Do you suffer from migraine headaches?
For most of my life I have suffered with migraine headaches in various forms but since having children my migraines although decreasing in frequency have increased in severity. They have become quite debilitating in fact. Yesterday I experienced one again and through this post I would like to try to share some valuable tips and information on dealing with them.
My attacks can come out of nowhere, I can be perfectly fine, minding my own business and it will hit me with a force to be reckoned with like none other. It is most often though in the late afternoon and there are some definite triggers which I will discuss later on in this post. Mine usually start behind my eye with the most severe sharp pressure, it can be either the left or the right but this is my common indicator of what to expect will come next. It is at this stage that I really have to act fast and have all the right things at hand or I can kiss the rest of my day goodbye.
In this post I will talk about yesterday’s attack because it is freshest in my mind and I ignored the warning signs and the results were most severe. I don’t consider myself a chronic sufferer of Migraines because they are not as regular as they were in my pre-pubescent and young adult years but there are many people who do suffer chronically and take treatment in that regard. If you are reading this post and thinking to yourself that you may be borderline chronic, or even that the really body shattering headaches you are getting are worth having checked out, then I really do suggest you go and see your health practitioner. It could make your standard of living a whole lot more pleasant. Also don’t forget to check out some of the online resources I will mention below before you go and see your doctor.
So what causes a Migraine?
Many different factors can be the cause of Migraines and why they happen isn’t entirely known but they are pretty common nonetheless and can be really rough at times. Some of the main and most common triggers are:
- Hormonal changes in women. Fluctuations in estrogen seem to trigger headaches in many women with known migraines. Other hormonal triggers could be pregnancy or menopause. Oral contraceptives and HRT may worsen migraines although some woman do find that these medications can alleviate an already existing condition.Foods. Processed foods, Cheeses, salt, Red Wine, caffeine, Sugar or Skipping meals or fasting also can trigger attacks.
- Food additives and preservative. Aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in quite a few foods, may trigger migraines.
- Drinks. Alcohol, especially wine, and highly caffeinated drinks can be a trigger for a migraine so it is best to avoid having these often.
- Stress. Stress in any form can cause Migraines
- Sensory stimulation. Migraines can be induced by bright lights, glare from the sun, strange or strong smells like including perfume, paint thinners, secondhand smoke.
- Sleep related. Lack of sleep or getting too much sleep may trigger migraines in some people. Jet Lag can also cause a migraine
- Physical factors. Intense physical exertion may induce a migraine.
- Changes in the environment. A change in the weather, predominately heatwaves or sudden changes in temperature can induce a migraine.
- Medications. Some medications may have side effects that can induce a migraine. There is a condition called ‘medication overuse headache’, that has been linked with over-using pain killers, such as paracetamol. Some medicines containing combinations of drugs with codeine or caffeine have also been strongly suspected of causing medication overuse headache. It is defined as a headache that occurs for 15 or more days out of every month and is termed “frequent headaches”. This is not a migraine and you should first be stopping the overuse of OTC medications and see if there is any change before trying to treat a migraine.
The treatment of a Migraine is broken up into 4 stages.
Preventative – This is what you do during your regular daily lifestyle pattern to prevent them. I.e Drink enough fluids, eat whole foods, stay away from processed foods, get enough sleep and eliminate stress where possible. (These are not full-proof though but can help to lessen or prevent them) However if you are a chronic Migraine sufferer you may be prescribed preventative medicines like for instance Certain anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antihistamines, beta-blockers or an anti-inflammatory drugs. These are best left to your doctor to decide which, if any are needed as certain factors must be taken into account when they decide which should be prescribed. preventatives are not meant to be used without end and would usually follow a pattern of between 3 to 18 months where after a reduction in headaches is often seen to continue even after the treatment has stopped. Sometimes these medicines can be used to help to break the migraine cycle. Keeping a migraine diary is useful to record any attacks that happen when you are taking prescribed preventatives. You This will help the doctor decide if the medication is helping to cut down the headaches or not.
Acute – This is the treating of the attack as soon as it happens as to lessen the severity and turnover time of the migraine For me This means taking necessary analgesics that I know work for me as soon as I get the warning sign of the pain behind my eye I know that 2x paracetamol are not going to be enough and so I opt for Ibuprofen with the Paracetamol as prescribed by my doctor. For some people as little as 2x paracetamol may be enough to do the trick but for others it wont.
Rescue – This is the treatment you can use when the acute treatment has failed to work and you have gone into a full-blown migraine with the visual disturbances and nausea etc. An antinausea (antiemetic) medication (to stop sickness), plus an anti-inflammatory may be prescribed along with the acute medication. (I usually find that the nausea medication alone often does the trick if I take it before I take the acute medication but I don’t always have it on hand. It does also always make me drowsy and so I don’t take it if I am not safe at home where I am able to lie down immediately. When you are at the rescue level and even before that .
Mechanical – These are the things you can do to bring extra relief during an attack. I have tried them all and they really do help.
1. Temperature: Having a cold or warm shower, using a cold or warm cloth or press over the sore area like over the eyes. Sometimes using cold or warm water to immerse your hands or feet in may help.
2. Pressure: Using pressure point massage. There are very specific points on the hands that work the best for me. The area is known as the “valley of Harmony” It is an acupressure point and for lack of a better picture this is where you will find it. I hold it in for 30 to 60 seconds each side and continue until I feel a little relief. There are other spots on the head, neck and face that can be pressed but I find this one the most effective as the last place I want touched while I am having an attack is my face.
Manipulation: You can go to see a professional like an Osteopath, accupuncture therapist or Chiropractor or even go for a really good deep tissue massage.
What can I do to understand my Migraines better?
Keeping a Migraine diary as I mentioned before is a really fantastic way to record the triggers as well as how different medications affect your attacks. It is also the best way to go equipped to your doctor to provide them with the most accurate information on which to base their course of treatment. I have enjoyed using this one from the Migraine Trust You can download and print it to use for yourself. For a more in-depth account of your attacks keeping an online Migraine diary can be really useful. This is the resource that I find the easiest to use and it really is very quick to set up on your phone or tablet if you are mobile. It is also from the Migraine Trust
What happens during an attack?
This is the cycle of my attack, should my regular preventative methods have failed me or if my acute methods have not worked or I didn’t get to them fast enough. Not everybody will experience it like this.
1. Sharp pressure behind one or both my eyes which is intense and only gets worse by the minute
2. Take Analgesic medication immediately (I usually opt directly for Ibuprofen)
3. If within a half an hour I have not experienced any relief then I opt for additional assistance as mentioned in the rescue treatment option.
4. By this time I am usually very nauseas and lethargic. I often feel faint and have visual disturbances and am sensitive to light. I am also very thirsty. If the pain is really severe it may bring me to reach my pain threshold and I will often vomit at this stage. Sometimes the vomiting can help to relieve the migraine but not always.
5.Right now I am opting for mechanical relief if I have had no relief from the medications and this will include one or more of the options I listed above. I Also am lying down in a dark and quiet room and am sure that I have enough Fluids available to drink.
6. I tend to fall asleep at this stage and sleep for some time. It is painful while I sleep but after the stillness my body experiences I tend to wake up with a good portion of the pain at bay and can by that time usually take another dose of an analgesic and that tends to kick it.
Because I am not a medical practitioner I wont provide you with a list of all the options you have with regards to drug treatments. This information is easy enough to find online but also just a doctor or pharmacy visit away. You don’t have to suffer in silence. I personally don’t believe that natural treatments work for although I have tried essential oils with some success, but this and it can be a massive impact on your own body as well as the daily family routine if it is not sorted out fast enough. The attack I had last night lasted from 15:30 in the afternoon through to 10 pm last night. This was all due to me ignoring the warning signs and only taking my first acute action at about 5pm. By that stage my migraine was well advanced and needed rescue and manipulation.
So I really hope this post has helped you if you are a migraine sufferer and if you are not I hope this has helped you to see that having a migraine is not simply an excuse for taking a sick day or getting out of doing something. Moms that have never suffered with migraines need to understand that their daughters might, and it can have a huge impact on their lives at school if they do not have the correct support. That being said I do think some people overuse and abuse the term often and have given it a little bit of a hypochondriac type stigma.
Do you suffer from Migraines? What is your experience? I would love to hear from you. I am particularly interested in chatting to other Mums that are dealing with this so please do leave a comment and remember to share this post using the social icons below.
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner. None of the information set out above should replace that of a medical or professional health practitioner. I am writing from my own perspective in the hope that I am able to assist other’s struggling with the same issue.