Dealing with Migraines: Causes and Relief

Have you ever experienced a pain in your head which felt so much more than just a headache? If so, you could have been suffering from a migraine. Migraines are headaches that can vary from moderate to severe in intensity. It is a common condition which, according to the NHS, effects around 20% of women and just under 7% of men and can be eased by knowing about migraine relief techniques.

Migraine can present in various forms including with or without an aura (a temporary warning symptom before a migraine) and in rare cases some people can develop a ‘silent migraine’ where aura is present but there is no accompanying headache.

If you suffer from migraines, read on to find out more about their common triggers and migraine relief methods.

What are the causes of a migraine?

The cause of migraines is largely unknown. We do know that it is the result of changes in brain activity which can impact signalling of the nerves and certain chemicals in your brain.

Triggers for migraine tend to be very individualistic and many people find keeping a diary can really help identify what theirs might be.

Common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness
  • Poor sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Tyramine (found in foods such as smoked fish, cured meats, yeast extracts and some cheeses)
  • Environments that are too bright
  • High noise levels

Some women can also experience migraines due to hormonal changes (particularly oestrogen) around the time of their period. Certain medications can also trigger migraines. Speak to your health care professional about how you can best learn to identify your triggers and therefore better manage your migraines.

Migraine Relief

Finding a dark or dimly lit room to lay down and rest or sleep is often the first action of choice when a migraine begins. Over-the-counter painkillers are also a good option and should be taken at the first signs of an attack. Painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin have all been shown to be effective but always check with your doctor or pharmacist that they are safe for you to use. Aspirin should not be taken by children under the age of 16 unless prescribed by their doctor.

If these aren’t helping or you find you are using them too frequently, there are more options available through your doctor. They may offer a class of medication called Triptans which narrow the blood vessels in the brain and reduce the pressure and pain associated with a migraine. If you happen to suffer with migraines that are also accompanied by the feeling of being sick, then your GP may be able to offer you anti-sickness tablets too.

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