Chronic migraines – Causes, symptoms, and management options
Chronic migraine is a condition where the affected person experiences at least 15 headache days a month. It is observed that at least 8 out of these 15 days are migraine headaches with severe symptoms, and this pattern of discomfort remains consistent for 3 months. Initially, it may not be a frequently occurring episode, however, with time, the episodes may get regular with chronic headaches. If left untreated, this condition can affect a person’s life.
Several factors determine the onset of this kind of migraine. One of them includes a steady increase in the frequency of episodic headaches. Over-the-counter treatment options that are used to treat frequent headaches stop affecting over time, leading to side effects that develop into chronic headaches. Some other factors that can put an individual at a high risk of developing this condition include mood disorders like anxiety or depression, snoring, excessive caffeine intake, ongoing disturbed sleep patterns, and a history of stressful life events causing emotional or physical trauma. An unhealthy lifestyle leading to an increase in the body mass index (BMI) can also be a causal factor.
There is no difference between symptoms of chronic migraines and episodic migraines. However, the only thing to notice is the increased frequency of episodic headaches in a month. Some typical symptoms of this illness can be observed for timely diagnosis and treatment.
- Headaches ranging from moderate to severe intensity worsen with any physical movements or activities
- Throbbing or a pressured pain
- Experiencing this kind of pain on one or both sides of the head
- Feeling nauseated
- Feeling dizzy
- Experiencing sensitivity toward sounds, smells, and light
Transitioning symptoms (episodic to chronic migraines)
- Noting an increase in the number of headaches or migraine attacks
- Using prescription options to manage the headaches
A health professional will take a look at the affected person’s health history. If needed, the doctor may ask questions that help understand the migraine patterns. The questions include how and when the migraines begin, how long they last, are there any notable physical factors or triggers that worsen the condition, and where the location of the pain is.
The professional may also ask for a detailed history of other health conditions like anxiety, depression, lifestyle choices that may trigger these headaches, any treatment options used, and possible side effects that could be factored into the diagnosis. Based on the results, appropriate treatment methods will be advised and implemented.
Most of the treatment methods focus on managing the symptoms, the migraine attacks, and reducing the episodes and pain.
One of the treatment therapies includes focusing on lifestyle changes.
- Focusing on maintaining a healthy BMI level
- Introducing doctor-recommended exercises in the fitness routine
- Following a structured and sustainable meal plan to eliminate triggers of migraine (Please note fasting and skipping meals can trigger headaches)
- Learning calming techniques like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises to control stress
- Staying well hydrated
- Fixing an improper sleep schedule (7 to 8 hours of rest is recommended)
- Starting appropriate treatment for any existing health conditions like mood disorders, anxiety, and depression
Some other treatment options for managing migraine attacks include:
- Treating mild migraines with the right dosage, as recommended by the doctor
- Treating potential side effects like nausea with recommended options
Other techniques include:
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
This non-invasive technique makes use of a magnetic coil to stimulate or influence the brain’s electrical activity, which can help reduce the pain caused by migraines.
- Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation
This technique uses a device that activates low-level electrical current to stimulate the upper branches of the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for communicating pain to the body. This method helps reduce the pain associated with migraines.
Also, maintain a headache diary and note down the possible triggers and the number of migraine attacks in a month. If there’s a notable increase in the attacks, consult a doctor at the earliest. Knowing the triggers can help the doctor chalk out an effective treatment plan.
Preventive treatments and methods
Apart from treatment options that help manage the symptoms, there are preventive treatment methods that reduce the episodes of these headaches to a certain extent. These include using beta blockers and other therapies. One such treatment method also includes using an Allergan product named BOTOX®, which doctors recommend for those 18 years and older. The intravenous treatment method is administered around the neck or the head, where the migraine pain usually affects the person. This ten-minute procedure is not painful and can prevent headaches for three months. The procedure takes place in a doctor’s clinic under close supervision.
Chronic migraine can be painful and disrupt everyday life activities, so choosing the right treatment plan is crucial. Get all the information from a licensed health professional and seek the best possible treatment plan according to a detailed diagnosis.