The Four Stages of a Migraine

The Migraine Research Foundation reports that 12 percent of the population suffers from migraines – that’s about one billion people including adults and children. Migraines are a complex neurological disorder that is still poorly understood by medical science. What they do know is that a migraine is more than just a bad headache. Most people experience four distinct stages of when one hits, starting with the prodrome.


Prodrome is a medical term that refers to non-specific symptoms that can indicate the onset of a specific disease. For those with migraines, the prodrome can start one or two days before the pain hits and consist of:

  • Constipation
  • Moodiness including periods of euphoria or depression
  • Cravings for foods like something salty, sweet or even caffeinated such as coffee
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Thirstiness
  • Increased urination
  • Yawning

You may have just a few of these symptoms or have them all. For most, it amounts to identifying a pattern of symptoms, though, like constipation, moodiness and stiffness in the neck at once. You could have any one of the problems at any time but when all three occur, the body is preparing for an attack.


An aura is one or more symptoms that can occur immediately before a migraine or seizure. Aura symptoms come from the nervous system, so they generally relate to one or more of the senses. Some examples of auras include:

  • Flashing lights or vision changes
  • Speech disturbances
  • Movement changes
  • Photosensitivity – being sensitive to light
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Strange smells like burning wood
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Twitching or jerking muscles
  • Some people experience nausea during this time and numbness, too. In most cases, an aura indicates a migraine attack is imminent.


The attack phase is when the pain hits. It can last anywhere from four to 72 hours without treatment. Symptoms of a migraine headache include:

  • Intense pain typically on one side but can be both sides of the head
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Dizziness
  • Throbbing

Not everyone experiences a migraine the same way and migraines can change in both symptoms and intensity.


The post-drome is the 24-hours after an attack. During this time, people may want to sleep. They can feel confused or moody. Some people experience euphoria although they are washed out and week. The sensitivity to light and sound may continue during post-drome, as well.

Migraine Treatment Options

Some migraines are preventable with continuous treatment or treatment during the prodrome or aura. Prevention is the ultimate goal of any medical care plan.

Often migraines are the result of a trigger, such as a food or smell like perfume. Identifying those triggers is one way to avoid migraines. Finding triggers may require allergy testing. Extreme heat and weather shifts like residents see in Phoenix can also trigger an attack.

Chiropractic care can address structural issues that may trigger migraines, as well. Like tight muscles and spinal misalignments. Physical therapy can work to loosen the muscles, too, and relieve tension. MiRx Protocol is also a viable treatment especially if you’ve felt that you’ve tried everything.

There are also preventive medications that work to control migraines or to reduce the severity or frequency of them. They can be a stopgap measure until more options become available. There is medication available to take as soon as the signs of migraine appear like caffeine-based drugs such as Cafergot that may stop the attack.

If you are a migraine suffering or have chronic headaches, there is no reason to suffer. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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