Home > Special Circumstances > Vertigo and Migraines

Vertigo and Migraines

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 23 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Migraines Headaches Vertigo Dizziness

Migraines are characterised by painful headaches but sufferers can also experience other symptoms such as vertigo. Vertigo is a common symptom that often accompanies a migraine attack and may occur before an attack begins during the aura phase, during the migraine itself, and afterwards.

Symptoms of Vertigo

Although uncommon, vertigo may occur during a migraine attack in the absence of other symptoms. Another consideration is that vertigo may be present as a symptom of another disorder, in addition to the diagnosis of migraines. Symptoms of vertigo include:

  • Sensation of spinning or whirling
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Loss of balance
  • Faintness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating

In subjective vertigo, the sufferer has a sensation of movement within him or herself whereas with objective vertigo, a person senses movement in the immediate environment. Vertigo generally occurs from an inner ear disturbance; this area is known as the vestibular system. This system allows you to sense your surroundings and integrate them clearly. As your body is in motion, your vestibular system keeps objects you view in clear focus. When functioning of the vestibular system goes awry, the sensation can be described as being on a boat in a storm. You feel unsteady, sick to your stomach, dizzy and you can't quite get a solid sense of your surroundings.

Treating Vertigo and Migraines

When dizziness is present as a symptom of migraine, the standard prescription drugs and lifestyle considerations are usually recommended and tend to be quite effective. If, however, dizziness is secondary to the migraine headache, drugs indicated for migraines are usually not effective.

The intensity of vertigo occurring with a migraine can vary a great deal. It is important that your doctor accurately diagnose the vertigo, as it can also be a symptom of other conditions such as an inner ear infection or Meniere’s disease. Any other causes must be ruled out before it is confirmed that your vertigo is indeed a symptom of your migraines. Migraines are quite common and vertigo is a common symptom, so it is unlikely that your vertigo will be due to something more serious, although your doctor will likely need to examine you to be certain. If you experience vertigo just prior to a normal migraine headache, then it is even more likely that the cause is a migraine. However, if the vertigo and headache are experienced independent of one another, then your doctor may have to investigate the cause further.

Treating migraines with vertigo as a symptom is generally done on the same principles and guidelines as treatment for all migraines. Medications used to address migraine headaches are anti-depressants, beta-blockers, anti-convulsants and calcium channel blockers.

Effects of Your Lifestyle

Lifestyle adaptations are also helpful, such as identifying foods and environmental factors that predispose you to an attack. If your doctor decides to prescribe a drug solely for your vertigo, he or she may prescribe diazepam, meclizine, lorazepam or promethazine. Getting yourself to an open space or obtaining fresh air may further help to ease vertigo. Some people find that lying down can make vertigo much worse while others obtain relief this way; therefore, this method of relief varies.

Avoiding alcohol or any drug that can cause dizziness in itself is recommended, as this will only exacerbate your vertigo. Specific head positions are also found to intensify vertigo. In particular, you should avoid tilting your head back, as you will likely experience more extreme dizziness.

Due to the dizziness and loss of control that accompanies it, vertigo can be quite frightening. For those who find it is a symptom of migraines, the accompanying head pain compounds the discomfort. The best treatment is preventative so consider medication and lifestyle adjustments to decrease migraine incidence and speak to your doctor about treatments for immediate relief if a migraine should occur. Hopefully, you will experience relief and your world can be steady once again.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Julieregan
    Re: Headaches and Migraines in Women
    I have an overactive thyroid gland and have had it since I was 40. I am using carbimazole tablets once daily. I struggle with…
    25 July 2017
  • holycow
    Re: Sinus Headaches
    my daughter has been diagnosed as suffering from a virus in the brain, how can she get rid of this pounding headache that never stops
    24 July 2017
  • JTV56
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    @Stells - I would - it doesn't harm and it's always best to be on the safe side. Jean.
    20 July 2017
  • Stells
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I fell backwards 2 weeks ago and hit my head on the pavement, initially it dud hurt and I had a headache the next day. I was on…
    19 July 2017
  • bree
    Re: Thyroid Disease and Headaches
    2011 March 27th migraine started after herniated disc c5/c6 had a formanectomy in 2012 after a conservation period under…
    12 July 2017
  • Tomba
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    My problem started about 15 days ago. The pain first started at the right side of the head including the right cheek, right ear and…
    6 July 2017
  • PrinDi
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    @Stinging Headpain - Poor you, it sounds genuinely awful. I hope you get better soon and manage to resolve all these awful…
    4 July 2017
  • Stinging Headpain
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    Oops...My pain is on top of left side of my head. It feels like my head is on fire sometimes..I have also tried a chiropractor.…
    3 July 2017
  • Stinging Headpain
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have been in pain off and on for 11 years...The first bout of pain lasted for 6 months..It will stop for a few months and start…
    3 July 2017
  • HeadacheExpert
    Re: Herbal Remedies for Headache and Migraine Relief
    Ummnoor - Your Question:If you have had an MRI (CTS?) scan and nothing unusual has been found then the…
    3 July 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.