Migraine is a very common disorder characterized by repeated attacks of headache usually unilateral with different intensity. It is a highly prevalent headache disorder over the past decade having considerable impact on the individual and society. It can involve brain, eye and autonomous nervous system. Migraine results from blood vessel enlargement and the release of chemicals from nerve fibers. Due to the modern lifestyle, people are facing hectic, competitive life. All these habits together will act as the causative factors for many diseases including Migraine.
Migraine is described as Ardhavabhedhaka in Ayurvedic classics. The word Ardhavabhedaka is made of two words- Ardha + Bhedhaka. Ardha means half or half part. Bhedaka means vidarana – piercing or breaking. Finally the word Ardhavabhedaka means a piercing or breaking type of pain in half part. In Ayurvedic Classics various procedures had been explained for treating Migraine. These therapies offer significant preventive measures of Migraine. As per Ayurveda Nasya is the best procedure to manage the migraine.
• Ruksha sevana- taking dry foods.
• Adhyasana- consuming food immediately before the digestion of previous food.
• Poorva vata- exposure to direct breeze.
• Avasyaya- exposure to cold or dew.
• Vega dharana- suppression of natural urges.
• Ati vyayama and ayasa- over exertion etc.
• Dhuma sevana- exposure to smoke.
• Atapa and tushara sevana- hot and cold climates.
• Ambu kreeda- swimming and water games.
• Atiswapna- excessive or continous sleep.
• Atijagarana- night arousals.
• Bhashpa nigraha- suppressing tears.
• Rodana- weeping.
• Madyapana- drinking excess alcohol.
• Krimi- presence of worms.
• Asathmya gandha- unaccustomed smells.
• Allergic reactions.
• Bright lights, loud noises, and certain odors or perfumes.
• Physical or emotional stress.
• Changes in sleep patterns.
• Smoking or exposure to smoke.
• Skipping meals.
• Alcohol or caffeine.
• Menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills.
• Tension headaches.
• Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs, and salami) Other foods such as chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, avocado, banana, citrus, onions, dairy products, and fermented or pickled foods.
• Migraine headaches, which can be dull or severe, usually: Feel throbbing, pounding, or pulsating.
• Are worse on one side of the head.
• Last 6 to 48 hours.
• Symptoms accompanying migraines include: Nausea and vomiting
• Sensitivity to light or sound.
• Loss of appetite.
• Warning signs (auras) that can precede a migraine include seeing stars or zigzag lines, tunnel vision, or a temporary blind spot.
Symptoms that may linger even after the migraine has gone away include:
• Feeling mentally dull, like your thinking is not clear or sharp.
• Increased need for sleep.
• Neck pain.
Lifestyle modification: Migraine (Ardhavabhedaka) headaches can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, eating routine and working habits and avoiding migraine triggers can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Some of these healthy lifestyle include:
• Proper morning routine: Daily elimination to empty bowels, inspecting tongue for any coating, brushing/flossing teeth, massaging gums, cleaning nasal passages (neti pot), self-abhyanga (daily oil application on skin and massaging), massaging ears with oils, practicing meditation, washing eyes at least once per week.
• Proper sleep routine: Proper sleep pattern means that one must go to bed and rise according to the rhythms of nature. It is suggested that one go to bed by 10pm.
• Follow healthy eating guidelines: There are 8 factors that affect the quality of food (nature, processing, combination, quantity, habitat, time, rules of intake, responsibility). The general guidelines for healthy eating include eating food in the proper place, preparing food with loving hands in a loving way, saying Grace before meals, eating without distraction, eating with a proper frame of mine, chewing until it is an even consistency, making sure food is warm oily/moist. Food should not have opposite potencies. Drink only a small amount of fluids with meals and avoid cold drinks. Eat food with confidence and eat until 75% full. Always take some time to rest after meals and allow 3 hours between meals for foods to get digested.
• Stress (Sahasa) management: One must both avoid factors that induce stress and vitiate doshas and also learn coping mechanisms for life stressors. Stress inducing factors can include:
1) Physical stress such as strenuous exercise, fasting, exhaustion, improper body postures, injury/trauma.
2) Psychological stress such as anger, anxiety/nervousness, excitement, confusion, grief, fear.
3) Environmental stress like high altitudes and prolonged exposure to the sun or heat.
Stress avoidance is the best approach. However, some rasayana herbs which improve longevity along with physical/mental strength and immunity can be helpful. Several rasayana herbs show antioxidant, immunomodulator, hepatoprotective, antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. A few example of such herbs are shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa), centella (Centella asiatica), shankha pushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), amla (Emblica officinalis), long pepper (Piper longum), kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), turmeric (Curcuma longa) and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).
• Regular exercise: Several epidemiological studies have proven the effectiveness of regular daily exercise in reducing the intensity of migraine pain. This gives patients an opportunity to take an active role in their own treatment.
Yoga for headaches: Since stress is an important factor in creating both migraine and tension headaches, yoga can without doubt help in preventing these types of headaches. Yoga can also help with tension in the muscles of the neck, back and head which contribute to headaches. Yoga helps to release tight muscles and improve blood circulation in that region. Yoga helps relax the mind as well. Relaxation poses are of great importance in preventing migraine headaches. They can be done at the beginning or at the end of a yoga session or at any time of the day when the body feels stressed or tired.
Meditation: Stress is a major contributor to both tension and migraine headaches. Breath meditation can reduce stress. In this meditation, sit in a comfortable position. There are many types of meditations available. One can focus on the mantra and/or awareness of breath and let thoughts fade away. With exhalation, silently and take a deep long inhalation filling your lungs and abdomen. In addition, keeping a proper posture and alignment of the head and neck during breathing meditation can help reduce tension and migraine headaches. Massage therapy, topical heat or cold and stretching exercises can also help minimize the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. It is very important that migraine get the proper amount of sleep.
Balms/herbal pastes for headaches: A mixture of herbal essential oils can help to alleviate headache. Peppermint essential oil in massage oils and balm can help with migraine.
Pranayama (breathing exercises): Different types of breathing exercises have different effects on the body, mind and spirit. One can benefit from alternate nostril breathing (Anuloma Viloma).
Soothing nose drops (Nasya): Putting about 5 drops of brahmi ghee in each nostril can alleviate the pain of migraine headache. In vata-type headaches, placing 3-5 drops of warm ghee in each nostril can help to calm down the headache.
Conclusion: Migraine sufferers are seeking alternative (nonpharmacologic) therapies to alleviate migraine headaches. The healing science of Ayurveda opens new doors for treatment of migraine and other type of headaches. Ayurveda uses different modalities such as nutrition (based on individual 18 constitution), lifestyle modifications, herbs, panchakarma, yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, pranayama (breathing exercises), aromatherapy, marma points to help treat migraine headaches. These treatment approaches create a balanced physiology. This state of complete balance in healing the body and mind can allow the illness to resolve and symptoms to disappear.