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The Stages of a Migraine

Migraines are among the most common neurological conditions, affecting nearly 40 million Americans and over 1 billion people worldwide. Despite their prevalence, many people only associate migraines with a bad headache.

The truth is that migraines come in stages, and head pain is only one of the four stages of migraine. At Alate Health, our providers, board-certified interventional radiologists Dr. Andrew Doe and Dr. Michelle Maneevese, offer expert diagnosis and treatment of migraines. 

Our team has helped many men and women in Houston, Texas, find relief from the troublesome symptoms associated with migraines. If you’re one of the many people struggling with this often debilitating condition, take a moment and learn about the stages of migraine and how you can find relief.   

What are the stages of migraines?

Many people think of migraines simply as severe headaches. But there’s more to migraines than a headache. Migraines occur in four stages, and you may go through some but not all four stages any time a migraine develops. Let’s take a closer look.    

Stage 1: Premonitory phase

The first migraine stage is the premonitory phase, or prodrome, phase. This is sometimes called the “pre-headache” phase, as it occurs before the migraine headache begins. Typically marked by non-painful symptoms, this stage acts like a warning signal that a migraine is on the way. 

For example, some people in the premonitory phase have food cravings or reactions to certain foods. They may experience yawning, stiffness or pain in the neck, or sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds. Some people also have mood changes that are hard to explain or stomach problems.  

The premonitory phase can last hours or days. During this time, you may be able to head off a migraine by changing your behavior (e.g., avoiding certain foods), taking medications, or practicing different behavioral techniques (e.g., meditation). 

Stage 2: Aura phase

About 33% of people getting a migraine experience stage two of a migraine: the aura phase. During the aura phase, people experience different sensory disturbances that affect one or more of their senses, including sight, sense of touch, or ability to talk or problem solve. 

These symptoms usually last at least 5 minutes but can last for up to an hour or longer, and they usually begin just before the migraine headache. Symptoms from the aura phase include:

In some individuals, the aura phase may occur after the headache has already started.   

Stage 3: Headache phase

Stage three is the headache phase. Migraine headaches vary in intensity and can range from a mild throbbing to severe enough to require medical treatment. During the headache phase, different things may worsen the migraine, including physical movement and exposure to light, sound, or certain smells.  

Migraine headaches are characterized by pain on only one side of the head, though it’s possible to get pain on both sides. Typically the pain from migraines is more intense or severe than a regular headache, and migraines can last for an hour or so or up to several days.   

Stage 4: Postdrome phase

The fourth stage of migraines is the postdrome phase. Sometimes called the migraine hangover, this phase occurs after the headache ends and your body tries to recover. You may feel tired, confused, and generally unwell with body aches, difficulty concentrating, and sensitivity to light. 

The postdrome phase can be as disruptive to your life as the headache phase, and it can last for a few hours or up to several days.

Are there treatments for migraines?

If you’re tired of dealing with the pain and disruption migraines bring, you’ve probably tried different methods of finding relief. At Alate Pain Center, our providers manage severe, chronic migraines with a revolutionary new treatment: the SphenoCath® SPG blocking procedure.

The sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) nerve bundle is located inside the nasal cavity and plays a role in developing migraine headaches. The SphenoCath device delivers an anesthetic directly into the SPG nerve bundle, providing relief from migraine pain.

An SPG nerve blocking procedure can provide immediate and ongoing relief for the pain associated with migraine headaches for qualified candidates.

Learn more about the stages of migraines and the treatments available to help by getting in touch with Alate Health in Houston. You can contact us by calling our scheduling line at 713-322-7537 or request an appointment online now. 

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