JenE’s Migraine Mission: Anatomy of a Migriane

I’m on a mission to end my migraines (and yours).  And if not to end them…to prevent migraine  headaches before they happen and to end as much suffering as possible.  To find out why I care so much, check out my My Migraine Mission.

If I’m going to write about migraines, I thought everyone should know how they work.  It’s not just a headache…it’s a whole series of events that affects the entire body.  Read below for more.


Not just a headache, but a disorder affecting the whole body, characterized by clearly defined attacks lasting from about 4 to 72 hours, separated by headache-free periods; progresses through five distinct phases.

Prodrome: experienced by about 50% of migraineurs and starting up to 24 hours before the headache- changes in mood, sensory perception, food craving, excessive yawning, or speech or memory problems. Some research shows that during this stage blood vessels constrict, causing loss of blood flow to the eyes and limbs and increasing blood pressure. This explains many of the nondescript symptoms listed above.

Aura: experienced by about 15% and starting within an hour before the headache – disruption of vision (flashing lights, shimmering zigzag lines, blind spot) or sensation (numbness or ‘pins and needles’ around the lips or hand), or difficulty speaking.  Aura may be a response to the blood vessels constricting during the prodrome stage.

Headache: usually pulsating and occurring on one side of the head, it may occur on both sides of the head and alternate from side to side. Muscles in the neck and scalp may be tender; there may be nausea and the desire not to eat, move, see or hear.  Many researchers believe that preceding the pain of the migraine headache, the blood vessels go from a constricted stage to an overly dilated stage.  This causes the pulsating and pain, as well as potential swelling in some areas of the brain.

Resolution: the headache disappears and the body returns to normal. Resolution may occur over several hours during sleep or rest (the Migraine Coma); an intense emotional experience or vomiting may also end the headache.

Postdrome: After the headache stops, the sufferer feels drained, fatigued and tired. Muscles ache, emotions are volatile and thinking is slow. I call this the Migraine Hangover.


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