A migraine usually presents as a severe headache felt as a throbbing pain at the front or side of the head that gets worse when you move and prevents you from carrying out normal activities.
In some cases, the pain can occur on both sides of your head and may affect your face or neck.
Many people may also have other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.
Migraines are a fairly common health condition, affecting around 20% of women and around 7% of men. They usually begin in early adulthood.
Migraines can often be preceded by an aura, where there are warning signs before the migraine begins, such as seeing flashing lights. Not all migraines have an aura however. (It is however also possible to have the aura without the headache following, which is called a silent migraine.)
Some people have migraines frequently, up to several times a week. Other people only have a migraine occasionally. It is possible for years to pass between migraine attacks.
The symptoms of a migraine usually last between three hours and three days, although you may feel very tired for up to a week afterwards.
Causes of migraines
The exact cause of migraines is still largely unknown, although they are thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain.
It’s not clear what causes this change in brain activity, but as your chance of developing migraines is higher if a close relative suffers from them, it is possible that your genes make you more likely to experience migraines as a result of a specific trigger.
Many possible migraine triggers have been suggested, including hormonal, emotional, physical, dietary, environmental and medicinal factors.
Some common more controllable triggers include stress/anxiety, tiredness/poor sleep quality, neck and shoulder tension, poor posture, dehydration and dietary triggers such as caffeine, chocolate and cheese.
Treatment of migraines
Some medications may help migraines but there is no cure, however identifying and avoiding specific triggers and combinations of triggers can be very effective in preventing them.
Keeping a diet diary to identify trigger foods is always helpful as is seeing an osteopath to have your neck and upper back assessed and treated, as well as giving advice on your posture and working position.