Assessing Migraine Headaches

By: Michael Appleman, M.S.



It has been seen that some people suffer from other types of headaches, not just migraine headaches. It has also been seen that not just individuals that have been burned or injured in other ways suffer from migraines and other types of headaches. The question we must ask is; How can I tell if I am suffering from a migraine headache or some other type of headache?

Migraine headaches often have the following symptoms: pain on one side of the head, throbbing pain, pain that disrupts normal activity., or pain that's aggravated by activity. Migraine symptoms may also include nausea, with or without vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound.

It is best to discuss your medical and psychological problems with your doctor. That will help your doctor to evaluate your difficulties and make the proper diagnoses.

Causes of Migraine Headaches

Genetics Play a Key Role: Migraine headaches can be caused by genetics. Your family history can make you genetically more vulnerable to getting migraines. If one of your parents have suffered from migraines, it has been seen that there is a 40% chance that you will also get migraines. There is a 75% chance that you will have migraine headaches if both your parents suffer from them.

Physical changes Occuring in Your Brain: There are many theories as to what is happening in the brain that can cause headache pain and other migraine symptoms. Most theories show that a physical disturbance in your brain, either electrical or biochemical, leads to: Swelling of the blood vessels on the surface of the brain.

1. Irritation of the nerves in the brain.
2. Other symptoms that originate in the brain are aura, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.

An imbalance of one type of brain chemical, serotonian, has been considered to play a key role in causing migraine headaches.

What Can Trigger a Migraine Headache

It has been seen that many things can increase your possibility for getting a migraine headache. They are as follows:

1. For women, the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle.
2. Eating foods that contain nitrates or nitrites, examples are hot dogs and processed meats; tyramine (aged cheese); monosodium glutamate or "MSG" (Chinese food); and diet products that contain artificial sweeteners (soda).


3. Drinking alcohol, particularly dark-colored beer, scotch and red wines.
4. Experiencing stress or changes in your sleep pattern, your surroundings or habits.

Headache Calendar

It has been seen that a daily headache calendar can be your most important tool. The calendar can help both you and your doctor to track your headaches and how well the treatment is working. You hopefully will be able to identify what triggers your headaches. Discuss using a headache calendar with your doctor if he/she has not recommended you to do so. And always remember to take your headache calendar to your doctor visits.

Examples of what your calendar should have:

1. Type of Headache: Check off the type of headache you had: Migraine, Tension, Rebound or Cluster.
2. Headache Severity: This portion should be broken down into morning, afternoon and evening. On the days that you have migraine headache pain, write a number in the appropriate box from 1 to 3. One being mild, 2 being moderate and 3 being severe.
3. Disability for the day: Using the numbers from 1 to 3, record how your headache pain affected your daily routine. One being no effect, 2 meaning you had difficulty, 3 meaning you missed work or your activities for at least half a day or had to stay in bed for part of the day.
4. Triggers: There are many things that can trigger a migraine headache. Below you will find the list of the usual causes.
5. Acute Medicines: You should write the names of any medications and the dosages, that you take to relieve your headache pain. Use the following numbers 0 to 3 to indicate the overall level of relief you get from the medicine. Zero should equal no relief, one is slight relief, two is moderate relief and three is complete relief.
6. Preventative Medications: List the names and dosage of any medications you take to prevent migraine headaches. Every time you take the medicine, check off the day on the calendar.
7. Overall severity for the month: Using the scale from 0 to 10 circle the number that best summarizes the overall severity of your migraine headache. Zero is no problem, 10 is an unbearable migraine headache.

Migraine headaches fluctuate from person to person. The more triggers that are present at the same time, the more expected a migraine headache will take place. We suggest that you discuss your symptoms with your doctor.