How Long Does a Migraine Last?

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

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Migraines are severe headaches and typically last between 4 and 72 hours.  The pain can be so intense that it prevents people from doing their daily tasks. As migraine is a debilitating disease there is a negative impact on the quality of life for those who suffer from it.

What is a Migraine Attack?

A migraine is a type of headache that is usually described as throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head.

A migraine is a severe headache that can last from 4 to 72 hours. It has been found that migraine triggers include stress, lack of sleep, and certain foods.

The pain is usually on one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound.

There are two types of migraines:

Migraine with aura – where a person experiences temporary visual disturbances before the migraine begins

Migraine without aura – where people don’t experience temporary visual disturbances before the migraine begins.

Complex migraine – Different from the common variant.

Chronic migraine- Migraine that persists for more than 72 hours.

What does Happen in a Migraine Attack?

A migraine attack is an intense, throbbing pain that usually begins in one area of the head and slowly moves to another.

It can last anywhere from one to 72 hours. Migraine attacks can be very debilitating, affecting your mood, sleep patterns, ability to work or function normally, and even your appetite.

How Do You Know Your Headache is Migraine?

Migraines are different than headaches because they have a specific pattern of symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms during a migraine attack:

  • You feel pressure or tightness in one area of your head (for example, one temple) or feel as though something sharp is pressing against it (for example, a toothache).
  • You have a strong urge to yawn or stretch out your arms and legs.
  • You feel sick to your stomach before beginning to feel the headache pain.

Stages of Migraine

There are four stages of migraine, which are prodrome, aura, headache phase, and postdrome.

Prodrome Stage

The prodrome stage is the stage before the headache phase. It usually lasts for hours or two days before the headache starts.

  • Nausea
  • Yawning
  • Mood changes – irritability, anxiety, depression
  • Sugar craving
  • Poor concentration
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased urge to urinate

Aura

The aura stage usually lasts for 20 to 60 minutes and involves visual disturbances like flashing lights or blind spots.

An aura phase migraine is a type of migraine that affects the neurological system. It is characterized by visual disturbances, numbness, and other neurological symptoms.

Visual Aura

Flashlights, blind spots, sparkles

Motor Aura

Jerky moves, twitches

Dysphasia

Slurring of speech, unable to speak

Sound Aura

Tinnitus (ringing in ears), noises

Cause of Aura

The causes of an aura phase are not well understood, but it’s thought to be caused by changes in blood flow in the brain or changes in brain chemicals.

Among the migraine population, not all will face an aura. ¼ of them will have an aura.

When a migraine comes with an aura it is called a classic migraine.

Headache

The headache phase is the most painful part of a migraine where the person experiences a throbbing pain on one side of their head with sensitivity to light and sound.

Pulsating, throbbing type of pain associated with nausea, and vomiting will last for hours to three days.

Postdrome Stage

The postdrome stage occurs after the headache has ended and includes feelings of tiredness, hunger, or thirst as well as mood swings.

This phase is likely to be less severe than the aura phase, but it can still cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.

Migraine hangover is another term for migraine prodromal stage.

This will last for about hours to two days.

Triggers of Migraine

Stress

Stress is a trigger for migraines. Stress is a feeling that causes a person to feel anxious. Heavy workloads and busy schedules will make people stressed out.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause headaches in some people. In triggers migraine.

Researchers believe that caffeine could raise the stress hormone cortisol and other hormones, which can lead to changes in blood flow and nerve activity within the brain. The result is increased sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell.

Food

It can be anything from chocolate to fried foods to high-fat foods. The reason it has this effect on people is because of chemicals released in the brain when they eat these types of foods.

Hormonal Changes

Menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy are stages of females that might trigger migraines due to hormonal changes.

Sensory Stimulants

Sudden changes to light and weather or environment can trigger a migraine attack.Sleep Disorder

Migraines are also more prevalent in people who sleep less. The process of brain repair occurs while you’re sleeping.

Since there is no regeneration of nerves or their activity, people who are sleep less are predisposed to migraine attacks.

The Duration of Migraine Attacks

  • The prodromal stage may last from one hour to 48 hours.
  • The aura stage may last 20 minutes to 60 minutes
  • The headache may last one hour to 72 hours.
  • The post-dromal stage may last from two hours to days.

Treatment for Migraine

Migraines are horrible. They cause pain, nausea, vomiting, and a host of other symptoms.

Luckily, there are some great over-the-counter remedies that can help you get through the day when you have a migraine. Here’s a list of some of our favorite treatment methods in migraine.

Home Treatment

  • Practice Relaxation techniques and breathing practices
  • by drinking milk with caffeine or B-complex vitamins. These ingredients can help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with migraines.

This will also help boost your energy levels so that you can relax and get some rest.

  • Apply ice packs to the back of your neck: This is a great way to reduce swelling and relieve tension in your neck muscles.
  • Get plenty of sleep each night: The body has time to repair itself after being under stress all day long!
  • Supplement

These might help to prevent and stop recurring of migraine attacks.

  • Magnesium supplements
  • Herbs (Feverfew, Butterbab)
  • Coenzyme 10
  • Omega 3
  • vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

OTC Medications

Over-the-counter migraine medications may help for pain relief.

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Naproxen)
  • Anti-emetics (Metoclopramide)
  • Excedrin (the migraine cocktail of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine)

Prescribed Medicine

  • Prescription medications are given to relieve and prevent major disabilities.
  • The major drugs used in migraine medicines to relieve pain are as below.
  • Triptans (Sumatriptan, Rizatriptan)
  • Dihydroergotamine
  • Opioids

Migraines Preventers

  • Beta-blockers: atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol
  • Anticonvulsants:Valporate Na,  levetiracetam, topiramate
  • CGRP antagonists: erenumab, fremanezumab
  • Calcium channel blockers:  verapamil, diltiazem, nimodipine
  • Antidepressants: paroxetine, amitriptyline, fluoxetine, sertraline
  • Botox injections

How to Get Rid of Migraine?

There are many treatment options available for migraine, but some people find that they need to take lifestyle changes than medication on a daily basis to prevent migraine.

There are several ways you can get rid of your migraine at home.

The Acronym SEEDS might help you to follow the steps in preventing migraine.

S: Sleep – The experts believe sleep has a connection with migraine. But lack of sleep and oversleeping both can trigger migraine. It is enough to take 6-8 hours of sleep per day.

E: Exercise – Stretching exercises are more beneficial than strenuous exercises in migraine

E: Eating – Avoiding food triggers and eating regularly will help keep your minerals balanced in the brain.

D: Diary – Note the migraine symptoms that you feel every time.

S: Stress – Relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises might help you to reduce stress.

There are a lot of other remedies you can try to relieve migraine.

  • Take certain supplements – magnesium, herbal supplements (feverfew)
  • Get rid of food triggers
  • Use a biofeedback device – to avoid migraine triggers
  • Acupressure or acupuncture
  • Cold compression

When to See the Doctor

Migraines can be a real pain. You might feel like you’re going to pass out, or that you’re going to die if you don’t get some relief.

And when they’re really bad? They can make it hard to function at work, and even harder to enjoy life outside of work.

That’s why it’s so important to get help when your migraines are bad and it starts with getting an appointment with a doctor who specializes in treating migraines in adults.

This could be a neurologist. The point is that they have experience treating migraines and know what steps they need to take in order for you to feel better as fast as possible.

When you visit your doctor for the first time, they’ll want to do some tests on your head and neck as well as your sinuses.

They’ll also talk about,

  • how often your migraines happen
  • how long they last each time
  • Triggers of migraine
  • Phases of migraine

They will decide the treatment depending on the severity of your migraine.

Apart from that if you are feeling any new symptoms like the below with your migraine you need to rule out the following causes of diseases that mimic migraine.

  • Meningitis: Fever, neck stiffness, difficulty seeing lights
  • Transient Ischemic Attack: One-sided weakness of the body with slurring of speech, and high blood pressure
  • cardiac events: sweating, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness

If you are feeling the above symptoms it is better to talk with your medical doctor.

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TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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