A migraine is a kind of disabling headache that happens with vomiting, nausea and sensitivity to light. Migraines usually last anywhere from 4 hours to over 3 days and it can be even longer in some cases. According to the American Migraine Foundation, around 36 million American suffer from migraine, out of which the number of women is higher than men. Women experience three times more frequency of migraines than men. It starts somewhere between the age of 10 and 40 years.
In this blog, we have shown some light on how long does migraine lasts and the best ways of treating the problem naturally and medically.
How long does migraine last?
In general, migraine can last from 4-72 hours. Predicting the exact time of the headache is quite difficult but maintaining a record of the frequency and severity of the migraine attack can help in the process.
Migraines are basically categorized into four or five different stages.
- warning (premonitory) phase
- aura (not always present)
- headache, or main attack
- resolution period
- recovery (postdrome) stage
Some of these common stages last only for a short time span but there are other that can last longer. By having a migraine journal, you can keep a track of the nature and patterns of your migraine attacks and prepare for the suffering likewise.
Before we learn more about each phases of migraine, let us look into the causes of migraine headaches
What are the causes of migraine headaches?
Even after years of research on migraine headaches, experts are yet to find the exact cause of migraine. On ground level, migraine headaches relate to any changes in the brain and can also be genetic for some individuals. If the problem has been running in your family since generations, you are likely to experience it at some stage of your life.
Some of the main triggers of migraines include bright light, fatigue, weather changes, loud music, etc. There are some scientists who believe migraine is the result of the fluctuation of blood flow in your brain. A migraine attack starts some overactive nerve cells in your brain send out signals activating the trigeminal nerve. It is the nerve that supplies sensation to your face and head. When the nerves activate, it causes release of serotonin and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). These are certain chemicals causing the blood vessels in the brain to swell. It further releases neurotransmitters that lead to pain and inflammation.
What happens during the warning phase?
There are situations when migraine begins with symptoms that actually have nothing related to a headache.
The symptoms include:
- craving certain foods
- stiff neck
- increased thirst
- irritability or other mood changes
The above-mentioned symptoms last for 1-24 hours prior to the aura phase or headache phase start.
What happens in the aura phase?
Around 15-25% of individuals having migraines go through the aura phase. The symptoms contributing to the beginning of the aura phase occurs before the main attack.
The symptoms of aura phase include:
- colored spots
- dark spots
- sparkles or “stars”
- flashing lights
- zigzag lines
You may also feel:
- numbness or tingling
- anxiety or confusion
When it gets severe, you may also go through problems in hearing and speech. In the rarest of migraine cases, individuals might faint or experience partial paralysis. The aura symptoms last from 5min to one hour.
Even though these symptoms show up before a migraine attack, there is a possibility of its occurrence with the migraine attack. In children, an aura and migraine headache occurs often at the same time.
There are also cases when an aura can occur and relieve without initiating a migraine headache.
What happens during a migraine headache?
Most migraine attacks are not accompanied by aura phase. In such cases, migraine directly moves from the warning stage to the headache stage.
Headache symptoms are mostly same in case of migraines, regardless of the aura phase.
Some common symptoms include:
- throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head
- sensitivity to light, noise, odors, and even touch
- blurred vision
- loss of appetite
- worsening pain with physical activity or other movement
For most individuals, these symptoms are severe, so much so that they find it difficult to carry out their daily activities and work.
This phase typically lasts from a couple of hours to a few days.
What happens after the aura and headache phase?
Gradually, migraine headaches fade in severity, For some people, a couple of hours of nap can relieve the symptoms. Children taking a few minutes of rest can experience relief in the headache symptoms. It is called the resolution phase.
As the symptoms start relieving, you will experience the recovery phase. It results in the feeling exhaustion or sometimes elation. You may also experience dizziness and feel weak, confused or moody.
There are cases when these symptoms of the recovery phase pair up with symptoms of your warning phase. If you lose your appetite during warning stage, you might feel ravenous during the recovery stage.
These symptoms are likely to last for a couple of days post headache.
Treatment for migraine
Migraine is not a completely curable ailment and if you have infrequent migraines, you can use OTC (over-the-counter) medications to treat these symptoms.
In case of severe, chronic symptoms, OTC symptoms don’t necessarily work. Your physician or doctor will prescribe stronger medication for relief and prevention of future migration attacks.
Home remedies for migraine
In some cases, a change in environment may be enough to relieve most of your headache symptoms. If the situation permits, you should sleep in a quiet room in the dark. If you want a bit of lighting, use lamps in the room. During daytime, draw the curtains or blinds to block sunlight.
The light from your computer, laptop, phone, television or other electronic devices can increase the headache symptoms. So, make sure you limit your screen time as much as possible.
Use a cold compress and massage your temples to avoid any further trigger of your symptoms. If nausea is not one of your headache symptoms, you can also increase your water intake to reduce the pain and discomfort.
You should notice what triggers your migraine headache and try avoiding those things. This reduces the existing symptoms and prevents its recurrence.
Common migraine triggers include:
- certain foods
- skipped meals
- drinks with alcohol or caffeine
- certain medications
- varied or unhealthy sleep patterns
- hormonal changes
- weather changes
- concussions and other head injuries
Over-the-counter or OTC medication for migraine is the first form of treatment that you are use for mild and infrequent headaches. Common pain killers that you can have are Advil (Ibuprofen), Bayer (Aspirin) and Aleve (Naproxen).
If these symptoms do not go away with OTC medication due to severity, you can take a medication that is a combination of a pain killer and caffeine, like Excedrin. Caffeine can both treat and trigger migraine, so you must only try this medication if coffee isn’t one of your migraine triggers.
If OTC doesn’t work for you well, you must see a doctor. A doctor will prescribe you stronger medication, such as ergots, triptans and opioids to provide quick relief from the pain. In case you are nauseous, they will provide a medication likewise.
If you experience chronic migraines, the doctor will prescribe tablets to prevent migraines in future.
These medications include:
- calcium channel blockers
- CGRP antagonists
Right time to see a doctor
If this is your first migraine headache, OTC medications and home remedies can help you relieve the initial symptoms. However, if it gets frequent and severe, it is important to visit a doctor. A neurologist or general physician can help in assessing your symptoms and prescribing a suitable medication.
You need to go to a doctor immediately, when
- the symptoms start after a head injury
- your symptoms last for more than 72 hours
- your age is above 40 years and it is your first migraine attack
Migraines are not same as typical headaches. When you experience a migraine headache, you will have pounding pain, nausea and get sensitive to sound and light. During a migraine attack, you will be ready to try anything and everything to get quick relief from the extreme pain and discomfort.
In case you do not want to see a doctor right away, but want quick relief from migraine, there are some home remedies that can help you control the symptoms. Some at-home remedies can help relieving the pain and discomfort.
Let us have a look at some effective tips that can help you control the symptoms of a migraine headache
Effective tips to control migraine symptoms
Maintain proper diet
Your diet is very significant factor to take care of when you try preventing migraines. There are several foods and beverages that can trigger migraines, some of which include:
- foods with nitrates including hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, and sausage
- cheese that contains the naturally-occurring compound tyramine, such as blue, feta, cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss
- alcohol, especially red wine
- foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer
- foods that are very cold such as ice cream or iced drinks
- processed foods
- pickled foods
- dried fruits
- cultured dairy products such as buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt
Caffeine in limited amount can work as a home remedy for easing migraine pain in some people. It is also included as an ingredient is some prescribed medications. However, consuming too much caffeine can be a trigger of your migraine attack. You may experience severe caffeine withdrawal headache.
You can maintain a journal to keep a track of your daily diet and see what food and beverages result in migraine attacks.
Use lavender oil
One of the best ways to get rid of migraine naturally is inhaling lavender oil. As per the research of 2012, experts decoded that people inhaling lavender essential oil during a migraine headache for around 15 minutes saw quicker relief that the ones who used placebo instead. You can either apply it diluted to your temples or inhale it directly.
Use the benefit of acupressure
Acupressure is an effective practice that helps relieving the symptoms of migraine in most individuals. It is the process of applying pressure on specific parts of your body using your hands and fingers. As per the reports of a systematic review of 2014, acupressure can work as a credible treatment option for people having chronic migraines and other health conditions. In another study, scientists disclosed that acupressure can also help relieving migraine-related nausea.
Feverfew is a type of flowering herb that looks very similar to daisy. It is called a folk remedy for migraine attacks. As per the research of 2014 by experts, there is not sufficient evidence to support the fact. But still people claim that it can help you reduce the symptoms without any side effects.
Use peppermint oil
Menthol in peppermint essential oil is an effective ingredient to cure migraines and prevents them to recur any soon. As per a research in 2010, experts found that applying peppermint oil or a menthol solution to the temples and forehead can reduce migraine pain more effectively than placebo. It also works for migraine-related issues like nausea, pain and sensitivity to light.
Try taking ginger
Ginger is effective in easing the effects of nausea, be it for any reason, including migraine. Experts during a researched revealed that ginger powder reduces the severity and longevity of migraine. It doesn’t have any side-effects.
Include magnesium in your diet
Magnesium deficiency can link to migraines and headaches. Studies are evidence that magnesium oxide supplements can help avoid aura and migraines. It also helps in preventing menstrual-related migraines.
You can get magnesium from food sources like:
- sesame seeds
- sunflower seeds
- Brazil nuts
- peanut butter
Book an appointment from massage
If you experience frequent migraine headaches, you can go for a massage once in a week to improve sleep quality and reduce the frequency of your migraine attacks.
In a Nutshell
Migraine is type of headache that causes pounding pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms. By now, you may have understood how long does migraine last and what are the treatment and home remedies for curing migraine. Do tell us what worked best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How long does a typical migraine last?
Ans: A migraine attack can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated.
Q2. Are there different types of migraines with varying durations?
Ans: Yes, there are various types of migraines. Some may be shorter or longer in duration, depending on the individual and specific subtype.
Q3. Can migraines be shorter than 4 hours?
Ans: While 4 hours is a common duration, some individuals may experience shorter episodes known as “mini migraines” or “migraine attacks without aura”.
Q4. What factors can affect the duration of a migraine?
Ans: Duration can be influenced by the individual’s response to triggers, the effectiveness of treatment, and their overall health.
Q5. Can treatments help shorten the duration of a migraine attack?
Ans: Yes, early intervention with appropriate medications and lifestyle changes can help reduce the duration and severity of a migraine.