible for causing migraine headaches

What can trigger migraine headaches to occur?

Those that are predisposed to developing migraine headaches usually have certain triggers that can cause a migraine attack to occur. These triggers include:

  • Certain foods

    • Nitrates used to preserve foods (meats)

    • MSG and aspartame (sweetener)

    • Aged cheese

      • Naturally produced chemical called tyramine​ results from fermentation and aging process can trigger migraine headaches

    • Red wine

      • Naturally produced chemicals called tannins found in wine can trigger migraine headaches

    • Chocolate

  • Stress

  • Hormone changes

    • Menopause​

    • Certain stages of the menstrual cycle

    • Pregnancy

  • Birth control pills

  • Sleep disturbances

    • Sleeping too little​

    • Oversleeping

  • Environment exposure

    • Br​ight lights

    • Loud sounds

    • Strong or nauseating smells

What type of pain can you experience with migraine headaches?

Migraine headaches can last anywhere from 4 hours to more than 72 hours per each attack. These headaches can present with:​

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Sensitivity to sound

  • Throbbing or pulsating pain 

  • Pain on one or both sides of the head

  • Pressure behind the eyes

  • Nausea

  • Feeling unbalanced or lightheaded

  • Blurred vision

How can our St. Louis pain doctors help diagnose your migraine headache?

At St. Louis Spine and Joint Pain Specialists, we are highly skilled and experienced at diagnosing migraine headaches and differentiating them from other types of headaches. It is important to get the right diagnosis by knowledgeable pain doctors as the treatment for this type of headache is different than other types of headaches such as occipital neuralgia.  

  • Thorough history and physical exam. A good history can pinpoint possible triggers associated with migraine headaches and determine the severity of these headaches. 

  • MRI

    • Only used to rule out other causes of headaches if there is a suspicion of possible brain tumor, brain bleed or infection

What are your treatment options?

Migraine headaches can be well controlled with certain medications and other interventions. An individual treatment plan is required to maximize the amount of relief that you can receive for your migraine headaches. Treatments includes:  

  • There are two types of medications used for management of migraine headaches. One type is for pain relief during the migraine attacks and the other type is for preventing migraines from occurring.

    • Medications for pain relief during migraine headache attacks​​

      • Ibuprofen​

      • Tylenol

      • Triptans (Imitrex, Maxalt, Relpax)

      • Ergots (Cafergot, Migergot)

      • Oral steroids

    • Medications for preventing migraine headache attacks

      • Cardiovascular medications (Inderal, Verapamil)​

      • Antidepressants

        • Can block pain signals from migraine headaches​

      • Anticonvulsants 

  • Massage therapy

  • Biofeedback

    • Helps to control stress that could be a trigger factor for migraine headaches​

  • Acupuncture 

  • Botox Injections

    • Has been shown to be an extremely effective way of decreasing chronic migraine headaches​

What can you do to avoid or decrease migraine headaches?

  • Good sleep hygeine

    • Keeping a regular and consistent sleeping​ schedule can decrease the amount of migraine headaches that occur

  • Avoid foods that trigger migraine headaches

    • Avoiding foods with preservatives and certain natural chemicals found in aged cheese and wine can decrease the frequency of migraine headaches 

  • Exercise​

  • Reduce stress

    • Yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques

For more information or to discuss an appropriate treatment plan for your migraine headaches with one of our specialized pain management physicians, call Saint Louis Spine and Joint Pain Specialists today.

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