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Migraine - triggers and treatments

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

So much more than just a headache

As a child I remember my mum having migraines on a fairly regular basis. It was always on a Saturday morning for her, she'd awake with a migraine and we'd get up and go downstairs to find her sitting bolt upright in the ' best ' armchair and staring straight ahead. There was no bright and breezy conversation and you always knew that the day would be quiet and we wouldn't be able to go anywhere until her pain had subsided and the room had stopped spinning.

For many that suffer from migraines there is a frustration that they are seen as ' just ' a bad headache. Those that have lived with them appreciate that they are so much more than that ! The pounding pain that feels like the skull is being split in half is often accompanied by a whole host of other exciting symptoms such as :

  • Nausea & vomiting ( Mum always felt better after being sick )

  • Dizziness

  • Sensitivity to sounds or smells

  • Visual disturbances ( e.g double vision or auras )

  • Digestive complaints

  • Fatigue

  • Numbness or pins & needles

Trigger or early symptom ?

Many migraine suffers are all too aware of what they feel triggers an attack - for my Mum her attacks were always at the weekend when the stress of the working week had lifted. For others, frustratingly, there is no set pattern and attacks can come out of the blue and causing distress and disruption for days to work and home life. Well recognised triggers can include :

  • Stress

  • Sleep disruption

  • Skipping or irregular meals

  • Hormonal fluctuations

  • Bright lights/ loud noises ( sensory overload )

But why are those well known triggers of chocolate, cheese and red wine not on the list I hear you ask ??

As our understanding increases it is increasingly believed that these may not be triggers but are actually early symptoms or ' premonitory symptoms ' of an attack. So that chocolate you scoffed may not be the cause of your problem but may instead be a craving that acts as a warning of an imminent attack. These premonitory phase can last for up to 72 hours before an attack so there may be time to adjust schedules and ensure regular meals and sleep in order to try and decrease the likelihood of an attack. Whether it is a warning or a trigger listening to your body and keeping a symptom diary for a couple of months can really help spot patterns - you'd be amazed the number of women who never make the connection between their migraines and their menstrual cycles until they start to keep a diary and spot the correlation. The hope is that by recognising these patterns preventative action can be taken hopefully either heading off a full blown migraine or at least minimising it's impact or severity.

Treatment options

The general concensus amongst most authorities is that because of the variety of types of migraine there is no single ' best ' treatment, it's often a mixture of medication, changes in lifestyle or holistic therapies to help manage the symptoms. Medications such as anti-depressents and painkillers, botox injections and HRT therapies are all available to help manage the symptoms. At Natural Elements the most common treatments we use for treating migraines and chronic headaches are Acupuncture, Reflexology and Indian Head Massage. Reflexology in particular can be useful for balancing hormones, improving sleep patterns and decreasing stress, as we have seen all potential triggers in increasing the likelihood of an attack.

National Institute of Clinical Excellence ( NICE ) now includes Acupuncture as a treatment for migraine and chronic headache in conjunction with other medications. Acupuncture at Natural Elements is provided by Physiotherapist, all are fully qualified and UK trained and registered with the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists ( AACP )


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