Hemiplegic Migraine

hemiplegic migraine flow osteopathy
Melbourne osteopath Tim discusses hemiplegic migraine and how treatment can help.

This is a rare form of migraine and presents in a similar way to a stroke or seizure. If you are experiencing these symptoms it is important you seek immediate medical attention, and not assume that you have hemiplegic migraine.

Hemiplegic migraine is a rare subtype of migraine with aura, characterised by the presence of motor weakness as an aura manifestation. Typically, a migraine aura affects vision, but occasionally impairment in sensation or speech may also be seen. A hemiplegic migraine is a distinct condition in which motor (muscle) weakness occurs.

There are two types of hemiplegic migraine: Familial hemiplegic migraine (runs in the family) and sporadic hemiplegic migraine (occurs with no family history).

Symptoms of Hemiplegic Migraine

Both familial and sporadic hemiplegic migraine often begin in childhood, although not always. The symptoms can last for hours to days or even weeks in rare cases, but most will go away completely.

Primary symptoms include (1):

  • Weakness on one side of the body (hemiplegia)
  • Headache
  • Other typical aura symptoms, such as vision changes, numbness, tingling and trouble speaking

A person may also experience (1):

  • Fever
  • Changes in consciousness
  • Problems with coordination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to sound and light

Weakness associated with a hemiplegic migraine is a manifestation of motor aura. Migraine aura is believed to be caused by a wave of nerve inactivity (glial depolarization) that spreads across the brain, known as ‘cortical spreading depression’.

Symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine can be scary and distressing. It is very important to establish a correct diagnosis and initiate proper treatment to help manage and prevent it.

How Do You Treat Hemiplegic Migraine?

Treatment of hemiplegic migraines involves pharmacological treatment with abortive and preventive medications. Severe attacks may need hospitalization and additional measures.

Patients with a hemiplegic migraine may be treated with the same medications used for migraine with aura. An exception to this is medications that can exacerbate ischemia (restriction of blood supply) (2).

At Flow Osteopathy we work with people who are living with hemiplegic migraine to manage the effect of the upper neck on their symptoms.

It is important that management of hemiplegic migraine is holistic and patient centred as what works for one person may not work for another.

Our thorough examination process will determine whether or not the upper neck is involved and if it is treatable using our approach.

If you would like to discuss how our evidence based approach can help, book in a free 15 minute phone consultation via our website.

  1. Website: American Migraine Foundation, Hemiplegic Migraine: Symptoms and Treatments, Jan 6 2022
  2. Kumar A et al, Hemiplegic Migraine, National Library of Medicine, May 2022.
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