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Headache and Migraine

Written by Louise Megan Owen May 03 2017

Ever since attending a course on treating and managing migraine and headache a couple of years ago it has been a special interest of mine. I have seen many headache and migraine patients during my years in practice. The headache patients usually respond well to treatment and the migraine patients usually have some reduction in level of severity and frequency in attacks. But everyone is different some will get a lot of help, some very little.

I do have a personal history of suffering headaches at times in my life, including some migraines while being a stressed final year Osteopathy student. My GP told me they couldn't be migraines because I got a minor headache followed by a visual aura that was followed by nausea, fatigue and a need to sleep not a pounding headache. However, we now know that the classic phases of migraine can overlap and are not distinct.

This week the World Migraine Summit has been online. During the week of the summit it is free to watch and after that the lecture recordings can be purchased. The summit is designed to help migraine sufferers offering information and advice. Watching the talks I have been inspired to write a blog to share the new information I have learnt, and some useful links.


Top Tip

Find an interested physician. Many neurologists are not highly knowledgeable about headache or migraine. A GP with a special interest may be just as much help. However, if your migraines are significantly impacting your life you should try and get a referral to a headache specialist at least once. Also do not necessarily stick with your first diagnosis. It may not be correct as symptom pictures change over time.


Triggers

Anyone who knows anything about migraines knows about triggers. What specialists were keen to point out is that the prodrome phase of a migraine can last upto 8 hours. During that prodrome phase people often get food cravings. This means that people can often believe a food is a trigger because they craved it then eat it and then got a migraine. It might not be, you maybe had a migraine coming all ready. So try the food again another time. Prodrome symptoms can be very subtle like change of mood, light sensitivity or yawning. Family or partners may be better at spotting these signs than you.


What is happening to the brain?

We now know that in migraine the brain has become hypersensitive. This is why there is such a wide variety of possible symptoms. This sensitivity can persist between attacks which is why following the basic rules of keeping to a routine really helps. Regular sleep pattern, keeping hydrated, keeping blood sugar level, daily relaxation etc. A late night could be enough to trigger an attack. This is why migraines are more common on a monday; because of the change in sleep pattern over the weekend.


Migraine and Women.

Unfortunately for us ladies migraine is more common in women. Although plenty of men get them too; so don't let a doctor tell you you can’t have migraine because you’re a guy! One of the reasons its more common in women is, yes you guessed it, hormones. It’s those monthly cycles and drop in oestrogen. Oestrogen helps protect us from pain so when it drops you are simply more likely to get a headache. So even women with a normal cycle can get menstrual migraine. Because of this migraine does get more common around puberty, menopause and post-partum.

Magnesium has been found to help anyone with migraine; but it can be useful for menstrual migraine in the second half of the cycle - 400mg a day. (ask for medical advise if you are on any other medication or unwell. Magnesium can also cause diarrhoea so build up the dose over a few days)


What is causing the pain and can it be treated?

We now know that pain from headache and migraine is caused by the muscles or arteries of the head, it is not the brain. Both of these tissue types can be affected by your neck or jaw. So anyone getting frequent headaches or migraines should see an osteopath and get checked out. It can help reduce the severity and frequency of attacks. If you have muscle pain you will have tender areas of muscle in the neck, jaw or temple. If artery pain you may find during an attack pressing your fingers on your temple relieves the pain. Knowing which type of pain you have is important because muscle pain will not be relieved by triptan medication.


Alternative treatments

Many migraine sufferers have a sleep disorder so a melatonin supplement may help. (Take according to the label)

As previously mentioned Magnesium 200-500mg a day helps and also B2 200-400mg a day. Allow 3 months to notice benefit from these. (Read the health guidance on the label. Both can cause initial diarrhoea so increase dose gradually to avoid this. Ask for medical advise if you are on any other medication or unwell.)

Many people find Aspartame is a trigger so try avoiding this to see if it makes a difference.

Ginger has been found to be very effective with headache and migraine pain. Watch the video via this link: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/ginger-for-migraines/

I would pay attention to this because treating nausea with headache is very important. We now know that persistent nausea can make an attack worst or can make them more frequent proceeding to a chronic state. Because of this I also recommend the use of digestive enzymes to assist the stomach and digestion during an attack.

Lavender Oil has also been found to help with headache and migraine, such a simple thing to carry round with you too. Video to explain how to use it via this link: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/lavender-for-migraine-headaches/


Cluster Headaches

These are very painful. And no they are not a frequent patch of normal headaches or migraine. They are a type of headache in their own right that are so painful the person cannot even keep still. Well turns out capsicum can really help. So if you are a cluster headache sufferer you really would watch this video: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/hot-sauce-in-the-nose-for-cluster-headaches/


Relaxation

Daily relaxation is very important: and I don't mean sitting down with a cup of tea and watching coronation street. You need to shut the door, lie down and close your eyes and do some form of guided relaxation or meditation. This will help drop the level of hypersensitivity in your brain.


Useful Links

https://www.migrainetrust.org

https://ouchuk.org/home

https://www.migraineworldsummit.com/home-2017/

https://nutritionfacts.org

I hope you found this blog helpful. If you want to contact me you can do so through the contact form on this website. If you think others would benefit from reading it please share.

Don't forget with migraine management is the key to prevention and prevention is better than cure.

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