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SELF-HELP SERIES: How to Treat Migraines

Updated: Jan 23

Before doing anything see your primary care physician or a headache clinic. Migraines are often confused with muscle tension headaches. A migraine is generally pain on one side of your head and usually behind the eye. You will be very sensitive to light and sound. A muscle tension headache is generalized as a band around your head and is often associated with Monday morning caffeine withdrawal or clenching your teeth or poor posture or fatigue. If you are diagnosed with migraines you might consider Relaxation Training and an alternative behavioral treatment which has been proven to be effective in preventing migraine headaches, biofeedback. At all cost avoid vasoconstrictors such as caffeine or chocolate (read the label).

The following is the chain of events that best describes the cause of migraine headaches. All have to be present to have a migraine:

  1. Heredity (separates those who have migraines from those who don’t)

  2. Stress (inevitable) causes …

  3. Vasoconstriction which triggers the release of …

  4. Neurokinnen in the brain, which causes …

  5. Vasodilation in the brain and subsequent …

  6. Swelling and edema of the arteries in the brain and the resulting stabbing pain we call a “migraine”

The key is to prevent the migraine headache by preventing vasoconstriction. Stress management and relaxation training are basic tools for treating and avoiding migraines. Biofeedback teaches you vasodilation, thus preventing vasoconstriction which triggers neurokinnen. In this way the migraine is prevented. Remember too that caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and what role (above) in the chain of migraine events does a vasoconstrictor play? Coffee may be the “cure” for Monday morning withdrawal symptoms. However, it can trigger a migraine!

One other note to keep in mind, You can have the Optical Migraine phenomena which is that jagged line you see in your eye on occasion. It does not always end up in a migraine. This phenomena can be so severe that it mimics a stroke, effecting sight, speech, hearing, balance, and the like. It usually lasts no more than an hour. If you experience this, it’s best to get it checked out as a stroke, even though it may not be.

*See also “About Biofeedback” by the American Association of Biofeedback at

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