Vestibular Migraines

January 13, 2020

By Lauren Fournier, PT, DPT

A migraine is typically known as a severe headache that makes it difficult to perform routine activities. But you can have a migraine without pain. A migraine can cause visual disturbances or vertigo without having the classic symptoms of a headache.

Symptoms common to migraines include sensitivity to light, noise, and busy environments; constant dizziness or dizziness triggered by head and eye movement; vertigo (spinning); nausea and vomiting; blurred vision; imbalance; neck pain; anxiety; and difficulty with concentration and memory. The symptoms can occur hours or days before or after the headache, which might not occur at all. Vestibular migraines in particular may cause persistent dizziness and balance problems lasting long after the migraine has stopped.

The exact mechanisms of migraines are still not well understood in the medical community, and some providers may not recognize the broad range and complex symptoms that can be part of a vestibular migraine. Frequently, testing and imaging yield normal results, which can cause the patient to be more anxious and confused. There is no test to confirm migraine. But diagnostic testing can rule out other problems and possible conditions, which is a large part of the difficult process of diagnosing a migraine. This process usually requires multiple visits to different medical practitioners to get a clear picture. Getting an accurate medical history of similar episodes, both for the patient, as well as close family members, is important towards getting an accurate diagnosis.

Learning to identify and manage triggers is the most important step towards controlling migraines. Avoiding dietary triggers*, getting consistent aerobic exercise, and keeping a regular sleep schedule are key steps that are within a patient’s control. Vestibular rehabilitation is also helpful for managing persistent dizziness and balance problems to help restore a patient’s usual activities in a safe and timely manner. If you, or a loved one suffers from Vestibular Migraines, feel free to reach out to me, or Karolina to see if Vestibular rehab is right for you.

*A great resource for recipes to avoid common migraine triggers is https://thedizzycook.com/

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