Chronic migraine headaches can incapacitate even the toughest people. The pain can last anywhere from hours to days, and the problems that often accompany a migraine can make everyday activities excruciating. Patients who come to DASHA® wellness & spa located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan often have questions about their migraine diagnosis. What causes migraines? What can be done to manage and alleviate incapacitating migraine symptoms?
Much research suggests that a migraine stems from vascular irregularities—that it is caused by the constricting and expanding of the brain’s blood vessels. Other theories propose that the causes have more to do with chemicals in the brain that regulate our perception of pain. Whatever the cause, a migraine is nothing like a regular headache. While a regular headache tends to be an infrequent occurrence that feels like a dull, all-over pressure around the head, migraines are chronic and often localized to one part of the head. Moreover, migraine headaches are almost always accompanied by other symptoms: dizziness, blurred vision or an “aura,” nausea, and/or heightened sensitivity to smells, sounds, and light.
Most migraine sufferers also report “triggers” to their headaches. Common triggers include stress, caffeine, alcohol, MSG, menstruation, stress, skipped meals, smoking, and sleeping too long or too little. Triggers are as individual as the migraine sufferer, however. The challenge for the patient is to find his or her own trigger—and to avoid it. Since the predisposition to migraines is thought to be inherited, Dr. Darren Pollack often encourages his migraine patients to survey other family members about their own headache patterns and triggers.
At the DASHA® wellness & spa, Dr. Darren Pollack combines patient education with a number of options for alternative migraine therapy.Biofeedback, for example, helps the patient learn to regulate the relaxation response. To use the brain to control the body functions that cause tension and trigger pain. Especially in the early stages of a migraine, biofeedback can empower individuals to gain mastery over their own pain. Acupuncture is another alternative method of managing migraine headaches, and, according to Dr. Darren Pollack, acupuncture has helped some DASHA® wellness & spa patients to leave their prescription medications behind permanently.
Finally, the personal training staff in the Manhattan offices can help the migraine sufferer to integrate just the right level and kind of regular exercise into their routines, so as to build a layer of migraine prevention into their daily habits.
One final piece of advice: Dr. Darren Pollack recommends that those suffering from abrupt, severe headaches—or headaches following some sort of trauma or injury—head straight to their physician or local emergency room. Some severe headaches are signs that immediate medical intervention is needed.