Migraine headaches must be one of the most debilitating illnesses on earth. If you are a sufferer you will know what I mean. The frequency and severity can vary from person to person but many people still loose 2 or 3 days a month to migraine. Yes, that is lost money in your pay cheque or lost quality leisure time with family and friends.
That intense throbbing pain usually at one side of your head and often accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting completely knocks many people of their feet. The lucky ones may get some warning a few days before such as cravings for certain foods like sweets and chocolate or general lethargy. In such cases if you can recognise these warning signs it may be possible to eliminate the cause or start treatment before the onset. Other people will have what is known as an “aura” for a short time before the migraine kicks in. The most common symptoms of the “aura” are flashing lights in front of your eyes or zig zag lines disrupting your vision. More disturbing symptoms which can occur are numbness down the side which is effected my the migraine or speech difficulties i.e. slurring etc.
There are many triggers which can bring on an attack. In this day and age probably the most common cause is stress in the work place, the feeling of being constantly placed under pressure can cause great anxiety thus fuelling the migraine.
Certain foods may also be to blame such as cheese, chocolate, alcohol – red wine in particular, and processed or canned foods which often contain monosodium glutamate. On the other hand lack of food can also act as a trigger.
Strong smells such as perfume, paint, stale smoke or being in a stuffy atmosphere often contribute.
To be truthful it takes more than one of these factors to trigger an attack and the combination is unique to each individual.
Before you can think about how to tackle the symptoms, prevent or reduce the severity of attacks it is important that you work out what the combination of factors is that may bring on the headache. Try keeping a diary of foods consumed, dates when you felt under increased stress, and so on to gradually build a picture or pattern of events leading up to attacks.
For women (who incidentally are more likely to suffer from migraines than men) it is important to keep track of your monthly cycles as hormonal changes in the body before and during your monthly period are often the trigger. The contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy can also sometimes increase the occurrence of migraine.
So, you have established the cause what do you do now?
There are a great many “over the counter” drugs designed to relieve the symptoms, both pain and nausea, however in sever attacks these may not be enough. Prescription drugs from a doctor may be more effective and can usually be tailored more to suit individuals.
However, lots of sufferers these days would rather not take drugs but rather try other methods usually aimed more at prevention rather than cure.
There are a few things you can try. Here are some examples:-
1. Try different methods of relaxation The Lost Book of Herbal for instance; yoga or meditation, going along to one of these classes may turn out to be fun! Alternatively you can teach yourself these techniques using books or DVDs
2. Ensure you get enough sleep most people need between 7 and 9 hours per night.
3. Take some form of exercise for example walking or swimming – nothing too excessive because too much exertion can bring on a migraine!
4. Set aside at least one hour a day just to do something you enjoy which will relax you such as reading a book, watch your favourite television show, do some gardening – fresh air can work wonders after a day at the office!!
5. Eliminate foods from your diet completely which you have established act as triggers for the headaches. Have some fun trying out recipes using alternatives.
6. A gentle massage can be very effective and other more alternative treatments appear to help in some cases such as acupuncture.
7. If you have an attack try lying in a darkened room and place an ice pack at the back of your neck – for others a hot water bottle may be more effective.
8. Apply gentle pressure to the painful areas of your head and if possible sleep.
9. There are herbal medicines that can be taken as preventative measures such as feverfew and butterbur or supplements containing magnesium and vitamin B2. If you suspect or are pregnant or breast feeding do not use any of these items without professional advice.
10. The most important thing to remember when trying to prevent or reduce migraine attacks is to eliminate one or more of the contributory factors – the triggers.