During the summer, it may seem illogical why anyone would seek out such a place. However, for those who suffer from migraine pain, a cold, quiet, dark room is a sanctuary.
Dr. D. Michael Ready of the Temple Clinic has been specially trained and certified to assist those with headache problems.
He shares his insights to help us understand the madness of migraines.
The Elevator Levels of Headache
He explains the most common type of headache is the tension-type headache. The pains of these headaches are primarily in the head and respond well to over-the-counter medications.
“All headaches use the same pathway in the brain,” Ready says.
He explains this brain pathway relating it to an elevator. You can select to go up to the top floor, or get off at the second. Either way, the process of how you get from there to here is the elevator. The level you get off on can correspond to the level of your headache.
A tension headache or a migraine both go along the same pathway in the brain, but vary in level of severity.
“A migraine, by definition is a disabling headache,” says Ready. “If you have a headache that stops you from doing what you want to do and that is usually made worse with movement, you have a migraine.”
“What we have found with a migraine brain is that it’s a sensitive brain that doesn’t like change. It is a brain that is more aware of its environment.”
Magical Thinking and your Migraine Brain
One of the biggest problems Ready and other doctors see is the idea of magical thinking. This is the idea that there has to be something broken that needs to be fixed, in order to stop migraine pain from occurring.
Ready says this is not the case. You may think, “How can I hurt so bad and not have anything broken?” There is nothing to cure or to fix when it comes to migraines. There is only headache management.
What you do have is a sensitive “migraine brain.” Ready explains. “What we have found with a migraine brain is that it’s a sensitive brain that doesn’t like change. It is a brain that is more aware of its environment.”
- Do you often wear sunglasses to avoid the brightness of the sun?
- Do you tend to smell things before others in the room?
- Are you comfortable with the radio at a lower volume?
All of these may be signs of a sensitive brain. Your brain works hard daily to help you comprehend your environment. When changes arise, a sensitive brain has a harder time adapting.
Migraine Brains Respond Poorly to Change
A simple change in the weather or a missed meal can sometimes trigger the pain of migraine. “This lowers your threshold and makes it easier for you to have a headache,” says Ready.
It is important to be aware of the stress, hormonal cycles, and diet habits in your life. If you feel prone to headaches, minimizing these changes will avoid added pressure on your sensitive brain.
Keep in mind that psychological stress or missing breakfast does not cause a migraine. Your sensitive brain is the cause for migraines, but these can lower the tolerance of your brain and therefore, result in pain.
Learn about Migraines
The pain of a migraine is real. For those who don’t suffer from migraines it may be hard to relate. However, there are many people who suffer from severe headaches.
In fact, Dr. Ready says this genetic condition affects six percent of men in the country, and 18 percent of women. One third of women in their reproductive years suffer from migraines.
If you have a close family member who has migraine pain, it may be wise to evaluate your headaches. Dr. Ready says 80 percent of people with migraines have a first degree family member with the same problem. This would be a mom, dad, sister or so on.
“When your headaches start to behave more differently, when they come more than two or three times a month, that’s probably a good time to seek out care,” says Dr. Ready.
There are ways to help manage pain and prevent future headaches with vitamins and supplements.
Above all, Dr. Ready says it is most important for people to learn about migraines, especially since half of the sufferers go undiagnosed.
“Our studies are clear,” he says. “People who learn about their sensitive migraine brain do better than anyone else.”
So if you feel you may have a sensitive brain, we advise you to seek our care in your area. To those who suffer from migraines, please share with us tips or suggestions you have found helpful.