Migraine is a common condition, which is ranked the top three most prevalent disorder in the world, and also the seventh highest causes of disability in the world. 1
A migraine attack can leave a person crippled and bedridden from anywhere between 4 hours and 3 days due to its severe nature of attack, and can occur frequently even in the space of 1 week.
The previous article had listed recent research and evidence, which revealed migraine to not be a vascular headache. The traditional view and thoughts of the origin of a migraine was believed to be the vasodilation of blood vessels within the head. Recent research and evidence has shown migraine to not be a vascular headache. In fact, multiple studies through transcranial Doppler investigations have found no significant differences in vasodilation between migraine and non-migraine sufferers. Moreover, those who recovered from a migraine attack continued to have their blood vessels expanded, which further indicates migraine to not be vascular in origin. 2, 3.
With new research, studies have found those suffering from migraines do not suffer from expansion of blood vessels in the brain, however, suffer from a sensitized brainstem.
The brainstem comprises of the Trigemino-cervical nucleus, which is found in the upper 3 cervical spines of the neck. This filters all the sensory input from the head such as the neck, face, jaw and upper teeth. It also filters information such as the blood vessels in the brain whether it be too dilated or constricted. It also filters information of a chemical in the body called serotonin, which is responsible in regulating the body’s response to stress, food and changes in hormone levels. Hence, any of the above information that passes through a sensitised brainstem can induce headaches and migraines.
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Comparing to a regular person without a sensitized brainstem, they are capable of, for example, becoming stressed, able to drink a glass of wine, able to sit in front of the computer all day, or having their regular menstrual cycle without the threat of causing a headache or migraine. On the other hand, those with a sensitized brainstem will result in these information passing through the sensitive brainstem, to be regarded as a threat to the body and result in a headache and migraine.
Researchers have explained and described a sensitized brainstem much like to a person having third-degree burns, for example, to their left hand. With their right hand what would be a normal sensation of air blowing on it, dipping the hand in water, shaking hands with another person would feel normal and pain free. However the sensitive left hand with third-degree burns would feel immediate pain with inputs such as air blowing on it, dipping the hand in water and even shaking hands with another person. As a result, normal input passing through the sensitized brainstem, and in particular the Trigemino-cervical nucleus, would result in pain much like a hand with third-degree burns, however in this case, resulting in a headache and migraine pain.
The next article will explain the reason why health practitioners continue to believe migraines to be vascular in origin and the real mechanism of why the Triptans medication helps those with headaches and migraines. For further information visit The Brisbane Headache and Migraine Clinic which deals with the treatment of headaches and migraines. Information about this clinic can be found by clicking here or visiting the headache Brisbane clinic or visit the link http://brisbanemigraine.com.au
1. Global Burden of Disease Survey 2010
2. (Goadsby, P,J, (2009) The vascular theory of Migraine. A great story wrecked by the facts. Brain, 132 (1), pp 6-7.
3. Thomsen, l. L., Iversen, H.K., & Olesen, J. (1995). Cerebral blood flow velocities are reduced during attacks of unilateral migraine without aura. Cephalaglia, 15(2), 109-116.