How To Manage A Migraine |

How To Manage A Migraine

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Ranked as the seventh most debilitating illness in the world, migraines affect one-in-seven people globally and around six million in the UK. They’re one of the nation’s biggest causes of work absence, and women are three times more likely to be plagued than men.

To tie in with Migraine Awareness Week (3rd – 9th September), we spoke to Dr Steven Allder, Consultant Neurologist at Re:Cognition Health, to get his top tips on how to self-manage your symptoms…

Review Your Lifestyle

If you’re getting the same repetitive headaches, review possible triggers such as stress, anxiety, sleep, exercise, diet and hormones. Try to make lifestyle adjustments like decreasing stress, increasing sleep and drinking more water. Many people also have success with non-drug complementary therapies such as chiropractors, acupuncture and cranial therapy.

Keep A Symptom Diary

Make a record of your migraines to review with a medical expert, to help speed up the diagnosis process. Record the following factors:

  • Pain intensity (1-10)

  • Location of pain

  • Type of pain

  • Duration – number of hours and changes in symptoms throughout this period

  • Symptoms (vomiting, noise and/or light sensitivity, restricted vision, restricted ability to perform tasks e.g. not able to walk or work)

  • Menstrual cycle (if applicable)

Start A Food Diary

Food intolerances, allergies and dietary habits such as dehydration, fasting and skipping meals can trigger the onset of migraines. Common offenders include coffee, carbonated drinks, alcohol, citrus fruits, cheese, nuts and chocolate. Make a record of meal and snack times as well as quantities consumed.

Research Family History

Most migraines are caused by a genetic disposition, so it’s advisable to understand as much as possible on the circumstances and treatment. Knowing family members’ symptoms, medication, and what was or wasn’t successful for them can be very useful in your diagnosis.

On a Similar Note

Seek Medical Advice

Your GP will conduct a physical examination to check the function of the nervous system, blood pressure, vision and neck pressure. Additional information such as medication and drug history should also be discussed at your appointment. GPs will be able to prescribe medication and refer you to a neurologist or other medical experts, if applicable. It’s here where information such as the symptom and food diaries and family history will assist in speeding up both diagnosis and referrals.​

Be Prepared

Some migraine sufferers feel an ‘aura’ before the onset of their migraine which can include visual disturbances such as blind spots, blurred vision, coloured spots or sensations such as numbness, dizziness and pins and needles. When the aura is experienced it’s advisable to be prepared to manage the migraine. Even if individuals don’t experience the aura, they should be prepared for a migraine in order to help reduce the symptoms. Preparation includes:

  • Water – keep it easily accessible as it’s important to keep hydrated

  • Have medication to hand – taking this at the earliest stage is key for many people

  • Sensory distractions – have things like wet towels to soothe the head and sunglasses for bright light

  • A quiet, dark room for sleeping

  • Emergency contact numbers to hand

Keep Medication On You

In most cases, medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are successful in treating the pain induced by a migraine, but many people require stronger, more tailored prescriptive drugs such as triptans. It’s imperative those affected by migraines seek medical advice to help manage the symptoms, and make regular check-up appointments to review medication and management.



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