Migraines are throbbing headaches that typically affect one side of the head. It is estimated that 30 million people in America suffer from migraines. Anybody can develop a migraine, but there are some people who are at a greater risk for developing a migraine than others.

Women are at a greater risk for developing migraines than men. Most people who suffer from chronic migraines start having them when they are in their teens or early 20s.

It is also important to note that migraine headaches have a tendency to run in families. In fact, it is estimated that nine out of 10 people who suffer from migraine headaches have a family history of it.

Causes of Migraines

Researchers do not understand the exact causes of migraines. They do believe a migraine is influenced by both environmental factors and genetics. Hormonal imbalances can lead to migraines. Serotonin is one of the chemicals found in the brain that helps regulate mood. Health experts believe that a drop in serotonin can possibly lead to migraine.

One of the reasons women are at a greater risk for developing migraines is because of the hormonal changes they go through. Many women experience migraines right before their period. This is why researchers believe that migraines can possibly be triggered by a drop in estrogen. Oral contraceptives can possibly trigger migraines in women.

There is a link between migraines and diet. Certain foods have been shown to trigger or worsen migraines in some people. Processed foods, aged cheeses and salty foods can trigger migraines. Food additives, such as MSG and aspartame, can trigger migraines. Furthermore, people who fast or skip meals are at a greater risk for suffering a migraine.

Difference Between Migraines and Headaches

There are several differences between a migraine and a regular headache. A regular headache is usually described as being a mild to moderate ache. However, migraines are intense. A regular headache may be distracting, but a migraine can be debilitating. Many people are able to get relief from a headache by taking an over-the-counter painkiller. Over the counter painkillers are often no match for a migraine.

There are other symptoms that often accompany a migraine. Some of those symptoms include nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. It is common for people to experience an aura before getting a migraine. Auras can cause a person to see flickering lights, lines and spots. In most cases, auras last five to 60 minutes.

A migraine typically lasts a lot longer than a regular headache. A regular headache usually goes away within a few hours. However, migraines often last longer than 72 hours.

Migraine Treatment Options

If you suffer from migraines, then it is best to consult with your doctor. Although there is no cure for migraines, your doctor can work with you and help you find the treatment plan that works best for you. Triptans are one group of medications that can be used to treat migraines. They work by blocking pain pathways in the brain. They not only alleviate migraine pain, but they can also alleviate some of the symptoms that may accompany a migraine.

Although triptans are effective, they are not recommended for people who suffer from heart problems. Ergots are another group of medications that can be used to treat migraines. They are most effective for people whose migraines last longer than 48 hours. However, these medications may worsen some of the other symptoms of migraines.

In addition to pain-relieving medications, your doctor may recommend preventative medication. Preventative medication can reduce the frequency of your migraines. Certain types of antidepressants can prevent migraines. Even you do not suffer from depression, you may still benefit from taking these medications. They help prevent migraines by increasing serotonin levels.

Furthermore, your doctor may recommend keeping a headache diary. This will help you discover the possible migraine triggers. It can also help your doctor determine which treatment is the most effective.

Non-Medication Migraine Treatments

Many people think that migraines are no big deal. After all, they are just headaches. However, this is not the case at all, as any sufferer of migraines well knows. The pain that they cause can be debilitating and truly interfere with an individual’s ability to live his or her life. Additionally, there are many reasons not to take medications for migraines; some people simply do not find them effective, and others do not like putting artificial chemicals in their bodies. Fortunately, there are non-medication migraine treatments that people can try that have proven to be effective. The following is a list of a few of these.


The human body responds to pain with physical symptoms. Common physical changes that result from pain are cold hands, tense muscles, and a quickening of the heartbeat. Biofeedback involves sensors that measure these changes and then relay the information to you. You will receive the information in the form of a tone that you hear or a blinking light that you see. As part of biofeedback, you will learn how to perform relaxation techniques that can help control your physical condition. Studies have shown that this is often effective in reduction of frequency and intensity of migraine pain.


Research has suggested that taking certain nutrients in supplement form can help reduce the frequency (but likely not intensity) of migraines. Specifically, riboflavin, otherwise known as vitamin B2, works for this purpose sometimes. There is also Coenzyme Q-10 that is said to yield a smaller number of migraine headaches in children and adults, although it typically needs to be taken for many months in order to confer benefits. Though supplements may seem innocuous, it is important that you consult with your physician before taking one, so that you can be sure it will not react adversely with other medications or exacerbate other conditions.


Exercise has been shown to confer a variety benefits, and this is no exception. If you exercise regularly, to the point where you increase your heart rate, you could potentially decrease the frequency and severity of your migraines. In one Swedish study, exercise was compared with a drug that prevents migraines and relaxation. The cardio exercise routine involved 40 minutes of exercise to be done three times per week; it ended up working just as well as the drug and the relaxation in decreasing the pain and the frequency associated with these headaches.


Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese procedure involving the insertion of miniscule needles into specific points in the human body. It has been shown to alleviate different kinds of pain, and there are studies that suggest that it helps to ease migraine pain as well. Additionally, it is possible that this procedure will decrease the frequency of headaches. Acupuncture is typically most effective in conjunction with a traditional treatment.

These are just a few of the alternative treatments for migraines that have shown effectiveness. They are worth trying, as one or more may alleviate your pain.