Ayurvedic Treatment for Migraine
The disabling, periodically recurring headache we dread. You know when it is coming, but you are helpless most of the times to prevent it. It is severe and incapacitating, making you miss work and family time. The recurrent attacks makes you frustrated and possibly anxious. Pain killers sometimes help, most of the times won’t. And, you know that it’s going to happen again.
But it should not happen again for you, as for many who took ayurvedic treatment for migraine and found tremendous improvement in their condition. This is not a claim of one hundred per cent cure for migraine with ayurveda. There are people who still have headaches after ayurvedic treatments for migraine. But we are confident from our treatment experience and results which have reduced the intensity and frequency of headache attacks for many. A lot of people have even got rid of their pain and migraine attacks completely.
Migraine is more common than we may think, affecting about 15% of the total world population. (1) Also its one of the oldest identified issues. Ayurvedic texts have recorded about migraine about 3000 years ago. Apart from that, the available recorded data on migraine dates back to 1500 BC. The term ‘migraine’ is derived from a greek word meaning ‘pain in the half of the head’.
What is Migraine?
Even though severe headache is what comes to our mind when we hear the word, migraine is in fact a complex condition with several symptoms. The symptoms are different for each person. The main symptom most of the people feel is headache itself, in varying intensity for each. Other symptoms include disturbed vision, difficulty to look at bright light, sensitivity to sound and / or smell, nausea and vomiting. For most people, the symptoms disappear within 72 hours. In few cases, it will last longer. That condition is called status migrainosus which may require hospitalisation.
What causes Migraines?
Migraine is one of the diseases which researches have not understood completely. Evidence suggest that migraine is caused by neurological factors, triggered by environmental conditions in genetically predisposed individuals. That means of there is migraine in the family, there is a probability that you may get it. There is a a 34% to 51% genetic influence of likelihood to develop migraine.
People who are susceptible to migraine get headache and other symptoms when they are exposed to triggers. The triggers are environmental factors. Those are mostly common and similar, but can be different to each individual. Usual migraine triggers are stress, lack of food, alcohol, hormonal changes in women, lack of sleep, excessive noise, some strong smells or perfumes, travel, tiredness, excess sunlight etc. About 80% of migraine patients have stress and psychological factors as trigger (3) and the second common factor (with 60% of people reporting it) is food. (4)
Previously migraine was considered as a vascular headache – caused by issues with circulation in the head. But now t is understood from evidences that it is a neurological issue. (2)
Migraine arise from a dysfunction of sensory modulatory networks of the brain. That means it is an error in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information. This error shall be inherited and is influenced by psychological and environmental factors like sleep, food, stress climate etc.
Are there different types of Migraines?
Not everyone will have a ‘typical’ migraine. The experience of the condition will be unique to you.
Moreover, about 10 different types of migraine are classified.
The most common type which affects 70 – 90% of people is hemicranial simplex or Migraine without aura. This is experienced as a throbbing headache, mostly on one side of head which can last from 4 to 72 hours and goes away afterwards even without treatment. Before the headache, people may not experience any symptoms like visual or sensory disturbance or ‘aura’. The headache is usually associated with sensitivity to light and / or sound. There shall also be vomiting or diarrhoea.
The next common type is Migraine with aura. In this type, people experience different sensory symptoms before they get actual pain in the head. These symptoms are called ‘aura’ and usually lasting from 5 minutes to one hour. The aura symptoms include visual disturbances from blurred vision, spots or lines in visual field, flashing lights or bright spots, tunnel vision etc.
There might also be other aura symptoms like numbness, tingling, vertigo etc. The aura is mostly followed by a strong headache as in migraine without aura.
Chronic migraine and episodic migraine: If you have more than fifteen headache days per month over a three month period of which more than eight are migrainous, you are having chronic migraine. If the headache days are less than 15 days, it is called episodic migraine. This type is also triggered similar to other migraine types. Sometimes other types of migraine may increase in frequency and progress to chronic migraine. Over use of pain medicines for headache is another cause of chronic migraine. (5) Often, lifestyle changes and wholistic management is required for these types of migraine.
Migraine attacks with balancing problems, speaking or hearing disturbances, visual disturbance in both eyes etc are a rare form, called Migraine with brain stem aura or Basilar migraine.
Some researchers consider episodic abdominal pain with or without headache in children as migraine, especially when they have a family history. It is called Abdominal migraine.
There is also Menstrual Migraine seen associated with menstruation in women and vestibular migraine which has imbalance and dizziness as a prominent feature.
How does Ayurveda view Migraine:
Ayurveda has studied headaches according to its origin textbooks itself, under the heading ‘sirasola’. The different types of migraine are clearly explained under the name ‘ardhavabhedakam’. The term ‘ardhavabhedakam’ literally translates to ‘pain in the half of head’ – exactly as in the word ‘migraine’. The episodic nature of migraine is also clearly stated. Also another type of headache detailed in the name ‘suryavartham’ explains one type of migraine.
The causes of headaches according to ‘ashtanga hrudaya’ includes excess exposure to extreme climate, lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, alcohol etc. Ayurveda also says that headaches and other diseases concerning the head can occur because of chronically withholding or neglecting the natural urges like defecation, flatus etc. Possibility of infective causes are also pointed out.
Migraine is mostly considered as an issue of imbalance of ‘vata’ ‘dosha’ in the head region. The vitiated ‘Vata’ may sometimes cause imbalance to other ‘dosha’ to produce different symptoms like dizziness, burning sensation, heaviness of head etc.
Treating migraine in ayurveda involves addressing not only head and nervous system, but also digestive system, lifestyle and diet. As ‘vata’ ‘dosha’ is most prominent and easily agitated, and because the triggers of migraine can be from different systems, a multi system approach is needed to balance it long term. Internal and external medicines, different oil to apply on head like ‘Balahatadi coconut oil’, treatment procedures like ‘siro lepam’, ‘dhara’, ‘pichu’ etc are included. ‘Nasyam’ or medication through nose is often done and is found very effective. Sometimes other ‘panchakarma’ therapies like ‘vamana’, ‘virechana’ or ‘vasti’ is incorporated
The medicines used and treatment modalities or plan differ according to symptoms you feel and your overall physical and emotional state (your ‘prakriti’). So it is important to clearly explain all the symptoms you have to get accurate treatment for migraine.
If you are dealing with migraine for long time, we highly recommend you to consult a qualified ayurvedic doctor near you and try ayurvedic treatment for migraine. You may also avail online consultation from our doctors at Sitaram ayurveda.
Please feel free to comment below if you have further questions.
- Vagbhata. Ashtanga Hrudaya, Uttara sthana, Chapter 23.