Everybody suffers from a headache at some stage in their lives. There are various kinds of headaches which can affect us in varying degrees of severity. Fortunately, most of the headaches are non-threatening and can be dealt with at home. Migraines are a particular kind of pulsating headaches which affect nearly 15% of the population worldwide. This article is an attempt to describe how effective is yoga for migraine relief.
A migraine is a recurrent headache associated with visual and gastrointestinal disturbance. It is usually chronic in nature. The headaches are typically pulsating often on one side of the head. It may be associated with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound or smell. Physical activity may intensify the pain. A headache is often preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs. The excruciating pain that a migraine can cause, may last a few hours or even days.
- Bright lights, loud noises, and certain odors
- Physical or emotional stress
- Menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, perimenopausal hormonal changes
- Tension headaches
- Chocolates (high in phenylethylamine)
- Cheese (high in tyramine)
A migraine is common around puberty and menopause and often increases in severity or frequency with oral contraceptives.
- Well-being before an attack (occasional)
- First indication of the onset of attack (Prodromal symptoms)
- The main attack (a headache, nausea, vomiting)
- Sleep and feeling drained afterward
Migraine with Aura (Classical Migraine)
Initial or prodromal symptoms are usually visual and associated with depression of visual cortical function or retinal function
Migraine without Aura (Common Migraine)
This is the usual variety. There is a recurrent headache associated with nausea and malaise.
Initial symptoms include tongue tingling, vertigo, diplopia, transient visual disturbance (even blindness), syncope, dysarthria, and ataxia.
This is a rare entity which is a classical migraine with hemiparetic features resembling a stroke but with plausible recovery within 24 hours.
- Moderate to severe pain, usually confined to one side of the head
- Increased pain during physical activity
- Pulsating and throbbing pain
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- 5 or more attacks
- Attack may last 4 hours to 3 days in duration
- At lease two of the following symptoms should be present: unilateral location, pulsating in nature, moderate to severe pain, aggravated by or avoidance of physical activity
- At least, one additional symptom such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound
Treatment and Prevention
Some lifestyle modifications can help in reducing migraine frequency.
- Getting enough sleep
- Reduction of stress
- Avoiding certain foods
- Regular physical exercise
- Drinking plenty of water
- A headache is very severe
- Problems with movement, vision, speech, coordination, balance
- Fever associated with a headache
- Neck stiffness associated with a headache
Yoga and meditative techniques are known to have a positive impact in the treatment and prevention of migraine and other kind of headaches. Some postures which can help alleviate or prevent headaches are Janusirasana, Paschimottanasana, Matsyendrasana, Hastapadasana, Setubandhasana, Padmasana, Shavasana etc.
Yoga exercises help alleviate the physical and mental impact of chronic headaches. A combination of breathing exercises and relaxation techniques and yoga can produce a calming effect on the nervous system, thereby helping reduce intensity and frequency of headaches. Multiple studies have shown that yoga decreases the level of stress hormone cortisol.
Migraine headaches are often known to be triggered by low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical which helps in the proper functioning of the brain, including sleep, moods, appetite. Low serotonin levels caused by stress can result in hypertension, thus triggering migraine headaches. Regular practice of yoga and breathing techniques helps improve levels of serotonin and promote relaxation and stress reduction.
Although there were similarities between migraine and other types of headaches, they also have some distinctive symptoms of their own. These include:
A chronic headache that is associated with stress or fatigue, distress or depression. These can be aggravated by poor posture, eyestrain, unusual noise or light conditions. Symptoms include muscle tightness in the head and neck. Pressure sensations sometimes described as a feeling like a band around the head and continuous but not throbbing.
It is a kind of vascular headache that can occur in a cluster of up to four separate attacks a day and has been associated with an elevated level of histamine in the blood. Patients often describe stabbing pain; often around one eye and a runny nose on the affected side. These kinds of headaches may be linked to smoking or alcohol use.
Migraine headache although treatable but may not be entirely curable; the most encouraging aspect is that it is seldom life threatening. Maintaining a good lifestyle and practicing healthy habits can play a significant role in reducing or preventing the suffering associated with migraine. Leading a stress-free and relaxed lifestyle is a cornerstone of the treatment. So the key is to keep your hopes up and facing the situation positively. A level of optimism and mental well-being can help deal with this menace in the most effective manner.
All the yoga postures depicted in this article are helpful to fight migraine and impact blood circulation and nervous system positively.
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