It’s common to think of migraines as headaches. However, technically speaking, a migraine is not a headache. The “headache” or attack portion of the migraine is only one of four migraine phases to take place within the body.
Along with its four phases, the migraine is also different from a headache in that it involves dilation. In a headache, blood vessels in the head contract. In a migraine, they contract and then dilate. Let’s look below at migraine symptoms as divided into four different phases of the experience (1).
The migraine can be understood in terms of a basic chronological development across four phases: prodromal, aura, attack, and postdromal. Note that the second phase – aura – does not always occur. Let’s review each of these phases:
Prodromal phase – During this phase, the body is sending out alerts that a migraine may be about to occur. These are a few of the standard symptoms experienced during the prodromal phase:
- Frustration and strong emotions
- Desire for specific foods (chocolate, for example)
- Frequent urination.
Be aware that regarding dehydration, that is a preventable trigger of migraines. Make sure you are always getting plenty of fluids as a general tactic.
Aura phase – During this phase, which (as stated above) does not always occur, you will experience bizarre sensory experiences. Because this phase does not always occur, the two main types of migraines are migraine with aura (a.k.a. classic migraine) and migraine without aura (a.k.a. common migraine). There a wide range of migraine auras, including the following:
- Temporary blindness in one specific portion of the visual field
- Hallucinations or flickering lights
- Language difficulties, including expression and comprehension.
- Attack phase – Unfortunately, unlike with the aura, all types of migraines include the attack or headache portion. The attack typically lasts between 3 and 72 hours, as a general guideline. The attack is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Pain usually begins between the eyes and the eyebrows
- Usually it is “unilateral” – only experienced on one side
- Typically involves a throbbing sensation that gets worse during strenuous activities.
- Extreme sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights
- Gastrointestinal disturbances.
- Postdromal phase – Once the attack has subsided, you arrive in the last of the migraine phases. The postdromal phase may extend up to 24 hours. Its symptoms indicate that the migraine is still making an impact in the body. Here are common ones:
- Exhaustion (note this similarity to the prodromal phase)
- Continuing, sporadic instances of pain.
Multidisciplinary treatment for migraines
At Wellness Plus Clinic, our high rate of success with migraine relief is primarily because we approach this debilitating health disorder from every possible angle. Our multidisciplinary treatment plans optimize your health, both reducing immediate pain and adjusting your body toward a pain-free future. Get your free consultation today at 404-522-5552.