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 migraine. • 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 tampered with. • 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 breastfeeding. • 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 Sinus B-Living Issue 3, 2017 Tension Migraine Cluster Page 28