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The Stages of Migraines and How They're Treated

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The Stages of Migraines and How They're Treated

Migraine is a neurological disease that can’t be cured but can often be managed with treatment. Each migraine sufferer has a unique combination of symptoms and patterns that may not include all migraine stages.

There are over 150 identified types of headaches, but migraines might be the most dreaded. A migraine episode may last days while progressing through up to four stages. At their worst, migraines are debilitating, bringing your life to a standstill until the pain passes. 

Each migraine sufferer has their own pattern of migraine progression and pain. Medical treatments can reduce the frequency of episodes or relieve the intensity of symptoms. You may also modify your migraine experience with changes to your lifestyle. 

When you’re clinically diagnosed with migraines, the headache specialists at Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management in West Des Moines and Des Moines, Iowa, can help.

They can find the best relief for your migraine episodes, from conventional migraine medications to ketamine infusions and even Botox® injections, which can reduce pain for some migraine patients. 

You can help your clinicians by understanding the stages of migraine and keeping a log of your migraine experience. This knowledge may help home in on the treatments that work best for you. 

The stages of migraine

About 15% of Americans suffer from migraines, which may start in childhood through early adulthood and continue for life. There are four stages of migraine progression, but you may not experience all of them. When you do, they may not have the same intensity or duration as other migraine patients experience. 

1. Prodrome

The precursor to a migraine attack, the prodrome stage typically starts a day or two before other stages begin. Migraine sufferers often know an attack is coming because of the prodrome stage. 

During this stage, you may experience mood changes ranging from euphoria to depression. Physical symptoms include constipation, neck stiffness, increased urination, and increased thirst. Food cravings and frequent yawning may also reveal the prodrome stage. 

2. Aura

Typically sensory and often visual, aura symptoms include: 

  • Flashes of light, spots, and other visual disturbances
  • Loss of vision
  • Phantom sounds or music
  • Tingling “pins and needles” sensation
  • Numbness or weakness, often affecting just one side of the body
  • Speech difficulties
  • Muscle spasms or tics

The aura stage may precede the headache or its symptoms may overlap into the third stage.

3. Headache

This stage is the pain portion of the migraine. Typically, it lasts 4-72 hours, with pain on one or both sides of your head. The pain is often sharp and intense, with a pulsing or throbbing pattern. It may be accompanied by sensory sensitivities. You might be affected by light or sound. 

The pain may be intense enough to cause nausea and vomiting. 

4. Postdrome

As many as 80% of migraine sufferers report going through a “migraine hangover” period called the postdrome stage. Commonly, it’s a time of recovery. Sufferers feel drained, tired, and confused, though sometimes emotions are positive and relieved. The postdrome stage lasts about a day. 

Treatment of migraines

The best therapy for migraines is often multi-modal, approaching episodes from different angles. Medications may help reduce or prevent the number of attacks, or they may target symptoms after they occur. 

More aggressive treatments include: 

  • Botox injections to reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks
  • Ketamine infusions to relieve acute symptoms and provide long-term relief in some cases
  • Spinal cord stimulation to disrupt the way your body transmits pain signals
  • Stem cell therapy to relieve inflammation thought to aggravate certain migraine types
  • Physical therapy to provide a drug-free way to moderate the pain symptoms of migraine

Since your migraine stages and symptoms are all your own, the doctors at Metro Anesthesia & Pain Management develop personalized treatment plans to meet your needs.

Book your consultation with the nearest office by phone or online. Relieving your next migraine starts today, so schedule your appointment now. 

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