What is migraine?

Is a migraine headache making your life miserable and unproductive? Migraine is a complex neurological disorder, which is prevalent across the world and getting rid of it permanently can be a difficult situation to achieve through conventional medicines. This is because there is no such medicine designed particularly for treating your migraine headache. This is the reason why people are more open towards alternative medicine like Ayurveda, acupuncture and herbal medicines.

Migraine headache is characterized as one of the most common primary headache disorder, where a person experiences a pulsatile throbbing sensation in the head on the unilateral side. Migraine headaches can affect a person’s life by hindering the productivity of an individual. It is often associated with comorbidities causing a greater degree of disability.

Migraine pain can be triggered by a number of psychological and physiological stressors. Various researches have shown that psychological stress, sleep deprivation, lack of physical exercise, fasting, and change in weather conditions can trigger migraine headaches. The intensity and frequency of migraine headaches vary between individuals and the symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and visual disturbances.

Conventional therapies for migraine are often associated with side effects, due to which most of the migraine patients are reluctant to take these medicines and prefer complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). Migraine is among common forms of a headache that continues to pose a big challenge to the medical world due to its incompletely understood etiology and unpredictable nature. This is more so when over the years an episodic migraine in some persons progresses to chronic, refractory or medication overuse headache.

Migraine is a complex disorder characterized by a recurrent episode of a severe headache which is most often unilaterally (only one side) and may be associated with visual or sensory symptoms which are known as an "AURA" that occurs before the head pain or it may also occur during or after. Migraine is the most common form of a headache largely affecting the urban population. About 15-17% of women and 5-7% of men are affected by this disorder. Though a migraine may occur in all age groups, it is highly prevalent in the age group of 18-45 years. Migraine attacks are characterized by recurrent headaches with a unilateral or bilateral location, pulsating nature and moderate to severe intensity causing significant debility. World Health Organization has ranked migraine 6th among disability causing diseases.

There is no established cause and cure for a migraine. Though diverse theories have been brought forward from time to time by experts, none of these are able to provide long-term prophylactic treatment. On the contrary, the prolonged use of painkillers further triggers Medication Overuse Headache (MOH) and other side effects.

How Ayurveda Views Migraine

Ayurveda and Yoga therapy are two ancient Indian systems of medicine whose integration offers a holistic approach. Migraine treatment in Ayurveda is mentioned as Ardhavabedhaka that describes one-sided pain which is intense and piercing in nature. It also states that Ardhavabhedaka is attributed to various causes, such as daytime sleeping, fasting, and fear, intake of dry food items, stress, alcohol, weeping, anxiety, and grief.

Ayurveda promotes mind-body medicine in a comprehensive manner and thus influences physiological processes including autonomic modulation to control the disease. Ayurvedic treatment for migraine headaches involves the elimination of vitiated Kapha Dosha which in turn helps to prevent the forthcoming Kapha disorders and associated Pitta disorders. This can be achieved through the administration of samshodhana (Panchakarma-Bio-purificatory techniques, kaya virechana (therapeutic purgation), Pathya ahara (wholesome regulated diet) and vihara (wholesome regulated lifestyle). All of which help maintain homeostasis balance between all dosha for prevention and treatment of diseases.

According to the vaidyas, conventional ayurvedic practitioners, the treatment works on the principle that migraine occurs whenever the acid-alkaline balance in the stomach is disturbed. This, according to them, results in greater pitta, a step used in Ayurveda to look at an individual's health utilizing the pulse and affects body functions. The treatment that is prescribed is designed to restore the balance.

The cure is also dependent on the change in the lifestyle of these patients. Though considered genetic in nature, a number of environmental factors trigger migraines such as anxiety, change in the meals consumed, and other environmental factors. An external stimulus such as excessive noise, light, stress, and tension all contribute to increasing migraine pains. Weak digestion is also a contributing factor that increases ama within the human body and prevents proper blood flow in the body and brain. Ayurveda and allopathy cite irregular eating habits like long intervals between meals as triggers for migraines as well.