A recurrent throbbing headache that usually affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision.
Headache vs Migraine
Most people today, and in fact nearly everyone in history, have experienced a headache. A headache is a pain that occurs in the neck and head region of the body and usually lasts a few hours. When we develop a general headache we quite often take a couple of painkillers and within an hour or so we are feeling much better.
A migraine on the other hand, is a debilitating throbbing sensation that quickly becomes unbearable. It causes the sufferer to become nauseous (regularly followed by actual vomiting) and thus begins the downward spiral of misery that can last for days and sometimes even weeks. When a migraine takes hold, no amount of painkillers in the world can alleviate the suffering. Day to day activities become impossible. The room spins, bright lights and loud noises become harder to bear and the only thing that seems to help fractionally is to stay very still in a very dark and very quiet room. Sensitivity to light can also cause what’s known as the “aura” which entails flashing lights and blurry vision and may begin up to an hour before the migraine kicks in.
Even in this day and age with all of our technology and science, the causes of a migraine are still generally unknown. However, they are thought to be linked to spasms in the arteries in the brain (You can find more detailed information on vascular headaches here). These spasms can be triggered by a wide range of factors including diet, medications, hormonal imbalances and stress.
The NHS has details on what to look for during an extreme migraine attack and in case of emergency.
Although there are a few different remedies to help a sufferer with handling their migraines, there are still no known cures for combating them permanently.
- Strong pain-killers such as Naproxen seem to be quite helpful as long as they’re taken in the early stages of an attack.
- There are also other medications such as Triptans which work by causing the blood vessels in the brain to contract.
- Anti-sickness medication can help to ease the vertigo but these can cause drowsiness so are not practical long term.
- A new treatment called “transcranial magnetic stimulation” was approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2014, which involves using an electrical device that sends out magnetic pulses through your skin.
- Muscle relaxation therapies, acupuncture and acupressure have all yielded positive results in preventing and treating migraines. It’s widely accepted that certain pressure points, when manipulated correctly, can relieve pain across different areas of your body.
In many cases, avoiding the suspected migraine triggers can be the most effective way of preventing them in the first place, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women who should be taking care regarding medications.
- Diet: There are many things we consume that are believed to be linked to migraines. These include cheese, salt, processed food, artificial sweeteners, MSG, alcohol and caffeine to name a few.
- Stress and the environment: Although avoiding it may be easier said than done, high stress levels and changes in sleep patterns can trigger migraines in some people. Also bright lights, loud noises, strong smells such as perfume or paint and even changes in the weather can bring about an attack.
- Daith piercings: This new and unusual preventative measure is said to work by stimulating the pressure point in the ear. Many people claim to have had a positive outcome with this but it may still be too early to tell.
Migraines can seriously disrupt your day to day life and be difficult to live with. If you suffer from recurring migraines it’s important to visit your GP to rule out any underlying issue, but with time and trial and error, you should be able to find a remedy that works for you.