What Happens During A Migraine?

What Happens During A Migraine? You’re probably familiar with what a migraine is—that pulsating, throbbing headache and related discomforts that can render you useless for hours or even days at a time. But, do you know what exactly is occurring in your body during a migraine episode?

There is still more research to be done before the medical community fully understands what takes place during a migraine. Still, we do know that migraines progress in stages. Here’s a brief overview of these stages and what occurs during each:

Prodrome (Onset)

Migraines can be spurred by various internal or external triggers, such as stress, hormonal changes (including menstruation), alcohol, lack of sleep, bright lights and even changes in the weather. When these triggers occur, neurons—or special cells that transmit nerve impulses—in your brain begin to fire abnormally. This can sometimes cause symptoms that warn of an upcoming migraine attack, like mood changes, unusual food cravings and constipation.

Hypersensitivity and Aura

When neurons in your brain become excitable and transmit unusually, a wide array of corresponding symptoms can take place depending on what regions of the brain are most affected. Hypersensitivity to light and sound, nausea and worsening of motor skills can occur, as well as aura—a group of temporary neurological symptoms that may involve:

  • Vision loss
  • Seeing shapes, flashes or bright spots in your line of vision
  • Trouble speaking
  • Hearing music or noises
  • Numbness or tingling sensations around the face or one or more extremities
  • Weakness on one side of your body
  • Uncontrollable movements


It is believed the migraine attacks are associated with dips in serotonin levels and narrowing blood vessels that are in response to abnormally firing neurons. Serotonin is an important chemical that facilitates normal communication between nerve cells. When serotonin levels changes, it can cause a migraine attack. Symptoms of a migraine attack may include:

  • Pulsating or throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head
  • Sensitivity to touch, light, sound or smell
  • Nausea and vomiting

Aftereffect (Post-Drome)

After a migraine attack, you may feel fatigued or drained several hours or days. This is because your body is recovering. Be sure to avoid sudden head movements and stimuli in the days following a migraine attack and consider skipping unnecessary obligations to catch up on rest.

Migraine Treatment at Tufts Medical Center Community Care

Migraine treatment is among our specialties at Tufts Medical Center Community Care. Our multispecialty medical group features neurologists, primary care physicians and dozens of other experts who collaborate to provide a seamless care experience to our patients. And, with multiple convenient locations throughout north suburban Boston and better-than-average appointment availability, we make it simple to find the migraine relief you need.

Contact Tufts Medical Center Community Care to schedule an appointment and learn about our approach to migraine treatment. You can also reserve an appointment online when it’s most convenient for you. We accept most major health insurance plans and can answer any questions you may have.

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