Bonitas Member Magazine B-Living Issue 3 | Page 29
Accurately diagnosing this ailment in different people is
complex and requires highly specialised medical training,
unfortunately not part of the usual curriculum of a
medical degree. A doctor’s knowledge about headaches
may only develop after university from pharmaceutical
companies promoting their medications.
Diagnosing headaches accurately
To accurately diagnose a headache, a doctor needs to
have a highly specialised knowledge of the anatomy of
the head, neck, muscles of the jaws, neck, arteries in
the scalp and muscles behind the top jaw. Many doctors
and even headache specialists are not always trained on
diagnosing migraines and may only prescribe medication
to relieve symptoms of pain and nausea.
Treatment should be based on where the pain is coming
from, whether the pain is muscular, which muscles are
involved, whether the migraine is caused by arteries,
which arteries are involved and whether the migraine
is both muscular and vascular. The medical team at
the Headache Clinic in Johannesburg have developed
a unique system of examination where they mapped
out main muscle areas causing headache pain and have
found pain-producing arteries that enable their team to
diagnose headache pain with greater accuracy.
What are the triggers?
The most common mistake doctors and migraine
sufferers make is confusing triggers and symptoms with
the cause of migraines. The trigger merely activates
an abnormal occurrence in a physical structure so that
it experiences pain and is not the underlying physical
structure which causes pain by sending pain signals to
the brain. If the painful structure is treated, the trigger
no longer activates this pain and while some triggers can
be controlled, some cannot.
Triggers of migraines that can be controlled are:
• Food or drinks – About 20% of migraine sufferers
have an identifiable food trigger but the trigger
doesn’t always set off a migraine and avoiding
the trigger doesn’t always prevent an attack.
Keep a migraine diary to record what you eat so
you can easily identify the culprit causing the
• Stress – Sometimes it is possible to avoid stress,
but in this day and age it is almost impossible to
live a completely stress-free life.
• Exercising – Exercise is beneficial to some
migraine sufferers, but to others it makes
migraines worse so the only way to tell is to see
how you respond to exercise.
Triggers that cannot be controlled include:
• Hormonal changes – When a girl’s menstrual
cycle starts, they experience three times more
migraines than boys and get more migraines
during this time, or some women experience
attacks only at that time. This is caused by the
hormone fluctuations during the menstrual
cycle which are normal and shouldn’t be
• During pregnancy – Migraines often get worse
during the first three months of pregnancy, but
during the last six months as oestrogen levels
rise, many women find their migraines disappear
until after the baby is born and they stop
• Weather change – A change in climate can
sometimes bring on a migraine attack which is
unfortunately a trigger that cannot be avoided.
Types of headaches
B-Living Issue 3, 2017