“What are chronic migraines” is a question I am frequently asked by my new clients. They ask this because they are not really sure if they are suffering with chronic migraines or not. They may be suffering with headaches or other seemingly associated symptoms a lot of the time, but not sure if this means they have chronic migraines or not. Without knowing this, they can’t be certain if chronic migraines treatment will help them. It all starts with understanding.
If you are reading this blog, the chances are fairly high that either you or someone close to you has asked this question. If this is the case, I have dedicated my career to helping people just like you. This blog serves as an introduction to the subject of migraines in general; what they are, and how they are defined, and it also answers the question “What are Chronic Migraines?”
By understanding these concepts, you can start to identify your own migraine pattern (or help someone close to you), and form the foundation for bringing them under control.
For nearly twenty years I have been fascinated by the research and treatment of chronic migraines. I am fortunate not to personally suffer with migraines, but my wife has done so for many years. And it was by helping her to start to understand and resolve her migraine pattern many years ago, that the initial inspiration for my journey of discovery with migraine headaches began. And there is certainly a lot to discover…
What are Migraines?
According to Goadsby et al (2017) migraines are considered to be an inherited ‘brain state’. This Brain state is unique to migraine sufferers, and is rather like having a brain that cannot put the brakes on the stimulus it receives. This means that as the various incoming stimuli build up, a migraine episode becomes closer to being triggered.
Recent research has concluded that migraines are predominantly a neural condition, and affect the nervous system of those who experience migraine. This is especially important for the right chronic migraines treatment.
Classically, migraines are divided into four stages;
The Premonitory Phase (occurring before the migraine episode) – such as a change in mood, cravings for certain foods, or a drop in energy levels.
The Aura Phase – where a fully reversible neurological deficit such as a visual aura or speech impairment is experienced by an individual with migraine.
The Headache Phase – This is typically classified as unilateral and pulsating in nature, being accompanied by nausea and photophobia amongst other symptoms. (It is important to note that migraines can occur without a headache!).
The Postdrome Phase – Most often, postdrome symptoms include fatigue, reduced concentration and stiffness of the neck.
Whilst the phases of migraines can occur separately, there generally tends to be a significant amount of overlap between the different phases. Symptoms such as fatigue and poor concentration begin in the premonitory phase and generally persist throughout into the postdrome phase, becoming noticeable again once the headache phase has passed. Once again, these factors can be particularly relevant to chronic migraines treatment.
Red Flags and Chronic Migraines
Chronic migraines are a type of primary headache, but there are many other possible causes of headaches to consider when contemplating chronic migraines treatment. Headache red flags are important indicators that there may be a serious underlying reason for an individual’s headache. It is especially important to understand these when considering the diagnosis of migraines or chronic migraines, and devising an appropriate treatment plan.
Headache red flags include the following:
- A sudden onset of new headache,
- Onset of a headache after 50 years of age,
- Increased frequency or severity of a headache.
- New onset of headache in the presence – of an underlying medical condition.
- Headache with coexisting systemic illness, or focal neurological signs and symptoms.
- Papilloedema (swelling of the optic disc in the eye) with a headache, subsequent to head trauma.
What are chronic migraines?
Your migraines may increase in frequency over time, and it is very important to understand how much of a problem they present to you. But are they chronic migraines? To help understand this, migraines are classified into four states to help identify the frequency of your migraines. When you are doing this, there are various tools you can use, such as the Samuel Maddock Health Migraine Diary.
The Four Frequency States of Migraines:
(Classified as Headache Days).
- No migraine
- Low-frequency episodic migraine (occurring less than 10 days per month)
- High-frequency episodic migraine (occurring between 10-14 days per month)
- Chronic migraine (occurring 15 times or more per month)
The International Headache Society (IHS) defines chronic migraine as:
- A headache which occurs on 15 or more days per month
- For more than three months
- With features of a migraine headache on at least eight of these days per month
What does chronic migraines mean?
If you are currently experiencing chronic migraines, this means you are spending more days than not with a migraine or headache each month. The official definition of chronic migraines is an occurrence of 15 or more migraine or headache days per month.
The impact of this on your life will be especially significant, so the more you understand about your chronic migraines and how you can manage these, the better the outcome of your chronic migraines treatment.
Are chronic migraines a disability?
“Are chronic migraines a disability?” This is a question I am sometimes asked by my clients. They ask this because of the tremendous disruption that their migraines are causing upon their life, and usually their work too. They may be forced to miss many days of work each month, with this in itself contributing to their already high stress levels. My answer is simple. “If you are unable to work due to your chronic migraines, you can apply for disability benefit but this isn’t always an easy process.
The more you understand about your migraines and how they affect you, the more evidence you can provide for disability benefits. The best outcome, of course, is that you can find a way to improve your chronic migraines over the long term, so they are no longer a disability.
As an experienced primary healthcare practitioner, I specialise in the natural treatment and prevention of chronic migraines using osteopathy, functional medicine, and CBD Oil. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.