What are some signs that a migraine attack might be starting?


Some signs that a migraine attack might be starting are increased sensitivity to smells, lights, or sounds; neck pain; yawning; increased urination; mood changes; and food cravings.


“It's very hard to differentiate true triggers from what our premonitory symptoms are, or symptoms at that earliest stage of the migraine attack. It is a key point that we really shouldn't be defining the onset of a migraine attack as the onset of the headache, because a majority of patients will have other symptoms prior to the headache coming on. You know, whether that be sensitivity to smells, or lights, or sounds, or neck pain, or I think you mentioned yawning, increased urination, mood changes usually on the direction of irritability, but sometimes people feel elevated. Food cravings, these types of things.”


Often it is difficult to differentiate between triggers of a migraine attack and actual symptoms of the earliest stage of a migraine attack. An attack does not always begin with a headache. The majority of those with migraine will experience a number of symptoms such as an increased sensitivity to sights, sounds and smells that indicate an attack is beginning. Other symptoms are neck pain, yawning, increased urination and food cravings. Some individuals with migraine also experience mood changes in the early stages of a migraine, and these changes can be in the form of increased irritability or even a feeling of elevation.

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Todd Schwedt, MD

Professor of Neurology
Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona

As a Professor of Neurology the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Todd Schwedt has seen thousands of migraine patients and evaluated a large number of scans of our hypersensitive brains. His research using advanced MRI techniques has been widely published. He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Headache Society, is the Vice Chairman of the Headache and Facial Pain section of the American Academy of Neurology, is a member of the International Headache Society Classification Committee, and is an Associate editor of Headache, Cephalalgia and Pain Medicine journals.

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