The symptoms of migraine headaches don’t usually appear instantaneously. Most of the time they start out mild and then build to a more intense and painful level. Most people can feel them coming at least a few hours in advance and sometimes even the day before. The pain and other symptoms may last anywhere from four hours to three days.
Most Common Symptoms of Migraine:
- unique, indescribable and skull-splitting head pain
- nausea and/or vomiting
- sensitivity to sound and light
- sensitivity to smells
If you live with chronic migraines or have them periodically, you are probably aware that most migraines have a cycle that they go through and the migraine headache symptoms are different in each phase. At first you get a few little signs that a migraine may be coming; this may vary somewhat from person to person. Some people get auras, but not everyone.
With a migraine aura, they see a unique visual precursor to the pain that may consist of sparkling or zigzag flashes of light in their field of vision. Auras usually occur about 15-30 minutes before the actual pain begins. It may also be accompanied by a tingling sensation similar to pins and needles in the arm or leg and difficulties with speech. This kind of experience is considered a “classic migraine,” and is much less common than the “common migraine.”
Other individuals experience what is sometimes called a “prodome” where they develop intense energy, a feeling of elation or high levels of irritability several hours or even the day before it actually arrives.
However, even people with the common migraine get many warning signs. I have never experienced an aura, but I have numerous early warning signs. There are many signals that alert you of the on-coming danger before the skull-splitting pain arrives. There may be visual disturbances, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure or pulse rate, irritability, heightened sensitivity to sound or smell, and little twinges of pain.
Then the pain slowly builds up and grows more intense over a period of time. After the pain rises to a certain degree, there is a peak. At the peak, the pain is at its highest level. After the peak, it feels like there is a break in the storm and the pain level starts to decline slowly. Eventually the pain is gone and you are back to baseline.
How do you know when your headache is an actual migraine headache? Well it is my belief that if you’re asking that question you probably haven’t had one. The pain and symptoms of migraine are pretty distinguishable. Migraine headache symptoms are unlike any pain or headache you’ve ever had before. You know when you’ve had one.
A few other clues are that the pain usually affects only one of your side head and frequently the eye on whatever side is impacted and may be described as pulsating and throbbing. I sometimes think it feels like a very deep and excruciating ache. My head feels like an eggshell that has a big crack down the side of it. It increase in severity when you attempt to engage in any kind of physical activity.
If the pain is so severe that it interferes with your daily activities, then it’s probably a migraine. More than likely you will have to retreat to an isolated area that is quiet and dark where you will lie down and move as infrequently as possible until it passes. Even turning over from one side to the other can seem like an excruciating feat. You just want to be left alone. Any kind of interaction is unbearable.
It is frequently accompanied by nausea, which may result in actual vomiting and intense sensitivity to sound and light. The sound of a pin drop sounds like a brick hitting the wall and sends your nervous system skyrocketing to outer space. Even the sound of your loved one’s voice is like fingernails going across the chalk board. It hurts to open your eyes and you bury your face in your pillow or cover it with your arm.
Some people become excessively sensitive to odors like food or fragrances. Food and fragrances may smell obnoxious and be an undesirable sight and may actually intensify pain and nausea.
Other Signs of Migraine
Here are some other symptoms of migraine that I have experienced that I don’t see mentioned too often anywhere else.
- cravings for fruit at the onset of pain
- excessive thirstiness (at the onset of pain and especially for carbonated mineral water)
- pain in the gallbladder
- excessive belching
- feelings of impending doom
- heart palpitations
- blurred vision
- impaired ability to speak
- shaking or tremors
- drowsiness (when mine are really severe they actually knock me out cold)
Although there are many commonalities among sufferers, each individual’s experience is slightly unique and different from others. Some lucky individuals may only get a couple a year, while other people get several a week. You may literally howl and whimper like a wounded animal, like I do, or you may weep quietly in the corner.
Experiences may vary greatly in intensity and symptomology even within the same individual from one episode to another. Some bouts may be completely disabling, while others may a somewhat less severe. You may puke your guts out during one round and have only slight nausea with another. Some months you may have only one bout, while other months, if you’re really luck you’ll have ten. Certain migraine triggers may result in many intense and prolonged symptoms of migraine, while others may be milder and shorter.
I have found a very precise mindfulness based meditation technique that I use to literally turn off eighty to ninety percent of migraines, completely. You can learn this simple technique in less than two hours in my book, Mindfulness Over Migraines.
Regardless of the differences, there’s no doubt about it, migraine headache symptoms are one of the most brutal experiences one can endure. Anyone who has ever had even one would likely agree with that. Some relief can be found with a variety of natural remedies and techniques like massage, herbs, acupuncture, sleep, orgasm, deep breathing, supplements like magnesium or 5HTP, but the most beneficial step you can take for yourself is to become as educated and aware about your own experiences as possible.