AABP Integrative Pain Care

Understanding the Stages of Migraines

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At least 39 million Americans experience migraines, a debilitating type of headache that often develops in stages. If you’re prone to migraines, it’s helpful to know what’s happening during each stage so you can better manage your symptoms.

Migraines are an intense type of headache that can send you to bed for days with debilitating symptoms.

If you’re not finding relief with over-the-counter migraine medications, you can find help at AABP Integrative Care. Our team of board-certified pain management physicians specializes in the diagnosis and treatment for all types of headaches, including acute and chronic migraines.

What to know about migraines

Migraines cause a throbbing or pulsating pain, usually on one side of your head. The pain can last for several hours or days and trigger other symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Facial tingling
  • Visual disturbances
  • Increased sound and light sensitivity

You can develop migraines in adolescence or as an adult. Your risk for these painful headaches may be higher if you have a family history of the condition.

Females may be more prone to migraines than men, possibly due to hormone changes that occur during menstruation and pregnancy.

Stages of migraines

Unlike general headaches, migraines cause symptoms that progress in stages. While not everyone with migraines will experience every stage of a migraine, those who do may notice their migraine pain develops in four stages:

Prodrome stage

The prodrome stage of a migraine occurs a few days before the head pain starts. You might experience subtle changes in your health, including mood changes, neck stiffness, increased yawning, and cravings for certain foods.

Aura stage

The aura stage of a migraine can occur before your migraine starts or during an active headache. During the aura phase, you may experience vision disturbances or loss, facial weakness or numbness, and difficulties speaking.

Attack stage

During the migraine attack stage, head pain that lasts up to 72 hours is common. You might also be increasingly sensitive to light, sounds, smells, or touch. The throbbing or pulsing pain can trigger stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.

Postdrome stage

The postdrome stage, also known as a migraine hangover, occurs after a migraine attack ends. You might feel disoriented and fatigued as your head pain subsides. For some people, quick head movements during this phase can re-trigger brief episodes of head pain.

When to get help for migraine pain

While you may be able to relieve some migraine pain with over-the-counter migraine medicines and rest, these strategies may eventually stop working.

Our physicians recommend scheduling a migraine consultation if you’re not able to control your migraine symptoms on your own. You should also schedule a consultation if you have chronic migraines and experience 15 or more migraine headaches in a month.

We customize a treatment plan to manage your pain and prevent additional migraines from occurring. Your plan may include a combination of lifestyle changes and medical therapies such as:

  • Diet improvements
  • Activity modifications
  • Stress management counseling
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications

If oral medications aren’t enough to relieve migraine pain, we may recommend epidural injections or nerve blocks to block pain signals from traveling to your brain.

Treatment for chronic migraines may include injections of Botox®. Botox is a prescription medication that temporarily paralyzes muscles in your head that contribute to migraine pain. Botox therapy may ease some of your existing head pain and prevent chronic migraines from occurring.

You don’t have to suffer in silence from migraine pain. Call the AABP Integrative Pain Care office near you to schedule a diagnostic evaluation or book a migraine consultation online today.