Migraines affect 39 million people in the US alone. That’s about 12% of the population. It is shocking then that many people still believe migraines are just a bad headache. One of the most debilitating features of this neurological condition is that the problems don’t stop when the headache ends. We’re going to look at what is often referred to as a migraine hangover – the symptoms that follow the headache phase.
What Is a Migraine Hangover?
The technical term is a migraine postdrome. The prodrome occurs in the 24 hours leading up to a migraine headache. The postdrome occurs in the 24 hours after (although sometimes symptoms can last longer). What are the symptoms of a migraine postdrome?
Some symptoms are similar to what occurs during the migraine itself. For example, your sensory sensitivities may linger or you may be dizzy. However, there are other symptoms that may not set in until after the migraine headache goes away. These include:
- Mood swings – A person can go from irritable or depressed to elated
- Weakness – Fatigue is common after a migraine
- Brain fog – Cognitive difficulties can make it hard to concentrate and may limit short-term recollection
Does Everyone Get All Migraine Stages?
The short answer is no. In fact, you may not even have every stage with each migraine, even if you occasional have all four stages. The four possible stages of a migraine are:
- Prodrome – These are the symptoms that occur up to a day before a migraine strikes. Sometimes people confuse these early symptoms for triggers. For example, having food cravings is a migraine prodrome symptom. However, since the migraine sets in after eating the food that was craved, some people end up thinking that particular type of food is triggering the migraines.
- Aura – Only about 20-25% of migraines feature this phase that happens 20-30 minutes before the headache. Most of the symptoms are visual such as seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines.
- Headache – This is what migraines are known for, but you may be surprised to learn that only about 85% of migraines feature a headache according to one study. The colloquial term for a migraine with no headache is a silent migraine. Symptoms can include anything from visual changes to vestibular symptoms to sensory sensitivity.
- Postdrome – This is the migraine hangover phase that we have been discussing.
Is there any way to reduce the risk of experiencing a migraine postdrome? Since doctors don’t know what causes migraines to begin with, it is no wonder that there is little understanding as to what causes this lesser-known phase. For now, the best way to avoid a migraine hangover is just to have fewer migraines, but how can you accomplish that goal?
Reducing the Frequency and Severity of Migraines
One thing that people do to reduce the frequency of migraines is to maintain a migraine journal. This may be able to help you track your own personal triggers. While some of these triggers are not things you can avoid (weather-related triggers are unfortunately common), there are some things you can do to experience fewer migraines. A few suggestions include:
- Eat on a regular schedule – Skipping a meal is a far more common trigger than consuming any particular food.
- Avoid foods you are sensitive to – If you have any sensitivities or allergies to foods, avoid these.
- Sleep – Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is important. Not only does consistent sleep reduce the amount of pain a person feels, but lack of sleep can trigger a migraine.
- Stress management – Stress is a major factor in migraine flare-ups. You can’t avoid all stress, so finding positive ways to cope with stress is important to migraine management (because negative stress relievers like smoking or alcohol may actually make migraines worse).
- Maintain a healthy spine – One of the most common migraine symptoms is neck pain. In fact, neck pain occurs during the prodrome or headache phase for about 75% of patients. This may help to indicate a possible source of migraines.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic and Migraines
As a result of the connection between neck pain and migraines, many people have discovered upper cervical chiropractic care as a possible solution. What sets this niche apart from general chiropractic care? Here are three important factors:
- Precision – Before you ever get an adjustment, a patient history is taken, a physical examination is performed, and diagnostic imaging is used. This allows us to pinpoint even the slightest misalignment of the C1 and C2 vertebrae at the base of the skull.
- Gentle – Because of how precise the adjustments are, they are also extremely gentle. That means upper cervical chiropractic is safe for the whole family, even if some family members are very elderly. Even an infant can have an adjustment.
- Long-Lasting – Gentle adjustments hold longer. That will allow you to eventually space your visits out, making this a cost-efficient form of care.
Even the slightest upper cervical misalignment can have far-reaching effects. For example, since the C1 protects the brainstem, a misalignment can inhibit brainstem function. Because the cervical vertebrae facilitate blood flow to the brain, misalignments can affect this blood flow. These are just a couple of ways that a misalignment can lead to migraines.
If you are suffering from migraines, especially if you have a history of head or neck trauma, give upper cervical a try. Scheduling a consultation with a practitioner near you may be your first step on the road to better health and wellness.