Migraine is a medical condition which is significant because of its incapacitating nature and high prevalence; nearly 1 in 7 persons are affected worldwide, and it is more common than diabetes, epilepsy, and asthma combined. Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world. About 12 % of the population, that is, nearly I billion people worldwide are estimated to be suffering from this neurological disease. Migraines are severe headaches that occur along with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. The age at onset is usually between 10 and 40 years, with women being 3 times as likely to suffer from migraine as compared to men. Migraines may aggravate with menstruation; some women find that this condition improves or disappears by the age of 50. Duration of an attack may be between 4 to 72 hours; in a few individuals, it may be longer.
Migraines tend to run in families and can be precipitated by trigger factors like stress, certain foods (such as aged cheese, chocolate, alcohol, and certain food additives), caffeine, changes in weather, bright light, menstruation, fatigue, skipping meals, and changes in sleep. Triggers activate the trigeminal nerve, which releases chemicals responsible for causing increased swelling in the blood vessels lining the brain. This releases neurotransmitters which cause pain and inflammation. Some rare types of migraine include symptoms which may temporarily mimic stroke, blindness, pain and paralysis of eye muscles; in addition to causing symptoms like dizziness, imbalance and confusion, and severe, intense headache lasting more than 72 hours. All these situations need urgent medical attention and possibly, hospitalization with intensive care.
Other than those suffering from concurrent medical conditions, people affected with migraine usually have normal blood and imaging reports. Migraine can be managed conservatively with over-the-counter pain killers, medicines to counter nausea and vomiting, preventive medications (medicines to control blood pressure, convulsions, antidepressants, and CGRP inhibitors), biofeedback, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. The severity and frequency of migraines can be reduced by avoiding the known trigger factors, stress management, relaxation training, regular meal schedule, and moderate exercise.
The Ayurvedic management of people with migraine involves taking a detailed medical history, including details related to food habits and lifestyle, which in turn are connected to the frequency and severity of symptoms and trigger factors. Establishing such connections helps in formulation of a treatment protocol as well as providing advice for lifestyle and dietary modifications. Ayurvedic herbal medicines are given to provide symptomatic relief from symptoms as well as to treat the known causes, as determined by the clinical history. It is important to treat inflammation in cranial blood vessels in order to reduce the tendency for recurrent migraine attacks, as well as to treat a hyper-reactive nervous system. The treatment of hyperacidity, indigestion, constipation, and stress, go a long way in successfully treating migraine as well as preventing further episodes.
Various Ayurvedic Panchkarma treatment modalities can be used judiciously in migraine treatment. In addition to oral treatment, Ayurvedic medicated nose drops are used to treat inflammation of blood vessels and involvement of the brain, which may – in individuals with severe migraine – mimic symptoms of stroke, blindness, and glaucoma. Nose drops may be used both to alleviate an acute attack as well as to prevent migraine. In a few select patients who do not tolerate medicines for long, treatment only with medicated nose drops can help bring about significant improvement in symptoms related to migraine. Regular courses of medicated enemas are used to treat a hyper-reactive nervous system; this can help alleviate both the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. A special treatment modality known as Shirobasti is used to treat severe forms of stress which may be causing recurrent attacks of migraine; this treatment may also help in treating inflammation in cranial arteries.
The response to Ayurvedic treatment, as with any other treatment, varies widely from patient to patient; some individuals with long-standing, severe symptoms respond dramatically to just one short course of treatment, while others with milder symptoms may require a protracted course of treatment with more medicines, that too, in higher doses. Refractory patients who do not respond well to simple oral treatment are given courses of Panchkarma detoxification treatments in the form of periodical blood-letting and induced purgation. Blood-letting in small amounts, about 50 ml, may bring about dramatic improvement in a few individuals with migraine.
Migraine is a chronic disease which significantly affects the quality of life of affected individuals, and is a major public health issue with serious health and economic consequences. Migraine sufferers incur nearly 70 % medical healthcare costs more than families with non-migraine sufferers. While modern medicine can reduce the severity and frequency of migraine episodes, it currently does not offer a cure. Ayurvedic herbal treatment can help provide significant improvement in patients with migraine, and can bring about a cure for most affected people.