Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: December 2019

Some people feel weak, numb or unable to move during or after a migraine attack. This weakness or loss of muscle function is temporary and may be part of their migraine aura.

In people who have migraine with aura, weakness or numbness on one side of the body can be part of the aura.1 It can last 20 to 60 minutes. This symptom is often found in people who have hemiplegic migraine.2

What is hemiplegic migraine?

Hemiplegic migraine tends to run in families. However, it does occur in people with no family history of migraine. If you have never experienced weakness with your migraine attack or head pain before and it suddenly comes on, call your doctor right away. It may be a sign of something serious, such as stroke. Symptoms of hemiplegic migraine are similar to stroke, so accurate testing and diagnosis are crucial.

Why does weakness occur during migraine?

Doctors do not know for sure why weakness often comes with hemiplegic migraine. However, several genetic mutations may provide some answers. Changes to the CACNA1A, the ATP1A2, and SCN1A genes seem to create errors in how nerve cells in the brain work which may cause the migraine and weakness.3

Other doctors found that certain nerve cells become overactive during hemiplegic migraine. This may also contribute to the symptoms of migraine, including weakness.3

How is the weakness of migraine treated?

No standard treatment exists for hemiplegic migraine or any weakness that happens with it. Treating the migraine attack itself generally helps to relieve weakness or numbness.

Certain drugs used to treat general migraine, like triptans, are not recommended for hemiplegic migraine. Drugs that may work for hemiplegic migraine include:

Talk with a migraine specialist about what treatments might work for you. Each person is different, and treatments that help one person may not help another.

Tracking your migraine symptoms

Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers to your attacks. It may be helpful to record such things as:

  • When and where your pain or symptoms start
  • Whether the pain spreads to your entire head or neck
  • How well and how quickly acute treatment helps reduce the pain or other symptoms
  • How long your pain or symptoms last
  • Whether you experience other symptoms such as vision changes, nausea, or light sensitivity

Community experiences of migraine and weakness

Migraine.com advocates write about their experiences with migraine and the associated symptoms, including weakness. Some describe feeling weakness during the postdrome phase while others explore the symptoms of hemiplegic migraine and share a video of what it's like for someone to have a hemiplegic migraine attack.

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