Studies show that 5 per cent of men and up to 17 per cent of women suffer from migraine attacks.  Migraines typically affect one side of the head and pulsate.  They can last for a few hours up to a few days.  Symptoms include pain, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound.  There are many classes of migraines, but two of them are more common.  One is called migraine with aura, which means the person suffering has some sort of sensation that the migraine will occur soon.  The second is migraine without aura, where there is no warning the migraine is coming on.

Unfortunately, there are no biological markers, such as blood tests, that can confirm the diagnosis of a migraine.  Usually, a clinician will be able to diagnose a migraine based on the patient’s presentation.  If left untreated, migraines can cause tremendous discomfort and can lead to a decrease in normal everyday functioning.  There may also be an increased risk of stroke in migraine patients.

The cause of migraines is unknown and there are many theories that attempt to explain why they occur.  Some theories focus on the idea that there is a problem with blood vessels, while other theories support the idea that migraines are caused by extremely tight areas of muscle.  Another theory suggests that sufferers have low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  The cause of migraines may be different for different individuals.  Migraines can also be triggered by various things, such as stress.  As a result, the treatment of migraines requires more than one therapy.

The conventional treatment for migraines employs both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical approaches.  Patients respond to a variety of medications and the choice of medication is often based on each individual.  Common medications decrease inflammation, relax blood vessels, and decrease nausea.  From a non-pharmacological perspective, patients are often encouraged to avoid known triggers, use ice, and rest.

Naturopathic medicine offers various treatment options for migraine sufferers, such as acupuncture, botanical medicine, and nutritional supplementation.  In many trials, acupuncture has been shown to benefit migraine patients by about 50%, which is similar to other effective treatments.  In a subset of these trials, acupuncture was compared to proven prophylactic drug treatment.  Patients reported greater improvements and fewer adverse effects with acupuncture.