Understanding Migraines and Learning How To Live With Them

If you suffer from migraines, you have my utmost sympathy, as they’re truly terrible. I’ve suffered from migraines since I was eleven years old, and whilst I was lucky to get only one or two during my twenties, they’ve been a regular occurrence in my thirties, and let me tell you, they aren’t fun.

The word migraine is often thrown around, but what exactly is a migraine? How can you tell if you’re having a migraine, or simply a very painful headache? Trust me, you know. Migraines have a very different level of pain, and they’re never just a headache. Migraines are a neurological condition which affects the brain.

Understanding Migraines and Learning How To Live With Them

Migraines can be trigged by different factors such as food, stress, a lack of stress and more, and the pain can range from being mild to severe, and they’re typically experienced on one side of the head. Migraines are never *just* a headache, with symptoms of light or sound sensitivities being common, as well as visual disturbances.

Annoyingly, a migraine can last for hours or even days, and is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting, and some even suffer from neck stiffness, or extreme sensitivities to smells. Migraines are typically triggered by hormonal changes in women during puberty, menstruation (periods), pregnancy (pregnancy) or menopause (end of periods).

What Are The Different Types of Migraines?

There are two main types of migraine: episodic and chronic. Episodic migraines happen less often and tend to last less than 72 hours. Whereas chronic migraines happen more often and can last for days or weeks at a time. There is also a third type of migraine called ophthalmoplegic migraine, which happens when the muscles that control eye movement become weak or paralysed in some way, but the two most common types of migraine are episodic and chronic.

Common Migraine Triggering Factors

Migraines are the most common type of headache, with about 1 in 7 people suffering from migraines, and they’re found to be more common in women than they are men. The triggers for migraines change from person to person,

Some of the most common triggers for migraines include:

  • Changes in hormones; puberty, menstruation, pregnancy or menopause.
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stressful events or life changes
  • Too much or too little physical activity
  • Atmospheric pressure falls or rises
  • Changes in temperature
  • Humidity fluctuation
  • Bright artificial lighting
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Consumption of certain food types (such as chocolate, cheese and nuts)
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Smoking tobacco products

What are the Most Effective Treatment Options for Migraines?

Migraines are often debilitating, and some people have to suffer with them on a daily basis. I’m lucky in that I get maybe 1-2 a month at the most, but I’ve had times when they’ve been a lot more frequent, and it’s really tough as they are so debilitating.

If you think you might be suffering from migraines as opposed to general headaches, I’d recommend creating a headache diary, when you can record your episodes and food/drink intake, to help you establish any noticeable patterns or triggers.

Understanding Migraines and Learning How To Live With Them

I for one, know chocolate to be a big trigger for me, so I try and limit how much chocolate I consume, and once you spot your triggers, it really does help to minimise the frequency of your migraine attacks.

When it comes to effective migraine treatments, there are many different options, with some people responding well to medication, lifestyle changes or focusing on preventative measures. It all depends on the individual person, and it’s always good to try different things to see which is the best plan of action for you personally.

One popular medication when it comes to migraines are triptans (and my personal favourite treatment for dealing with my own migraines). Triptans are a type of medication that can be taken at the onset of a migraine to reduce its severity and duration. They work by blocking serotonin from binding to receptors in the brain, which helps stop the release of chemicals and other neurotransmitters that lead to migraine symptoms.

There are many treatment options for migraine sufferers, but not all of them work for everyone. Some people find relief from pain by using over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Others find relief from taking prescription medications such as ergotamines, or opiates.

How To Treat A Migraine Attack With Alternative Therapies

Alternative treatments for migraines include acupuncture, meditation, yoga, chiropractic care, massage therapy, low-level laser therapy (LLLT), and biofeedback. You could use a TENS machine designed for migraines, hot water bottles, heat-up eye masks, or many other non-medication based treatment options.

Living with migraines can be really tough. You live in worry wondering when the next attack will strike, but there are different treatments available, and alternative therapies to hopefully help with the symptoms once you do have an attack.