A migraine is a chronic neurological disease marked by frequent episodes of headaches and associated symptoms such as photophobia (aversion to light), phonophobia (aversion to sound), nausea, vomiting, and reduced functionality. According to Mayo Clinic, over 40 million people in the United States suffer from migraines.
Migraines are also ranked as the sixth most common disabler worldwide. Most times, migraine headaches are frequently misdiagnosed as sinus infections, muscle spasms, arthritis within the neck, or primary eye defects. Albeit disproportionately, women are more likely to suffer from migraines than men.
In the subsequent paragraphs, we’ll be taking a closer look at migraines and how magnesium comes in as a viable treatment for these inconveniencing symptoms.
Phases Of Migraines: All There Is To Know
Before we delve into appropriate migraine treatment alternatives, let’s take a look at this severe headache form and its phases.
Although it’s common for some individuals to term migraines as headaches, it’s much more severe than that. Typically, someone who suffers from a migraine is bound to experience one-sided, throbbing pain.
Based on a recent study, it’s postulated that 25% of migraines are precipitated by an “aura.” Unlike the widely known dictionary term, a migraine aura can be defined as a phase in which an individual suffers from a temporal visual defect before other migraine symptoms develop.
To put things into perspective, the phases of a migraine distinguish it from an ordinary headache. There are four migraine phases:
1. Prodrome Phase
The prodromal phase is marked by bodily changes that warn of an impending bout of migraine. Individuals may experience depression, insomnia, irritability, neck stiffness, increased thirst, and frequent urination.
2. Aura Phase
The aura phase may occur before or during the migraine. Aura phases are visual disturbances in the form of bright flashes, blind spots, or wavy, zigzagging lines.
It involves neurological changes such as blurred vision, speech changes, hallucination, and heightened fatigue. These symptoms can last for 20 to 60 minutes.
3. Attack Or Headache Phase
This phase is marked by severe pain that can last from 4 to 72 hours, depending on the individual or treatment. Symptoms of this phase include throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to stimulus.
During this stage, taking painkillers for a start is certain to reduce the pain a little bit.
The postdrome phase is identified through feelings of confusion, depression, and difficulty in concentration. Sometimes, individuals might report feelings of elation after a migraine.
What Are Episodic And Chronic Migraines?
Migraines are also classified based on the degree of their frequency. An individual is diagnosed with episodic migraines when they experience less than 14 attacks per month.
On the other hand, when a person suffers 15 or more attacks per month, that could be a tell-tale sign of a chronic migraine. The intensity of the attack does not affect this classification.
Episodic migraine, if untreated, will increase in frequency and become chronic. The method of progression from episodic to chronic migraine is unclear. People who suffer from chronic migraine experience more discomfort and higher disability rates. Comorbidities are also more common in patients with chronic migraines than in patients with episodic migraines.
Neurologists diagnose migraines using an individual’s symptoms, medical records, family history, physical and neurological condition. In complex cases, a professional may carry out diagnostic procedures like MRI and CT scans to rule out other causes of pain.
Causes Of Episodic Migraines
The causes of episodic migraines are unclear. Nonetheless, they are thought to be the result of genetic, physiological, and environmental conditions. Imbalances in pain-regulating neurotransmitter levels (serotonin) have also been implicated in some cases of episodic migraines.
Migraines may be triggered by the following:
1. Female Hormonal Disruptions
Pregnant, menstruating, or menopausal women experience recurring headaches due to estrogen fluctuations. The use of oral contraceptives and other drugs that affect estrogen levels can also trigger migraine episodes.
2. Eating Habits
Skipping meals or eating salty, processed foods can trigger migraines. Foods containing additives such as sweeteners and preservatives typically result in headaches. Migraines, also, stems from a diet deficient in minerals like magnesium. Alcohol, wine, and caffeinated drinks also play a role in triggering a migraine.
3. Physical Exertion
Migraines may be caused by intense physical activities like exercise, heavy lifting, and strenuous sexual activity. Home or workplace stress can also be a contributing factor to episodic migraines.
4. Sensory Stimulus
Loud noises, flashing or bright lights, powerful odors, and smoke can trigger bouts of migraine.
5. Alteration In Sleep Patterns
Changes in sleep patterns, sleeping too little or too much, can also trigger migraine episodes.
6. Medication Overuse
The use of painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen for longer periods than necessary can cause migraines. This happens when the drugs stop relieving pain and begin to trigger headaches. The individual unknowingly takes more of the medication to stop the headache, thereby perpetuating a migraine cycle.
Magnesium Therapy For Episodic Migraines
The body needs magnesium and other minerals for proper functioning. It is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and is involved in many physiological functions. Magnesium helps build muscles and bones. It also helps to regulate blood pressure and nerve function.
In the medical world, several studies have established a link between migraines and magnesium deficiencies in patients.
According to StuffThatWorks, a platform that aims to provide its patrons with accurate AI-generated data, magnesium ranks high as a viable treatment form for dealing with episodic migraines. Effectiveness-wise, users have reported varying levels of relief when taking magnesium.
Another study showed that individuals who used magnesium for migraines reported a 41.6 percent decline in attacks. One should note that symptom relief may result from magnesium used in combination with other forms of treatment.
Using Magnesium In Case Of A Migraine
Magnesium oxide pills are the preferred form of magnesium for treating headaches. Intravenous magnesium sulfate may also be used in treating migraines. The recommended daily dose of magnesium for migraines is about 400 to 500 mg.
Adequate consumption of magnesium rich-foods like leafy greens, almonds, mackerel, lentils, figs, bananas, dark chocolate, pumpkin, and avocado can make up for an individual’s daily magnesium requirement.
While magnesium usage ranks high in dealing with migraines, it might have several side effects on some people, if diarrhea, vomiting, or cramps (women) occur stop its usage.
Medications For Episodic Migraines
While magnesium might have some form of effectiveness for migraines, it’s pertinent to note that migraine treatment may be either preventive or pain-relieving.
Some notable mentions include:
- Antihypertensive Drugs – Beta-blockers (Inderal, Lopressor) and calcium antagonists such as Veleran may help prevent episodic migraines with aura.
- Antidepressants – Tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil and Aventil may also reduce the occurrence of episodic migraines. Doctors usually prescribe other medications if the patient complains of side effects like drowsiness.
- Anti-seizure Drugs – Anti-seizure drugs like Topamax and Qudexy XR are prescribed for migraine prevention. They should be prescribed with caution due to their side effects, especially in pregnant women.
Pain Relieving Medications
- Analgesics – Analgesics such as Motrin and Advil are particularly effective in dealing with symptoms of mild migraine. They should be used cautiously as prolonged use might cause medication-overuse headaches and gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Triptans – Triptans (Imitrex, Tosymra, Maxalt) act by antagonizing the brain’s pain pathways. These pills, shots, and sprays effectively manage many migraine symptoms but can increase the risk of cardiovascular ailments.
- Calcitonin Gene-related Peptides (CGRP) – This class of drugs (Ubrelvy, Nurtec ODT) are prescribed for treating migraines unaccompanied by aura. They relieve pain and hypersensitivity associated with migraines.
- Opioids – Opioids are potent painkillers that can help migraine sufferers who are unable to take other drugs. They should be prescribed cautiously because of the high risk of addiction.
- Antiemetics – In conjunction with analgesics, Reglan, Compro, and other antiemetic medication can help relieve migraine symptoms with nausea and vomiting.
Alternative Therapy And Lifestyle Adjustments
Individuals with migraine may benefit from other forms of therapy and lifestyle modifications such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Yoga meditation and relaxation exercises
- Journaling of symptoms to learn about triggers
- Staying hydrated by drinking lots of fluids
A migraine (whether episodic or chronic) is a painful neurological condition that can be highly debilitating. Fortunately, there are preventative and pain-relieving migraine remedies.
With magnesium being one of the effective ways of nullifying the symptoms that are associated with migraines, it’s important to take the right magnesium dose as seen above. Migraines with aura are particularly responsive to magnesium therapy.
Magnesium supplements are also inexpensive and widely available. Patients who believe they can benefit from magnesium treatment should seek a physician’s counsel regarding possible interactions with other medications and potential side effects.