Migraine Stages: What You May Not Know About How a Migraine Unfolds

March 24, 2019|Migraine / Headache| by Harrison Salisbury

migraine-stages-what-you-may-not-know-about-how-a-migraine-unfoldsOne thing that migraine sufferers know is that there’s no such thing as a “typical” migraine.  Not only are there different types of migraines that encompass different symptoms, oftentimes a person’s migraine symptoms will vary from one episode to the next.  A migraine is far more than just a bad headache. In fact, it can be so bad some would consult a migraine chiropractor in West Jordan to find relief. The more that is studied about the condition, the more migraines are understood to be a neurological disorder that involves nerve pathways, brain chemistry, and blood flow.    

For people who aren’t familiar with migraines, or for those or are newly diagnosed, you may not be aware that a migraine episode can unfold in stages or phases that have distinct characteristics.

  • Not all migraine sufferers experience all of the stages
  • One person’s migraine attacks can differ in presentation from one to the next

Migraine Attack Phases or Stages

A migraine episode can occur in 4 stages.  While it’s difficult to predict when a migraine attack will happen, different symptoms associated with individual stages can help someone to predict, best they can, certain patterns that serve as warning signs.  Learning to recognize the different stages or phases of a migraine attack can be a useful tool.

Phase 1: Warning Phase a.k.a Prodrome or Premonitory Phase

  • Experienced by 30%-40% of migraine sufferers
  • Begins 24-48 hours before the onset of headache pain
  • Can last from a few hours to a few days

As the first potential phase of a migraine episode, prodrome symptoms can be the first indications that an attack is coming.  Sometimes, migraine sufferers will experience these symptoms but not realize that they were a sign of things to come. Common warning phase symptoms include:

  • Food cravings
  • Neck pain
  • Excessive yawning
  • Upset stomach – constipation or diarrhea
  • Mood changes – feeling irritable, anxious, depressed, hyper, etc.
  • Sleeplessness
  • Cognitive changes – difficulty concentrating, speaking, or finding words
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and migraines, download our complimentary e-book by clicking the image below.

Phase 2: Aura

  • Experienced by 15%-20% of migraine sufferers
  • Can last from 5 minutes to 1 hour

Visual distortions that usually preceded the headache can also serve as a warning sign of a coming attack.  For some who suffer from what’s known as silent migraines, the aura phase may be one of the worst and can happen without every experiencing a headache itself.  Visual symptoms dominate the aura stage, and can include:

  • Temporary loss of eyesight
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Numbness and/or tingling of the face and extremities
  • Seeing spots, stars, wavy lines, floaters or sparkles
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Feelings of fear, confusion, or anxiety
  • Possible disturbances to speech
  • Tinnitus
  • Neck stiffness

Phase 3: Headache

  • The phase most commonly associated with migraine attacks and experienced by a majority of migraine sufferers
  • Lasts from 4 to 72 hours

The headache phase of a migraine is the most well-known for a good reason – it can be, by far, the most debilitating and disruptive.  Migraine-associated headaches are usually one-sided but can change from one side to the other or affect both sides of the head. It is described as a pulsating or throbbing pain that is worsened by head movement and physical activity. Symptoms that occur during the headache phase are not limited just to the head and can also include:

  • Stabbing pain behind the eyes, around the sinuses, or in the jaw and teeth due to inflammation of the trigeminal nerve
  • Neck pain
  • Increased sensitivity to sound, light, and smell
  • Vertigo
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Panic, depression, or anxiety
  • Dehydration

Phase 4: Postrdrome a.k.a Recovery Stage

  • Almost 70% of migraine sufferers have continuing symptoms after the headache subsides
  • Lasts from 24-48 hours

You might hear migraine sufferers refer to the postdrome phase as the migraine hangover.  Even after the headache is gone, it can take up to a couple of days to get back to feeling normal again.  A person in the postdrome phase might experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Poor concentration and comprehension
  • Mood changes – can be depressed or elevated

Tired of Going Through the Phases? Upper Cervical Chiropractic Can Help

The junction where the neck meets the head is a delicate area that can play a role in both experiencing and recovering from migraines.  The C1 vertebra, known as the atlas because it bears the weight of the head, is key when it comes to normal neurological function, blood flow between the head and neck, and the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid.  If the atlas becomes misaligned from an injury or accumulated wear and tear, it can hinder these important factors that can easily contribute to persistent migraine episodes.

Upper cervical chiropractic care is a subspecialty of the chiropractic profession that focuses on this critical region of the spine.  Misalignments of the atlas have been found, in many cases, to be the underlying cause of migraines. Upper cervical care is a natural, safe, and effective way to address this root cause in order to find lasting relief, not just temporary symptom management.

Brain & Spine Upper Cervical Chiropractic is the authority on the chiropractic treatment for migraine in West Jordan.  Each of our patients receives highly individualized care which includes a thorough evaluation and an upper cervical chiropractic adjustment that is made to suit their needs.  Once normal alignment can be restored, compromised neurological communication can begin to recover. The longer normal alignment can be maintained, the better your body can function and the better you’re able to feel.  To learn more about how we can help you get back to a better quality of life, contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation.





To schedule a consultation with Dr. Salisbury, call our West Jordan office at 801-823-2523. You can also click the button below. If you are outside of the local area, you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.