Treatment and prevention without the headache

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A migraine is a common condition which affects over eight million people in the UK. It is a severe headache which can persist for several days. In most cases, the headache consists of a throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head. It is believed that migraines may be caused by the widening of blood vessels in the head.

Many patients who suffer from migraines also experience increased sensitivity to light or sound and choose to rest in a dark room to avoid both. It is also very common for migraines to cause nausea and vomiting. Less commonly, they can also cause increased sweating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Some people suffer from migraines with aura, which means that they experience symptoms such as visual problems, numbness of the face or limbs, problems with their speech or dizziness during a migraine.

Health Plus Pharmacy make migraine treatments convenient and accessible. Book an appointment with a pharmacist to explore your treatment options.

Treatments Available

monthly injection

Erenumab (Aimovig®)

nasal spray

Sumatriptan succinate (eg. Imigran®)

Zolmitriptan (eg. Zomig®)


Sumatriptan succinate (eg. Imigran®)

Zolmitriptan (eg. Zomig®)

Almotriptan (eg. Almogran®)

Eletriptan (Relpax®)

Frovatriptan (eg. Migard®)

Naratriptan (eg. Naramig®)

Rizatriptan (eg. Maxalt®)

Various over the counter products......

How long do migraines last for?

A migraine usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours if untreated. How often migraines occur varies from person to person. Migraines might occur rarely or strike several times a month.

How do you make a migraine go away?

Migraines cause pain as real as the pain of injuries — with one difference: Healthy habits and simple nonmedical remedies sometimes stop migraines before they start.

Medication is a proven way to both treat and prevent migraines. But medication is only part of the story. It’s also important to take good care of yourself and understand how to cope with migraine pain when it strikes.

The same lifestyle choices that promote overall good health can also reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines.

Combining medication with behavioral measures and lifestyle can often be the most effective way to handle migraines.

Find a calm environment

At the first sign of a migraine, take a break and step away from whatever you’re doing if possible.

  • Turn off the lights. Migraines often increase sensitivity to light and sound. Relax in a dark, quiet room. Sleep if you can.
  • Apply hot or cold compresses to your head or neck. Ice packs have a numbing effect, which may dull the sensation of pain. Hot packs and heating pads can relax tense muscles. Warm showers or baths may have a similar effect.
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage. In small amounts, caffeine alone can relieve migraine pain in the early stages or enhance the pain-reducing effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and aspirin.

Be careful, however. Drinking too much caffeine too often can lead to withdrawal headaches later on. And having caffeine too late in the day may interfere with your sleep, which can also affect migraines.

Sleep well

Migraines may keep you from falling asleep or wake you up at night. Likewise, migraines are often triggered by a poor night’s sleep.

Here are some tips to encourage sound sleep.

  • Establish regular sleep hours. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day — even on weekends. If you nap during the day, keep it short. Naps longer than 20 to 30 minutes may interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Unwind at the end of the day. Anything that helps you relax can promote better sleep: listen to soothing music, soak in a warm bath or read a favourite book. But watch what you eat and drink before bedtime. Intense exercise, heavy meals, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can interfere with sleep.
  • Minimise distractions. Save your bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Don’t watch television or take work materials to bed. Close your bedroom door. Use a fan to muffle distracting noises.
  • Don’t try so hard to sleep. The harder you try to sleep, the more awake you’ll feel. If you can’t fall asleep, read or do another quiet activity until you become drowsy.
  • Check your medications. Medications that contain caffeine or other stimulants — including some medications to treat migraines — may interfere with sleep.

Eat wisely

Your eating habits can influence your migraines. Consider the basics:

  • Be consistent. Eat at about the same time every day.
  • Don’t skip meals. Fasting increases the risk of migraines.
  • Keep a food journal. Keeping track of the foods you eat and when you experience migraines can help identify potential food triggers.
  • Avoid foods that trigger migraines. If you suspect that a certain food — such as aged cheese, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol — is triggering your migraines, eliminate it from your diet to see what happens.

Exercise regularly

During physical activity, your body releases certain chemicals that block pain signals to your brain. These chemicals also help alleviate anxiety and depression — and these two conditions can make migraines worse.

Obesity also increases the risk of chronic headaches. Maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and diet can provide additional benefits in managing migraines.

If your doctor agrees, choose any exercise you enjoy. Walking, swimming and cycling are often good choices. Just remember to ease into exercise gradually, as very vigorous exercise may trigger migraines.

Manage stress

Stress and migraines often go hand in hand. You can’t avoid daily stress, but you can keep it under control to help manage your migraines:

  • Simplify your life. Don’t look for ways to squeeze more activities or chores into the day. Instead, find a way to leave some things out.
  • Manage your time wisely. Update your to-do list every day — both at work and at home. Delegate what you can, and divide large projects into manageable chunks.
  • Take a break. If you feel overwhelmed, a few slow stretches or a quick walk may renew your energy for the task at hand.
  • Adjust your attitude. Stay positive. If you find yourself thinking, “This can’t be done,” switch gears. Think instead, “This will be tough. But I can make it work.”
  • Enjoy yourself. Find time to do something you enjoy for at least 15 minutes every day. It could be playing a game, having coffee with a friend or pursuing a hobby. Doing something you enjoy is a natural way to combat stress.
  • Relax. Deep breathing from your diaphragm can help you relax. Focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply for at least 10 minutes every day. It may also help to consciously relax your muscles, one group at a time. When you’re done, sit quietly for a minute or two.

Keep a migraine diary

A diary may help you determine what triggers your migraines. Note when your migraines start, what you were doing at the time, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief.

Until recently, avoiding migraine triggers was considered the best advice. But new research suggests this may actually increase sensitivity to potential triggers.

A more useful approach may be to gradually expose yourself to triggers, and learn to cope with these headache triggers by using behavioral management techniques. These may include identifying and challenging negative thoughts, relaxation training, and stress reduction. More research is needed to understand if and how this approach is more effective in managing migraines.

Strive for balance

Living with migraines is a daily challenge. But making healthy lifestyle choices can help. Ask your friends and loved ones for support.

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain.

When should I be worried about a migraine?

People should consider speaking with a healthcare provider if they experience frequent headaches that interfere with their ability to function or their quality of life.

People should also seek medical care if their headaches cause any of the following symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • vision problems
  • tingling or numbness in the limbs, face, neck, or head
  • difficulty speaking or understanding what other people say
  • difficulty thinking
  • difficulty moving one side of the body

What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

Headaches cause pain in the head, face, or upper neck, and can vary in frequency and intensity.

A migraine is an extremely painful primary headache disorder.

Migraines usually produce symptoms that are more intense and debilitating than headaches.

What is a headache?

There are many different types of headaches, which experts have classified into two main groups — primary and secondary.

Primary headaches refer to independent conditions that cause pain in the head, face, or neck. Examples of primary headaches include migraines and tension headaches.

Secondary headaches occur as the result of another medical condition, such as an infection, stress, or medication overuse.

Primary headaches

Types of primary headaches include:

1. Tension-type headache

Tension-type headaches are common primary headache disorder that affect around 42 percent of adults worldwide.

Tension-type headaches feel like a band of intense pressure around the head.

Doctors classify tension-type headaches as episodic or chronic. Episodic tension-type headaches happen between 10 and 15 days per month. Chronic tension-type headaches occur more often and may cause soreness in the scalp.

Several factors can cause tension-type headaches. These can include:

  • clenching the jaw
  • hunger
  • depression or anxiety
  • lack of sleep
  • sleep apnea
  • arthritis
  • bending or straining the neck
  • poor posture
  • stress

2. Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches cause severe pain on one side of the head, often behind the eye. These headaches come in clusters, meaning multiple headaches occur around the same time every day for several weeks.

Cluster headaches occur in cycles of recurring headaches followed by periods without headaches.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cluster headaches usually last 6 to 12 weeks. Cluster headaches tend to affect males more often than females.

Symptoms of cluster headaches include:

  • severe pain on one side of the head
  • pain behind the eye
  • red, watery eyes
  • sweating
  • congestion
  • restlessness or agitation
  • changes in heart rate

3. Hemicrania

Hemicrania are persistent headaches that fluctuate in severity. These headaches usually affect the same side of the head. People can have daily, or chronic, hemicrania headaches.

Other people might experience periods of recurring headaches followed by headache-free periods.

Other symptoms of hemicrania headaches include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • watery eyes
  • redness or irritation of the eyes
  • sweating
  • congestion
  • swollen eyelids

Secondary headache disorders

Illnesses and chronic medical conditions that affect the nervous system can cause secondary headaches.

Causes of secondary headaches include:

  • sleep disorders
  • brain tumors
  • strokes
  • withdrawal from medications or drugs
  • head trauma
  • inflammation
  • seizures
  • leaking spinal fluid
  • physical deformations of the head, neck, or spine

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a type of primary headache disorder that can cause severe pain and other symptoms. People with migraine may experience recurring symptoms that doctors call episodes or attacks.

Headaches are only one symptom of migraines, and they can range in severity. Migraine can cause intense, throbbing headaches that last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

A migraine headache usually affects one side of the head, but some people experience pain on both sides.

A migraine episode can occur in four distinct phases, though not everyone experiences every phase.

1. Premonitory phase

Doctors also call the premonitory phase the preheadache or prodrome phase. It includes nonpainful symptoms that occur hours or days before the headache arrives.

Premonitory phase symptoms can include:

  • unexplainable mood changes
  • food cravings
  • stiffness of the neck
  • frequent yawning
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • sensitivity to light, sound, or smells

2. Aura phase

Auras refer to sensory disturbances that occur before or during a migraine attack. Auras can affect a person’s vision, touch, or speech.

Visual auras can cause the following symptoms in one or both eyes:

  • flashing lights
  • zig-zagging lines
  • blurred vision
  • blind spots that expand over time

Sensory auras cause numbness or tingling that starts in the arm and radiates to the face.

Motor auras affect a person’s ability to communicate and think clearly. Motor auras include:

  • slurred or jumbled speech
  • difficulty understanding what others say
  • difficulty writing words or sentences
  • having trouble thinking clearly

3. Headache phase

Migraine headaches can range from mild to severe. People who have a severe migraine headache may need to seek emergency medical treatment.

Physical activity and exposure to light, sound, and smells worsen the pain. People can have migraine episodes without developing a headache, however.

4. Postdrome phase

The postdrome phase occurs after the headache subsides. People may feel exhausted, confused, or generally unwell during the postdrome phase.

This phase can last anywhere from a few hours or several days.

Types of migraines

Migraine falls into several different categories depending on the symptoms. Some examples of migraines include:

1. Migraine without aura

Common migraines, or migraines without auras, cause intense, throbbing headaches on one side of the head.

These headaches usually last between 4–72 hours. Migraines without auras do not produce symptoms before the onset of the migraine attack, but people with this type of migraine may have the premonitory symptoms described above.

2. Migraine with aura

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about one in every three individuals with migraine reports experiencing an aura before the headache.

People who have migraine episodes with auras might not experience an aura every time. Headaches may or may not accompany auras.

3. Abdominal migraine

According to the authors of a 2018 articleTrusted Source, abdominal migraines usually affect children between the ages of 3 and 10 years old.

Abdominal migraines cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. People who have this type of migraine can develop a mild headache or no headache at all.

4. Hemiplegic migraine

This rare type of migraine causes temporary paralysis before or during the headache. Other symptoms of hemiplegic migraines include:

  • vertigo (dizziness)
  • a piercing or stabbing sensation in the head
  • vision problems
  • difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • trouble moving one side of the body

Risk factors for migraine

Researchers and doctors have identified several factors associated with higher risks of migraines. These include:

  • being female
  • having a family history of migraines
  • mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders
  • sleep disorders

What is a migraine trigger?

A migraine trigger is anything that consistently results in a headache. Common triggers include, alcohol, lack of sleep, and skipped meals. Many people have food triggers and smell triggers. But everyone is different. One migraineur can eat chocolate until they are three hundred pounds and not get a headache while the next person with the same headache type can’t walk by a candy counter without getting a headache. Rather the listing all the things that ever gave anybody a headache, it is better to be observant about the events that surround your headaches and when you see a pattern, act accordingly.