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You’re preparing for an important presentation at work, when suddenly your vision becomes blurry. You are overwhelmed by waves of nausea. Every beam of light is a bullet in your eye, and your head feels about ready to split open.

If you’ve ever had a migraine headache, you understand the horror of the symptoms described above.

Migraines can sneak up on you at the worst of times, and knock you out for the rest of the day.

It’s important to understand how a migraine works, and what you can do to prevent the onset of these draining headaches.

What is a Migraine?

When we are introduced to especially stressful stimuli, areas of our brain are stimulated. In some cases, the stress may lead to overstimulation of certain areas, causing the blood vessels to grow dangerously.

Some of us are more prone to a hyperexcitable brain than others. If you are part of the 20% of Canadians who live with regular migraines, it’s important that you understand what’s going on inside your head.

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Technically speaking, a migraine is the enlargement of the blood vessels in the brain. This stimulates the nerves surrounding the arteries, causing extreme pain. In addition, the stimulation of these nerves causes the release of chemicals. These chemicals increase the enlargement even further, creating a vicious cycle. Once a migraine is activated, the symptoms are likely to build on themselves, furthering the danger.

Directly related to the presence of stress, a migraine is the body’s attempt to shut down and avoid danger.

Unfortunately, many migraines cannot be easily treated with simple medication.

Why is a Migraine Difficult to Treat?

When a migraine is triggered by stress, the sympathetic nervous system of the body is activated. This is the body’s attempt at shutting stress out – trying to turn off the senses and block the stressful stimuli.

Unfortunately this response of defense results in many of the most notable symptoms of a migraine. In addition, the sympathetic nervous system closes the passage between the stomach and the intestines.

Oral medication needs to reach the intestines in order to be fully absorbed. Any medication ingested after the onset of a migraine is unlikely to make it to the intestines – rendering it near useless in the stomach.

So What CAN You Do About a Migraine?

Since an appropriately effective migraine medication has yet to be developed, preventative behavior may be the smartest choice.

What do you need to prevent in order to avoid a migraine?


Stress activates the “fight or flight” response on the body, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. The ability to stay level-headed in a stressful situation might be your best attack against a migraine.

What can increase levels of stress? Some contributors include: the lack of sleep associated with insomnia, an unhealthy diet, vitamin deficiency, or a weakened immune system.

Don’t let the effects of stress of migraines control your life.

Learn about how stress works in the body, and how you can deal with stress further on our site.

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