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UNDERSTANDING MIGRAINES AND HOW TO TREAT THEM

Mayfair • Jun 28, 2021

Migraines are much more than a bad headache. For many people who suffer from them, they’re debilitating. You can be held up in bed for days, desperate for some form of relief from the relentless throbbing in your head, neck, or face.  

Migraines are one of the most common types of headaches in Canada. They are a neurological disease that causes a variety of symptoms, most notably a throbbing, pulsing headache on one side of the head. They often get worse with physical activity, lights, sounds, and smells, and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.   

WHAT CAUSES MIGRAINES? 

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but research suggests that they could be caused when a person’s neurons (nerves in the brain) stop working properly and affect how the nerve system regulates pain in the body. Other research suggests that migraines tend to run in the family. If one of your parents suffered from migraines, the chances of you suffering from them is greater.  

Whatever the cause, there are certain triggers that can impact your likelihood of experiencing a migraine. These can include:   

  • Environmental triggers – Sensory stimuli like odors, bright lights, and noise. Although it’s not understood, 40 percent of people who suffer from migraines report changes in weather as a trigger. 
  • Dietary triggers – There are two main categories of dietary triggers: by-products of food aging found in fermented products like alcohol, aged cheeses, yeast, and yogurt; and food with chemicals similar to our own neurotransmitters like coffee, chocolate, MSG, or nitrates (often found in prepackaged foods). 
  • Physiological triggers – Stress is one of the most common triggers for migraines. Other physiologial stresses could include too little or too much sleep, hunger, exercise, or pain.

HOW ARE MIGRAINES TREATED?

Treatment for migraines typically depends on the severity of your experience. Your doctor will likely advise you to evaluate your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. They may also prescribe pain medication. Some pain medication provides relief from migraine symptoms like nausea or vomiting. Other prescriptions are preventative – you take them every day to reduce the number and severity of your migraines.  

Pain management injections may also be a treatment option for migraines, such as sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) block. Mayfair Diagnostics offers this treatment which involves the safe delivery of anesthetic to the back of the nasal cavity via the nostril.  

A few small structures (ganglia and associated nerves) located near the middle of the head are primarily responsible for dilation or constriction of blood vessels. Irritation within these structures is one of the primary causes of recurrent headaches such as migraines. Delivery of anesthetic to this location helps evaluate the source of head or facial pain, and often eliminates or significantly decreases pain. 

Mayfair Diagnostics pain management team uses X-ray imaging to help treat chronic pain or inflammation by precisely injecting medication through a small needle. This allows a small dose of medication to be injected into a localized and specific area of concern while keeping potential side effects to a minimum.  

An SPG block is a low-risk, minimally invasive procedure that can be effective when other treatments have failed. It can be repeated in 1–2-week intervals, if necessary. 

This procedure may involve some discomfort or very short-lived pain during the injection and when administering the local anesthetic. However, pain perception depends greatly on your pain threshold and the degree of inflammation of the area involved. Most patients find the pain tolerable. Mayfair’s expert team has extensive experience in performing these procedures and do our very best to make them as quick and painless as possible.  

The cost for an SPG block is fully covered under the Alberta Health Care Insurance plan. It’s performed at our Mayfair Place location. For more information, please speak with your health care practitioner or you can contact Mayfair’s booking team at 403-777-3000. 


REFERENCES

American Migraine Foundation (2017) “What Type of Headache Do You Have?” www.americanmigrainefoundation.org. Accessed June 11, 2021.

Cleveland Clinic (2021) "Migraine Headaches."my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed June 11, 2021.

Johns Hopkins Medicine (2021) "Migraine Headaches." www.hopkinsallchidrens.org. Accessed June 11, 2021.

Teixido, M. and Carey, J. (2014) "Migraine - More than a Headache." www.hopkinsmedicine.org. Accessed June 11, 2021.

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