A migraine headache brings on severe throbbing pain, usually in one part of the head. Nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound often accompany a migraine.  The headache can last from 2 to 72 hours. The symptoms can be so severe that you cannot continue with your normal activities. Instead you have to find a dark and quiet place, lie down, and wait for the pain to subside.

Some people notice early warning signs that a migraine is coming. These include visual effects such as flashes of light or blind spots, or pins and needles sensations on your limbs. Some people continue to feel after effects of the migraine when the pain subsides. After effects include fatigue, difficulties in thinking, gastrointestinal symptoms, mood changes, or weakness.

Migraines are thought to be caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetic vulnerability. About two thirds of migraineurs have a positive family history.

Approximately 28 million Americans suffer migraines. They are a major source of absenteeism in the workplace, costing employers $13 billion.

Treatment of migraines

Pain medication can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. If over the counter medication is not enough, talk to your doctor about trying a prescription migraine headache medication. The right medicine combined with lifestyle changes to avoid triggers may make a big difference in the frequency and severity of your headaches.

It is often helpful to carefully monitor your experience prior to the headaches to identify events or factors that regularly trigger a migraine. Then you can makes changes in your lifestyle to eliminate triggering experiences. Stress management and biofeedback can also help to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Biofeedback for migraines

Biofeedback is a way to gain awareness and control over some of your body reactions to stress.  Biofeedback instruments measure and show you changes in muscle activity, temperature, heart rate, sweat gland activity, brain electrical activity, and other physical changes that accompany changes in thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Hundreds of studies have shown that you can learn to influence or regulate these processes on your own when you get this immediate information.

Biofeedback has been found to be effective for the treatment of headaches and migraines. A recent analysis combined the results of 55 controlled studies of biofeedback for chronic migraines (average = 16.9 years). The data show that biofeedback results in significant and lasting improvement. The largest improvement was seen with heart rate variability biofeedback.

Although more and better research is needed, at the NeuroDevelopment Center, we recommend heart rate variability and EEG biofeedback for the treatment of migraines when medical treatment has not been enough.  Biofeedback is also an effective, medication free treatment for other stress-related difficulties such as anxiety, depression, abdominal pain, autoimmune and allergic disorders, asthma, and fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndromes. Learn more.

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