By Carol A. Lampman
A migraine is a throbbing or pulsating headache that is often one sided (unilateral) and associated with nausea; vomiting; sensitivity to light, sound, and smells; sleep disruption; and depression. Attacks are often recurrent and tend to become less severe as the migraine sufferer ages.
Some of you might remember it was my personal problem with migraines that started me on this journey. The search for permanent relief could only come from addressing the cause and not just the symptoms of my recurring pain. It was this quest that ultimately led me to an intensely personal and life changing exploration of the body mind. Through the connection to the breath, I became aware of deeply held emotions and a mountain of energy trapped in my physical body. The results of the twists and turns on the winding road to healing became the foundation for the modality called The Integration Process.
Doctors think migraines may be caused by a chemical or electrical problem in certain parts of the brain. According to theory, the nervous system responds to a trigger such as stress by creating spasms in the arteries at the base of the brain. The spasms constrict several arteries supplying blood to the brain, including arteries from the scalp and neck. As these arteries constrict, the flow of blood to the brain is reduced. At the same time, platelets clump together and release a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin acts as a powerful constrictor of arteries, further reducing blood and oxygen supply to the brain. In reaction to the reduced oxygen supply, certain arteries within the brain dilate to meet the brain’s energy needs. This dilation spreads, finally affecting neck and scalp arteries. It is believed this dilation causes the pain related to the migraine.
SYMPTOMS OF A MIGRAINE
While there are many forms of migraine headaches, classic and common are the two major varieties. The basic difference between the two types of migraine is the appearance of an “aura.” The aura is the occurrence of neurological symptoms 10-30 minutes before the classic migraine attack. You may see flashing lights, zigzag lines or temporarily lose vision. Other symptoms of classic migraine include difficulty with speech, confusion, weakness of an arm or leg and tingling of face or hands.
The pain of a classic migraine headache is described as an intense throbbing or pounding felt in the forehead/temple, ear/jaw or around the eyes. Classic migraines start on one side of the head but can eventually spread to the other side. An attack may last one to two painful days.
The common migraine – a term that reflects the disorder’s more frequent occurrence in the general population – is not preceded by an aura. Some people do experience a variety of vague symptoms before common migraines – mental fuzziness, mood changes, fatigue, and fluid retention. During the headache phase of a common migraine, there may be abdominal pain and diarrhea, increased urination, nausea and vomiting. Both classic and common migraines can strike as often as several times a week or rarely as once every few years.
There are many things you can do to reduce the pain of migraine. The most common methods of preventing and controlling migraines include drug therapy, cold packs, Biofeedback, stress reduction and regular exercise. For some it is important to identify and eliminate the triggers which may include certain foods, alcohol, caffeine, nitrates, hormonal changes, as well as stress, exhaustion or lack of sleep.
Migraines afflict about 24 million people in the United States. They may occur at any age, but usually begin between the ages of 10 and 40 and diminish after age 50. Approximately 75% of migraine sufferers are women. If you are working with someone with migraines, I would ask the following questions …
- What was happening around the time the headaches began?
- Is there a physical, emotional, or psychological link to intimate relationships?
- What is her breathing pattern? (Look especially for frozen or reverse breathing.)
Look at her body. Is there holding rigidity, especially in the shoulders, neck and / or face? Is there any history of illness, chronic stress, abuse, or female problems? Is there the ability to connect with emotionally? Especially the ability to express anger. Has there been any previous therapy that includes emotional work? Is there full access to childhood memories? Is there any depression now or in the past? (It may be low level as migraine sufferers may be highly efficient and productive people.)
There is no doubt in my mind the causes of my migraines could be traced to the incredible stress held in my body. This kind of stress, the kind most migraine people suffer, is chronic and the body can be highly armored. My entire body was so frozen I could or would only breathe barely enough to keep me alive. The origins of this trauma traces back to the womb, toxemia and the resulting trauma of a premature birth. My mother and I were lucky to have survived. This imprint was reinforced in my childhood through frequent illness, hospitalizations and other complications. I use my own experience to set the background as I understand all too well the accumulated stress carried by those with severe migraines. I have so much compassion for anyone with a life plagued with this malady. I spent far too many years feeling sick as the headaches came and went, then came again.
The migraine profile will show a highly sensitive person. By the time the client reaches you, they may have traveled a frustrating road as this condition is not often correctly diagnosed and medical interventions have been less than effective. Remember, it may take some time for the client to trust you before surrendering fully to the breath, unravel the source of the condition and release the underlying stress.
Sometimes the headaches will get worse before they get better and this can be discouraging. This can be referred to as a “healing crisis” and a sign progress is being made. The person needs to be committed to staying with the process long enough for the therapy to work, break the pattern and become completely free from this painful health issue. I have no doubt Breath Therapy will be of help in eliminating this condition.