The way a migraine presents is never the same in any two individuals.
The most common difference between a migraine’s presentation is the presence of an aura, which most commonly involves visual changes and serves as a warning sign of an impending migraine attack. However, the majority of migraine headaches present without any aura at all.
In this guide from Aculief, we’ll go over what a migraine without aura is, what it can feel like, why it’s so common, and how you can get relief—fast.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about this common condition.
What’s Migraine Without Aura?
Thanks to the often-used clinical diagnosis of “migraine,” you may think that it is a homogenous condition that affects everyone the same way. However, a migraine is simply a label that describes a wide range of symptoms, such as pain, dizziness, nausea, and—in some cases—even cognitive dysfunction. As such, its underlying causes, its symptoms, and its treatment vary from person to person.
What’s more, how a migraine presents can vary. Some people experience a warning sign of an impending migraine, which is referred to as an “aura.” This usually involves visual changes such as flickering lights, blind spots, or colored lines.
However, more commonly, migraines present without any such visual changes. In this case, it is called a migraine without aura. Because it is twice as prevalent as a migraine with aura, it is also referred to as the “common migraine.”
Because “migraine without aura” is a diagnosable condition, there are certain criteria that an individual must meet. In the first place, the migraine must last 4-72 hours.
Next, the migraine must have at least two of the following characteristics: unilateral location, pulsating quality, moderate or severe intensity, and aggravation by physical activity.
Last, the migraine can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting or extreme sensitivity to light or sound. Most often, the symptoms are aggravated by physical activity.
What Does Migraine Without Aura Feel Like?
The signs and symptoms of a migraine are not confined to the migraine attack itself. You may also experience symptoms before the migraine (which is known as the premonitory phase) and after the headache (which is called the postdrome).
Here is an outline of the three phases of a migraine without aura and its accompanying symptoms.
1. The Premonitory Phase
The symptoms in the premonitory phase may be experienced as much as several days before the attack. While the premonitory phase in migraines with aura usually involve visual changes, the warning signs of an upcoming headache without aura includes a wide array of symptoms.
Some of these can include:
- Food cravings
- Stomach upset
- Muscle stiffness (especially in the upper body)
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Mood changes (such as increased irritability)
- Physical and mental fatigue
2. The Migraine Attack
The exact symptoms of a migraine vary on an individual basis. That said, all migraine sufferers experience an attack that lasts 4-72 hours. The pain can be unilateral—occurring on one side of the head—or, less commonly, bilateral.
Many migraine sufferers experience moderate pain. However, many others feel a pain so severe that it can be confused with a stroke. (While the two conditions are separate, researchers found that recurrent migraines can increase the risk of stroke.)
In addition to the above symptoms, migraine sufferers often experience sensitivity to light or sound. It is not uncommon to desire to be in a dark, silent room during the entire duration of the attack—which can surely take a hit on your productivity.
3. The Postdrome Phase
As if the migraine attack wasn’t enough, most sufferers are hit with the postdrome phase immediately after, which can last up to several days. Many describe this feeling as something akin to a hangover. The most common symptoms include fatigue, poor concentration, and low mood.
Why Is Migraine Without Aura So Common?
Research shows that the lifetime prevalence for migraine without aura is 6-10% for men and 15-25% for women, making it one of the most common neurological conditions in the U.S.
Clinicians and researchers are largely at a loss over what causes migraines—with or without aura. A variety of explanations have been offered for the condition, such as dysfunctional electrical activity in the brain and constriction of blood vessels.
Of course, this does not explain the underlying causes of a migraine headache. In many cases, migraine headaches result from a combination of genetic factors and lifestyle behaviors. In terms of the latter, studies link migraine headaches to chronic psychological stress, smoking, and hormonal imbalance. (Hormonal imbalance is closely linked to lifestyle factors, such as diet.)
Some studies show that migraines tend to be more common in developed nations. One possible hypothesis to explain this is that the citizens of developed nations tend to experience higher rates of psychological stress, which puts them at greater risk for migraine headaches.
What Helps Migraine Without Aura?
The causes of a migraine vary according to the individual. For this reason, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing from migraine. It is important to work with your health care provider to identify the causes of your migraine and to remove any possible triggers.
In addition, it is important to take care of your overall health. If you are not getting adequate sleep, feel chronically stressed out, or smoke cigarettes, then you must address these factors to be on your way to getting relief.
Medication during the migraine attack is one option to consider. However, if you would like to avoid the potential side effects of pharmaceuticals, then you can turn to alternative and complementary medicine for some solutions.
Relaxation training, such as yoga and meditation, can help you to reduce stress, which may reduce the frequency or severity of your migraines.
Another option to consider is acupressure, which is based on the traditional Chinese medicine technique of acupuncture. By applying pressure to certain points in the body, this technique can relieve muscle tension while promoting circulation. Although acupressure is not yet a mainstream treatment, some studies show that it can relieve some of the symptoms of migraine headaches.
Finding Relief With Aculief
According to traditional Chinese medicine, applying pressure to the LI4 point—which is located between your thumb and index finger—can provide headache relief.
In line with this ancient practice, we designed our Aculief Wearable Acupressure™ to stimulate the LI4 point and provide you with medication-free pain relief.
Discover our products today to be on your way to getting the migraine relief you need and deserve.