Managing a migraine

Managing a migraine

A migraine, if not cured, can be managed and controlled. Through medications and treatment in Ayurveda, the effects of this excruciating headache can be alleviated, writes Dr K Vijay Kumar

According to recent studies, almost half the adult population suffers from headache at least once a year. When symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound occur with the headaches, it is likely to be migraine. Migraine is characterised by acute throbbing pain in one or both sides of the head. Pain may be mild to moderate and severe, lasting for between four and seventy-two hours. It may also be a chronic condition recurring often.

Typically, adequate rest, proper food and lifestyle modification can subdue a migraine. While, often, immediate and temporary relief can be obtained with cold water compression on the painful area.

Stress, food, lifestyle habits, nature of work, and hormonal imbalance are causes of migraine. In Ayurveda, migraine is called suryavartha. A migraine occurs due to vasodilatation – widening and loosening (and inflammation) of the nerves and blood vessels of the head. Emotional stress, nature of profession, physical stress, irregular food habits, alcohol consumption, tobacco use and over-medication can trigger migraine with recurrent attacks of headache.

Why it happens
Women are, especially, prone to migraine due to the imbalance in hormones during their menstrual cycle, pregnancy and pre-menopause phase. Of late, an increasing number of young people have been seeking consultation and treatment. Among youngsters, target-oriented nature of jobs and long-term computer usage can lead to migraine.

By understanding the body type or prakriti of the patient, the patient’s history, his/ her psychological and physical factors and severity of the condition, the headache can easily be managed.

Typically, three principles are followed to manage the migraine: correct food habits, lifestyle changes and appropriate treatments prescribed during all phases of a migraine.

Often complete rest, away from stressful atmosphere or activity, sound and light can cure a migraine. Following the right diet may correct the patient’s general ‘basal metabolism’, virtually easing the headaches and frequency of the attacks. It is recommended that you refrain from consumption of excessively spicy, oily and sour food; adhere to regular timing for food intake; and chew your food properly.

Two-phase treatment
Depending on the severity, Ayurveda treatments for migraine involve two phases: Vegavasta - during the attack of headache, and avegavasta - when there is no attack of migraine.

During vegavasta, treatment usually involves Ayurvedic purificatory methods, including internal medicines for cleaning the stomach, and detoxification methods. External application of medicated oils normalises the blood vessels and improves blood circulation. In avegavasta, when there is no migraine attack, Ayurvedic physicians suggest certain measures to prevent headache attacks and medications to minimise the frequency of the attacks.

Typical Ayurvedic treatments may involve nasyam, sirovasthi and the like. In nasyam, medicated oils are used to gently massage the head and face. After proper fomentation of the head and face, prescribed medicines are administered through the nostrils. Ayurveda treatments and dosages of medicines will depend on the severity of the condition, age of the patient and the ongoing climatic season.

During nasyam, the accumulated and infected phlegm is made to dissolve with the medicines and fomentation is forced to come out through the mouth and nostrils. Typically, the minimum period for treatment is seven days.

Sirovasthi is another effective treatment, where lukewarm medicated oils are administered to the patient’s head for the stipulated period using specially designed caps. This kind of treatment is more effective for vasodilatation and stress-related complications.

(The author is medical officer, Sanjeevanam Ayurveda Therapy Centre, Bengaluru)

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