What Happens Before a Migraine?


Most people think that migraines are just severely bad headaches and will just go away. However, migraines are neurological, which means they have real, physical effects on a person’s brain. Some of the common symptoms of the brain condition include:

  • Pain in one eye
  • Severe pain in the head on one or both sides
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Higher sensitivity to sound
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Throbbing or pounding sensation in the head

Some migraineurs report red flags that are similar to stroke symptoms. These include numbness of the body on one side, flashing lights, and blind spots in one eye. These symptoms often go away once the migraine episode begins, but in some cases, they linger throughout the episode. 


Types of Headaches

While a migraine is not a headache, some types of headaches may achieve the same level of severity and be just as debilitating. Cluster headaches, for one, occur over a few hours or days and always on the same side of the head. Sufferers describe it as a drilling sensation in the head, but this is, fortunately, a rare occurrence.

A much more common type of debilitating headache is tension headaches. As the name suggests, it is the contraction of the muscles of the neck, face, and scalp as a reaction to tension or stress. 


Stages of Migraines

Migraine episodes typically occur in four distinct stages. However, some migraines might not experience them all. 

What Happens Before a Migraine

Phase 1: Prodrome – About 60% of migraineurs experience any of the following in as little as two hours to as much as two days before an attack: irritability, mood swings, food cravings, depression, euphoria, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, stiff neck, sensitivity to odors, and sensitivity to sound. 

Phase 2: Aura – About 30% of migraine sufferers report seeing, smelling, or feeling things that are not there before or during a migraine episode.


What Happens During a Migraine

Phase 3: Headache – All migraine sufferers experience severe pain in the head that can last up to three days and maybe on one side only or both sides of the head. An interesting thing to note about this is that people who suffer pain on both sides of the head are typically those that skip the aura stage. Some patients report feelings of lightheadedness, vertigo, or confusion.

What Happens After a Migraine

Phase 4: Postdrome – Also referred to as the “zombie” stage, this is when 70% of migraine patients experience fatigue, moodiness, nausea, photosensitivity, cognitive impairment, lethargy, and general symptoms of a bad hangover 


Medications and More About Migraine Care

Doctors typically prescribe tryptamine-based drugs or triptans to people with acute migraines. They are first introduced in the 1990s to calm overactive nerves that produce pain by stimulating the production of serotonin. They come under many types of prescriptive medications, including:

  • Almotriptan (Brand name: Axert)
  • Eletriptan (Brand name: Relpax)
  • Frovatriptan (Brand name: Frova)
  • Naratriptan(Brand name:  Amerge)
  • Rizatriptan  (Brand name: Maxalt)
  • Sumatriptan (Brand names:  Imitrex, Alsuma, Zecuity)
  • Zolmitriptan  (Brand name: Zomig)

These medications effectively alleviate the symptoms of moderate to severe migraine episodes for most, though not all, patients. However, they may have side effects such as numbness, nausea, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. They are not appropriate care for patients with heart problems, as they tend to narrow the arteries.

To avoid having to take triptans, the best option is prevention. Migraine sufferers can manage episodes by knowing what is likely to trigger it. These may include (in no particular order):

  • Alcohol 
  • Birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
  • Erratic sleep patterns 
  • Fluctuations in atmospheric pressure
  • High levels of stimuli such as excessive noise, brightness, and strong odors
  • Too much stress
  • Hormonal imbalance during menstruation
  • Food triggers such as 
    • Artificial sweeteners
    • Chocolate
    • Dairy products
    • Deli meats
    • Eggs
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    • Red wine

Triggers vary from patient to patient, and the only way to identify which ones can affect someone is through observation and elimination. A patient should take note of situations, activities, weather conditions, food, drink, or external stimuli that precede the onset of each migraine episode. Over time, a pattern should emerge that would identify the relevant triggers for that patient, and avoiding them should minimize migraines for the patient. 


A Holistic Care for Migraines 

Prescriptive drugs and trigger avoidance can provide temporary relief, but a more permanent solution is also available. In many cases, bone misalignment in the neck can cause many problems to the brain, such as disrupting the flow of blood or triggering a pain response, resulting in migraines. 

Correcting this misalignment can provide a holistic and safe way to manage migraines without the use of painkillers. Upper cervical chiropractors can correct the misalignment of the bones safely and effectively to prevent these issues.  We help many migraine patients by using precise yet gentle adjustment technique to repair misaligned upper cervical bones. We have the necessary skill to coax these bones to return to their proper positions, support the head more effectively, and allow unrestricted flow of signals from the body to the brain. 

We have found that aligning the spine has helped many migraine patients reduce the incidence and severity of their attacks, if not completely eliminate migraines. If you or someone you know is looking for migraine relief, upper cervical chiropractic may be the most suitable care option for you. Browse for an upper cervical chiropractor near your area today to start your road to healing.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.