the-migraine-timeline-4-phases-of-a-migraine-attackTo people who have luckily never experienced a migraine, it might seem like it’s just a really terrible headache.  However, migraine sufferers and those close to them know that can’t be farther from the truth. A migraine is a complex, neurological condition that causes an array of symptoms including the throbbing headache it’s infamous for, nausea, vomiting, visual changes (called aura), heightened sensitivity of the senses, and more.

There’s no such thing as a “typical” migraine.  Episodes can present differently for each individual and the same person may not experience the same symptoms during each episode they have.  Fortunately, if a migraine sufferer can begin to identify certain trends or patterns in their attacks, it can help them to either halt an episode or prevent it from developing fully.

Migraines can be difficult or impossible to predict, but attacks typically unfold in well-defined stages or phases.  These phases can differ in severity and duration and may not be present during each episode, and we’ll go into the specifics of each below to help you better understand this debilitating condition.

Migraine Phase 1: Prodrome (Pre-headache or Premonitory)

The prodrome phase is the initial phase of a migraine attack and can begin from days to hours before moving forward into the other phases.  It is estimated that between 30% and 40% of migraine sufferers will experience the prodrome phase. This phase can be of great help since it serves as a warning sign of things to come.  A person experiencing prodrome symptoms might be able to take preventative steps as soon as they realize that there’s an impending attack. The symptoms of the prodrome phase of a migraine might include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Excessive yawning
  • More frequent urination
  • Increased sensitivity to sound or light
  • Nausea
  • Sleep troubles
  • Food cravings
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Difficulty speaking or reading

Migraine Phase 2: Aura

Up to a third of migraine sufferers will move into the aura phase following the prodrome as the episode progresses.  The aura phase is best known for its visual disturbances, but a person in the aura phase can also experience other symptoms as well.  When present, this stage can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as an hour. Like the prodrome, the aura phase can also serve as a warning sign of things to come and can often be the first noticeable sign that alerts a person about an approaching migraine episode.  Possible symptoms of a migraine aura include:

  • Visual symptoms
    • Blurred vision
    • Blind spots
    • Floaters
    • Wavy lines
    • Partial loss of sight
    • Flashes of light
  • Vertigo/dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Reduction in or temporary loss of hearing
  • Numbness, prickling, tingling, or burning sensations of the face, arms, or legs
  • Hearing sounds that aren’t present (auditory hallucinations)
  • Smelling odors that aren’t present (olfactory hallucinations)
  • Hypersensitivity to touch

Migraine Phase 3: Headache

The headache phase is, without a doubt, the most recognized and discussed phase of a migraine attack for a good reason – it can be the most painful and debilitating one.  The headache associated with a migraine can be severe and last anywhere from 4 hours up to 3 days. Another migraine myth is that the pain and symptoms during the headache phase are limited only to the head.  During this stage, symptoms can, and often do, affect other parts of the body as well. Characteristics of the headache phase include:

  • A headache that frequently:
    • Begins on one side of the head (and can progress to affect the whole head)
    • Is throbbing or pulsating
    • Worsens with physical exertion
    • Ranges from mild to severe
  • Pain in the jaw, eyes, sinuses, and teeth
  • Neck pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Chills and/or hot flashes
  • Panic, depression, or anxiety
  • Vertigo/dizziness
  • Heightened sensitivity to smell, sound, light, and touch
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration

Migraine Phase 4: Postdrome (the “Migraine Hangover”)

The final phase of a migraine begins as the headache phase subsides.  The last phase, called the postdrome, is often described by migraine sufferers as feeling hungover.  These residual migraine symptoms can last for up to a day or two. Up to 80% of migraines sufferers report experiencing postdrome symptoms which can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Light sensitivity
  • Reduced comprehension

Better Migraine Relief with Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

If you struggle with managing your migraines and are looking for natural, sustainable options for care, we’d like to introduce you to upper cervical chiropractic care.  This niche within the broader chiropractic profession stands apart for its precise, gentle approach to care. Our care is highly customized for each of our patient which means several things to you:

  • Focused care – upper cervical chiropractors focus on the area of the spine at the very top of the neck.  The atlas (C1) vertebra is different from all the rest. It protects the brainstem and is also extremely movable to accommodate the movements of the head.
  • Precision adjustmentsa thorough analysis is made of each of our patients which allows us to build them the right atlas adjustment that is perfectly suited to them.  This approach is what lets us be very gentle, avoiding any forceful twisting or popping of the neck.
  • Lasting results – precise adjustments are more likely to hold in place than more general ones.  One of the goals of upper cervical chiropractic care is to allow your body to heal and hold adjustments for longer as time goes on.  This is how we are able to accomplish sustainable results.

Upper cervical care is a natural fit for those suffering endlessly with migraines, especially if you have a history of head or neck injury.  You may be only a few gentle atlas corrections away from beginning to experience lasting relief and other tangible health benefits. At Precision Spinal Care we offer all of our new patients a complimentary consultation as an opportunity for us to discover if upper cervical chiropractic care can be part of your migraine solution.  Contact us today to see if we can help you get back on track to a better quality of life.