You know the feeling, speaking is completely off the cards. Listening to anyone else speaking is even worse. Reading a book? No, thanks. Scrolling through your phone? HUGE no-no. Other than that migraines can be one big, painful waiting game.
Statistically speaking, women are four times more likely than men to suffer from migraines. With an estimated six million people suffering from severe headaches each day, migraines are one of the most common neurological conditions in the developed world, beating conditions such as asthma, epilepsy and diabetes combined.
For anyone that’s ever suffered a migraine, you’ll understand the desperation to find any kind of ‘cure’. Pain inflicted from migraines has us willing to try everything and anything that might ease symptoms even by the slightest degree and the more you talk to fellow sufferers, the weirder everyone’s tips and tricks become. But hey, who are we to judge? Anything to stop the excruciating, nauseating pounding in our heads.
It’s important to note that while there is a whole host of reasons that could be causing your migraines should you experience severe migraine symptoms, for prolonged periods of time or frequently throughout the course of one month, speak to your GP. Even if paracetamol or ibuprofen is helping to control the pain, migraines can be complex neurological issues that may require further preventative treatment.
A lot of experts will recommend keeping track of your symptoms and migraines in a diary so that you have a record that you can show your GP. They’ll then be able to spot any patterns in the timing of your symptoms and determine treatment options from there. Include details such as date, time, what you were doing when the migraine attack began, how long it lasted for and any medication you took that helped to ease symptoms.
According to the Migraine Trust, six to eight hours prior to the migraine, is also important in determining causes and prevention methods. Take note of how much sleep you got, what you ate, any vitamins or medication you took, any exercise, social or work-related activity you did in that time, what the weather was like and if applicable, keeping track of details of your menstrual cycle can also be helpful and provide further insight into the issue.
Through tracking this information in a migraine diary, you may notice certain triggers, particularly within the food you consume. Common triggers include caffeine, chocolate and red wine alongside aged cheese and cured meats. Once you’ve identified your trigger foods, you’ll be able to avoid them and furthermore, keep future migraines at bay.
The holistic approach
The most common treatment for migraines is simply resting in a dark room. For some, that’s all they feel up to but various relaxation techniques can also be used during this time to ease symptoms. Notice the pace of your breathing and adjust accordingly. If your breath feels short and hurried, slow it down by inhaling deeply and slowly, counting to five as you do so before releasing on five again. Other deep breathing techniques include imagining a spot just below your navel then breathe into that spot, letting the air fill from your abdomen all the way up and then, like a deflating balloon, let it all out. These breathing techniques won’t solve the pain but they will allow for better coping mechanisms while waiting for the migraine to pass. With every long, slow exhalation, your body should relax more and release tension being held as a result of the migraine.
Frequent migraine sufferers and several high-quality trials have focused on the ability of acupuncture to treat and prevent migraines. These studies suggest that the practice may reduce inflammation, provide pain relief and boost serotonin levels. Other holistic methods thought to reduce the risk of migraines occurring include reflexology and osteopathy.
Using an ice pack against your temples is another popular treatment method but one treatment method often overlooked is massaging a drop of soothing peppermint oil into each of your temples. The trick with peppermint oil is that it dilates blood vessels from within the brain, making it invaluable for treating headache issues.
A common trait in people who suffer from migraines is a deficiency in magnesium and vitamin D. Your GP will be able to test for these deficiencies and offer advice on boosting levels through supplements. Magnesium won’t help the migraine at the time but by boosting your magnesium intake through increased consumption of dark-green vegetables, whole grains and nuts, studies have shown that this could help prevent migraines from occurring in the future.