MigrainesCebu Daily News
THERE is little debate that headaches are the most prevalent and costly pain disorder of our age. Frequent and severe headaches are experienced by an estimated 20-30 million suffers in the US alone, causing untold personal and financial losses.
The prevalence of headaches can be attributed primarily to the abundance of stress that we all experience in our daily lives. Indeed, the headaches that nearly everyone get once in a whole are aptly named tension headaches because they are are brought on by tension and stress, more often than not. This condition involves the actual tensing or mechanical contraction of the muscles in the region of he head and neck. The pain of a tension headache can be felt in areas such as the shoulders, neck, head and jaw.
The tension headache can be classified as either chronic or episodic. Chronic tension headaches are those that occur more than 15 times each month for more than six months, or occur more than 150 times each year. Episodic headaches are those that occur less often. The root of each, however, is the same: tension.
Most tension headaches are managed effectively with over-the-counter analgesics. However, the long term use of any drug is potentially harmful physically and is inadvisable; that’s why tension headache sufferers can and should learn to control their pain with natural therapies. The variety of relaxation techniques and modes of psychotherapy can be used effectively to help patients manage their stress and, at the same time, substantially reduce (if not, eliminate) the intensity and frequency of tension headaches.
Tension headaches can be quite painful and even chronic, but they should not be confused with migraine headaches. The debilitating and recurring pain of migraine headaches has far more complex roots, symptoms and treatment plans.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is a type of vascular headache caused by over-strained blood vessels in and around the head. The intensity of migraine pain can impair one’s ability to concentrate and focus on even the simplest task, affecting work production, quality of life and of course, physical health. A recent study by health expert reports that the migraine headache is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting as many as 17.6 percent of women and 5.7 percent of men in the Philippines. Although migraines are not yet fully understood by the medical community, years of research on this subject have uncovered some interesting facts.
* Migraines affect three times more women than men.
* The severity of the pain does not differ by sex.
* Migraines can begin during childhood, but most often begin during adolescence and certainly will appear before age 40.
* Migraines often run in families, although no specific genetic link has been found.
The physiological process that causes migraines is well studied and understood. The process begins when the arteries and arterioles constrict. This constriction decreases the amount of blood able to reach the brain. When this happens, the body attempts to compensate for the reduced blood flow. The brain stimulates the production of neurochemicals that are intended to maintain adequate blood flow and proper nutrition to the cells of the brain. Many times the brain “panics” and stimulates an overabundance of these neurochemicals. This in turn causes the dilation and swelling of particular blood vessels, especially around the temples, forehead and eyes, continuing he chain reaction by stimulating stretching in the vessel walls. This series of actions, which is the brain’s way of compensating for the reduction of the blood supply, produces the sensation of pain.
Although the symptoms and pain of migraine tend to vary from one person to the next, they do present a number of general characteristics. Some people experience a migraine with an aura (often called a classical migraine). As the blood vessels constrict and reduce the blood supply to the brain, many people get a “warning” that migraine is coming. This warning, or aura, presents itself through a collection of physical symptoms such as tingling or weakness of the limbs, dizziness or faintness. Also, the aura commonly affects vision; sufferers either will see things that aren’t there, such as sparkling lights or zigzag designs, or they will be blinded by shimmering lights that block their vision completely. Others experience a migraine without aura (sometimes called a common migraine).
The pain for both is the same. Pain in migraine is confined to one side of the head (the word migraine actually means one side of the head) and can be described as a throbbing or pounding centered around the eye and/or temple. The pain lasts four to 72 hours and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and a heightened sensory perception that make lights, sounds, and smells seem stronger and more irritating than usual. The pain of migraine usually is aggravated by moving or bending over.
A most common question from migraine sufferers is “What causes this?”. Unfortunately, there is no one easy answer. The external stimuli that trigger migraine headaches are many, and patients often find that they are susceptible to different ones to different times.
Stress is a common migraine trigger in two ways. A migraine attack may occur smack in the middle of a stressful experience, such as a traffic jam or arguments or it may occur as a let-down response when the stress subsides and the body is ready to relax.
There are a member of others common causes as well. In some women, migraines are associated with hormonal factors such as menstruation, menopause, oral contraceptives, pregnancy and postmenopausal therapy. Medications can trigger a migraine; these include nitroglycerin, hydralazine hydrochloride (Apresoline) and reserpine. Certain foods have become associated with migraines including chocolate, cheese, red wine, processed meats, foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) or Nutra Sweet Artificial Sweetener. Also, temperature changes, vigorous physical exercise and hypertension all can spark an attack. Even seemingly benign things such as heat, fatigue, flickering lights, glare fluorescent lights and strong smells of perfume or gasoline can cause migraine
Pinpointing the specific cause of your migraine can be difficult because triggers often act in combination with each other. For example, you may show no reaction to cheese or red wine, but of you have the two together after a stressful day–bingo!–it’s migraine time. Another person may eat Chinese food for years without any problem, but if he eats a Chinese dish containing MSG on the day after losing a night’s sleep, this could trigger a migraine. Some migraine sufferers have successfully zeroed in on their triggers by keeping a written log of their activities, diet and experiences on the days they suffer migraines. This is very helpful in managing migraines. If you can identify what causes your attack, you can limit recurrences by avoiding your triggers. (To be continued next Monday)
Calixto S. Paquiao, A.B; B.S.E;P.E was the national coach of the Philippine weightlifting team from 1977 to 1985, based in Rizal Memorial Stadium and Sports Complex, Metro Manila. He is a Certified Coach of International Coaching and Refereeing Course and a U.S certified Fitness Trainer by Nautilus U.S.A specializing in personal fitness training, sports nutrition and weight management. He was enshrined in the Cebu Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. He was trained and certified by The PUM Netherlands Senior Experts based in Hague on International Therapeutic Massage and Pain Control. He specializes in natural therapy: chronic and acute back, shoulder, knee, sciatic nerve pain, sports injuries (no fracture), migraine. He is currently fitness director of Coach Pacquiao Fitness and Wellness Center.
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