Latest Catalogue Health & Lifestyle

Health & Lifestyle

Headache - Migraine

13 July 2011
DEFINITION

A Migraine is a severe form of headache that lasts from 4 to 72 hours.


DESCRIPTION

Migraine attacks are usually unilateral (on one side only), involve moderate or severe pain and are pulsating. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and avoidance of light (photophobia). Between 10 and 20% of Migraine sufferers experience what is called an 'aura'. This is a sensation that warns them of a Migraine attack. An aura may be a visual sensation e.g. blurred vision, flashing lights, spots in front of the eyes, difficulty speaking or numbness or tingling sensations. Auras occur about one hour or less before the Migraine starts. Migraines can occur at any age but usually start between the ages of 10 and 40 and occur more often in women than in men.

The cause of Migraines is not known, but changes in the electrical activity of the brain are thought to initiate a cascade of events that cause blood flow changes and inflammation in the brain.

Possible triggers for Migraine include:
- Hormonal changes: hormone replacement therapy, menstruation, oral contraceptive therapy, pregnancy.
- Environmental factors: bright/flashing lights, emotion (e.g. anger), missed meals ( hypoglycaemia ), smoke, strong odour (e.g. perfume), too much/too little sleep, weather changes.
- Foods: alcohol, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, chocolate, cultured dairy products, fermented/pickled foods, fruits, monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, sugar, sulphites, vegetables, yeast.
- Other: eye strain, head injury, irregular/no exercise.


TREATMENT OPTIONS

Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. The medical treatment for Migraine varies according to how often the patient has attacks. People who suffer from frequent Migraines may benefit from preventative medications e.g. beta-blockers, antidepressants or anticonvulsants.

Acute treatments for Migraines are used to control the symptoms of a Migraine during or shortly before an attack. These medications are most effective if they are used as early as possible in an attack. Analgesics such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin are used to control pain during a Migraine attack. Nausea and vomiting might need to be treated with other drugs, which usually require a Doctor's prescription. Ask your Doctor to recommend a suitable medication for your nausea. Patients who find their Migraine does not respond to standard analgesics may require drugs such as sumatriptan, which help to control nerve sensitivity and blood flow in the head and brain during a Migraine or an antihistamine such as polaramine.

In chronic migraine sufferers, melatonin may help to decrease headache frequency and intensity. A recent study found that patients taking melatonin had less frequent and less severe migraine attacks by the end of the first month of treatment. Another benefit was a decreased use of pain relieving medication by the patients taking melatonin. More clinical, controlled research needs to be conducted in this area to confirm the results of this initial study.

Try to keep blood pressure down by remaining calm and relaxed. Use a cold compress on the forehead and lie down in a darkened room. Compresses are available from your Pharmacy. Migraines usually improve with age as certain pain receptors in the brain start to decrease. During pregnancy attacks seem to lessen.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age unless specified by a Doctor.


DIET HINTS

- Certain foods, especially chocolate, cheese, nuts, alcohol, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are thought to trigger Migraine in certain people prone to developing Migraine.
- Missing a meal may trigger a Migraine.
- People who experience Migraines should avoid skipping meals and should eat a healthy, balanced diet that avoids any known food triggers.

See the Migraine Diet on the Healthpoint.


VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS

- A significant percentage of people with recurring Migraines have been found to be deficient in Vitamin D and may benefit from taking a nutritional supplement 

- B Group Vitamins, especially Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), may be beneficial in relieving stress and anxiety. B group vitamins may be helpful in cases where stress is a trigger for Migraines.
- Feverfew has been used in the prevention of Migraines.
- Ginger may help to combat nausea.
- Coenzyme Q10 is a nutritional supplement that may help to reduce the frequency of Migraines. Research indicates that this nutrient should be taken for at least three months at 150 mg per day before the frequency of Migraines are reduced.


AROMATHERAPY

The listed essential oils are suggested for the temporary relief of Migraine Headache. The most specific oils are shown in capitals.
BASIL, BLUE CHAMOMILE, CHAMOMILE, MELISSA
Application
MASSAGE: Blend any single listed essential oil or combination of several essential oils - 5 drops (total) to 10mL (1/3 fl oz) vegetable carrier oil ie: Sweet Almond, Apricot Kernel. Massage into back of neck, temples, shoulders or apply as full body massage.
BATH: Add 5 drops (total) of any single listed essential oil or combination of several essential oils to warm bath, just before turning off the taps. Agitate water.
VAPORISATION: Add 5 drops (total) single essential oil or combination of several essential oils listed to water in oil burner. Please note, essential oils that are pre-diluted in Jojoba oil are not suitable for vaporising.

The above recommendations are for an adult. For children 2 - 12 years and during pregnancy use 1/2 dose i.e. - 3 drops to 10ml(1/3 fl oz).


PHARMACIST'S ADVICE

Migraine sufferers must be examined by a Doctor. The headache may be masking a more serious ailment. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
1) Follow the Diet Hints and see the Migraine Diet topic for more information about amines and how they may trigger migraine symptoms in some people
2) A Cold Pack, which is available from your Pharmacy, can help to relieve head pain. Sometimes using a hot compress may help relieve a Migraine.
3) Your Pharmacy has a range of pain relieving medications. Ask the Pharmacist for advice on which is the best suited to you. Remember that codeine, which is included in some of these products, may cause constipation. Both aspirin and paracetamol, if taken as early as possible are effective in relieving the symptoms. Aspirin should be avoided in children under the age of 12 and those aged 12 to 15 who have a fever.
4) An anti-inflammatory tablet or suppository containing naproxen might be suggested to relieve an attack. This medication is especially useful in cases of menstrual Migraine.
5) Avoid alcohol. Tea and coffee and cola drinks are also not recommended because of the caffeine content and the possibility of a rebound headache. Consider a non-caffeine herbal substitute. Excessive use of analgesics may also cause problems.
6) Increase fluid in the diet; 6 to 8 glasses of water per day are recommended. If you prefer filtered water, use a Water Filter Jug, which filters water with a replaceable charcoal cartridge. Ask your Pharmacist to recommend a water filter that suits your needs.
7) Avoid harsh light and wear sunglasses in the open sunshine.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age unless specified by a Doctor.



Back to all articles