Migraines are usually severe and cost Canadians both millions of dollars in lost production and of course valuable and enjoyable time with friends and family. For years the condition has been underestimated by the Healthcare community, however this has changed recently. New medications and treatments are now available that are quite effective and new research brings greater understanding of the condition and the human brain as a whole.

What is it?
Migraine is a severe headache that is often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. There are two types of migraine:

Classical - the headache is preceded by an aura when symptoms such as seeing flashing lights, temporary visual loss, speech problems, or numbness of the face or arms may occur.
Common - no aura precedes the headache.

What happens?
Both types of migraine often start with changes in mood and feelings of hunger or food cravings. Migraine attacks last from 4 - 72 hours and are usually felt on one side of the head. During this time sufferers usually need to lie down in a quiet and darkened room since the throbbing headache is often made worse by movement, noise, and light.

Why does it happen?
Changes in the size of blood vessels and the levels of neurotransmitter substances (chemical messengers) in the brain are thought to be responsible for migraines. In particular, a fall in the levels of the brain chemical serotonin is believed to be responsible for the dilatation (widening) of the blood vessels that causes the throbbing headache. Many factors may trigger migraines including:

  • Tiredness.
  • Stress
  • Dehydration.
  • Missed or delayed meals.
  • Certain foods and drinks- cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea, alcohol.

Can I stop it?

  • Migraine cannot be cured but it can be kept under control.
  • Keeping a diary helps identify triggers that can then be avoided.
  • Some people find that taking medicines early in the attack reduces the severity and duration of the attack.

Should I see doctor?
Yes, if:

  • Medication (painkillers) purchased from the pharmacist is not helping or attacks are coming more frequently.
  • There's a change from usual migraine symptoms.


  • Avoid any triggers.
  • Painkillers - available from the pharmacist.
  • Painkillers combined with anti-sickness medication - with prescription.
  • Medication that restore the normal levels of serotonin - with prescription.
  • Acupuncture, osteopathy, yoga, relaxation, or homeopathy may help.

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