We have all experienced the pain of a simple headache before, and we know to take some medicine and wait for the pain to go away, but unfortunately for an unlucky few, they have the unpleasant and frequent painful experience of going through a migraine headache.
Dr. Carrie Connett with CMC Primary Care at Prince Creek tells us how to identify a true migraine headache, gives us strategies to prevent them, and explains what to do if you have never been diagnosed but think you may be suffering from them.
The difference between a simple headache and a migraine
Unlike a simple headache, a migraine headache can have symptoms before the pain even starts. One symptom is something physicians call the migraine aura. This can present as changes in vision (seeing bright lines or shapes), hearing (loud ringing or music) or even feelings like burning, numbness and tingling.
“The pain of the migraine headache typically is limited to only one side of the head, either the left or right,” described Dr. Connett. “The sensations and pain are usually described as a “throbbing” or “pulsing” and as it gets worse, you may experience other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and pain from bright lights and loud noises.”
After the pain goes away, either on its own or with pain relievers, the last phase is what Dr. Connett calls the migraine postdrome (or syndrome post-migraine), in which sudden head movements can cause the pain to return. “During this time, you may also feel exhausted or drained, and this can last anywhere from four to 72 hours, which is a significant difference from your normal short, simple headache.”
What to do to prevent migraine headaches
Understanding what migraine headaches feel like, Dr. Connett had some suggestions for getting ahead of it and trying to prevent them. She listed some of the most common triggers for migraine headaches.
- Most common: Emotional stress, hormones, not eating, weather, sleep disturbances
- Less common: Odors, neck pain, lights, alcohol, smoke, sleeping late, heat
- Least common: Food, exercise, sexual activity
Using this information, you can start to identify what triggers correspond to your migraine headaches and apply effective measures to reasonably avoid them. Dr. Connett elaborated. “If you notice that your headaches happen around the weekends when you have had too much to drink, you can see if they occur less frequently when you lower your alcohol consumption. If you notice that you get migraines when you are overtired, try to go to bed at the same time every night so you prioritize that sleep. When you identify those triggers, you can take the steps to effectively avoid future attacks.”
Dr. Connett underscores the importance of keeping a headache diary to track your symptoms, potential triggers, and any patterns. This can help you and your healthcare provider understand your migraines better and develop an effective treatment plan.
What to do if you think you may be suffering from migraine headaches
If you suspect you’re suffering from migraines, seeking professional medical advice is crucial. Dr. Connett advises against self-diagnosis and encourages individuals to consult a healthcare provider, preferably a primary care physician who can start management and also refer you to a neurologist or headache specialist. These experts can work together to rule out other possible causes and develop a personalized treatment plan.
Expert Care for Migraines and Headaches Available in Murrells Inlet
If you are frequently experiencing migraine symptoms and over-the-counter medications are not working, it is time to see a doctor like Dr. Carrie Connett with CMC Primary Care at Prince Creek. She can help accurately diagnose if you are truly experiencing a migraine headache and can also prescribe different medications that are targeted toward severe migraine headaches. She can also determine if the migraine headache is actually a symptom of something worse and refer you to the specialists and services you need for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Connett’s expert insights provide a roadmap for those navigating the complex landscape of migraines. Remember, you’re not alone—millions of people are on this journey alongside you, and with the right support, relief is possible.
Board Certified in Family Medicine/OMT by the American Osteopathic Board of Family Medicine
- Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine
- Doctors Hospital
- Doctors Hospital