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Managing Migraine Symptoms

Doctor Q&A

Neurologist with Shawnee Mission Health

Migraines are a pain, literally. Having one can keep you from everyday activities such as going to work, driving, watching your children’s soccer games, and even relaxing in front of the television before bed.

Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, you can learn to manage them so they don’t get in the way of your favorite activities. Migraines can be tricky to diagnose—they fall within the headache category, but not all headaches are migraines. There are certain criteria you need to meet to be diagnosed with this condition.

Common migraine symptoms

If you suffer from migraines, you may experience these symptoms for up to 72 hours:

  • Pain on one side of the head
  • Pulsating or throbbing head pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and sound


Sometimes, people also experience an aura leading up to a migraine. These auras may include visual disturbances, such as seeing bright or colorful flashes of light; speech or language problems; temporary vision loss; or a sensation of pins and needles in the arms and legs.

Because migraines may signify other health conditions, such as hypertension, thyroid disorder, sleep apnea, or even a brain tumor, it’s important to see your primary care provider if you experience any of these symptoms.

How are migraines treated?

There are several treatment options to help manage migraines. These include:

  • Medication – Although ibuprofen is sometimes enough, doctors can also prescribe medication to help treat migraine symptoms. There are two main types:
    • Acute therapy – These medications are usually prescribed for people who have infrequent migraines. The medication is taken during a migraine attack and helps relieve symptoms.
    • Prophylactic medication – This type of medication is prescribed for people who experience frequent migraines. It is used to help reduce frequency and severity of migraines.
  • Complementary Therapies – Treatments such as acupuncture and massage can help reduce chronic migraine symptoms and pain by reducing muscle tension and promoting better relaxation.
  • Lifestyle Changes – Making small changes such as getting enough sleep, engaging in regular exercise, quitting smoking, and avoiding smoky environments may help. Avoiding trigger foods like processed meats, items with MSG, and red wine may also keep migraines from occurring.

At Shawnee Mission Health, physicians take care to match patients with the right therapy. It’s important to look at each patient individually because what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. We take into account gender, age, and other health conditions to find the right treatment to manage the patient’s symptoms.

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