For those who have been fortunate enough not to have experienced migraines, you may think that it feels just like a headache, only a bit more painful. Whilst headaches are indeed a common symptom of migraines, their severity can be excruciating, not to mention the plethora of other symptoms that can occur with little warning. Whether you’re new to migraines, or have had migraines for a while but have up until now been using standard painkillers to help with relief, this article is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about migraines and how to treat them.
What Exactly Is A Migraine?
Migraines are a medical condition whereby pain is felt in the head, usually on one side but in some cases both sides of the head. This is the most common symptom, although there’s a number of symptoms and stages of a migraine that differ from the standard headache tendencies. The symptoms can unfortunately appear at any point in relationship to the painful period, making it difficult to prepare and plan.
Migraines are a commonly experienced issue, with 20% of women and 7% of men in the UK suffering from them. They don’t usually affect children, typically appearing in adulthood, and can be as frequent as every week to a couple of times per year. There is a similar range in terms of the duration that migraines last between individuals, ranging from a couple of hours to many days.
What Does A Migraine Feel Like?
As previously alluded to, the central telltale sign of a migraine is a throbbing headache, which can be debilitating. Where they deviate from normal headaches is in their development, as they go through 4 phases. These are known as the prodrome, the aura, the attack and the post-drome phases.
The first stage of a migraine, the prodrome causes slight changes in the body that seem out of place, and can be a warning sign that the painful head-throbbing phase is 1 to 2 days away. Symptoms include:
- Being constipated
- Having food cravings
- A stiffness in the neck
- Yawning frequently
- Noticeable changes in mood, including positive moods
- Greater levels of thirst and urinating
Occurring before or sometimes at the same time as the attack stage, this phase stirs up some unsettling symptoms, mainly focused on the nervous system. These last for around about an hour if you get them bad, and they include:
- Changes in your vision, like bright streaks of light or seeing light shapes
- Losing vision temporarily
- Getting pins and needles in one body part
- Feeling numb on only 1 side of the face or body
- Difficulty speaking
- Hearing sounds that aren’t there (auditory hallucinations)
- Sudden muscles spasms
The attack or pain stage is when you’ll really start suffering from the pain inside the head. Left to its own devices, this can last between 4 hours and 3 days and can be particularly unpleasant, but appropriate treatment can significantly reduce this. Here, you may feel the following effects:
- A really bad headache
- Be overly sensitive to light and sound
- Feel nauseous and vomit
The latter stage of a migraine in the post-drome phase, where you might feel confusion or generally just exhausted. Sometimes you miss this last phase and feel great that it’s now over, but it’s common for post-drome effects to go for up to a day. Be careful not to make sudden movements in the head or the headache might temporarily come back.
What Causes Migraines?
Whilst it is not entirely clear why migraines occur, they have been linked to your genes and environmental factors. Temporary chemical imbalances and changes in the width of your veins have also been linked to affecting migraines. It has been indicated by research that changes in serotonin levels – the chemical responsible for making us happy and sad – may contribute. Although we still have some ironing out to do in terms of getting to the bottom of what causes migraines, sufferers report a number of common triggers preceding the migraine, including:
- Feeling stressed
- Feeling tired
- Eating certain foods like cheese or those high in salt
- Missing meals
- Being overly-stimulated by sounds that are loud
- Using certain medication like vasodilators
- Changes in estrogen levels in women
- After exerting yourself physically
How to Stop A Migraine?
Although there isn’t a cure that will totally eliminate migraines, you can reduce the severity and longevity of the symptoms with appropriate treatment. Not all treatments are as effective for each individual, so it’s definitely worth trying a few options to know what best works for you. While standard over the counter painkillers can sometimes help compliment other medication, it won’t always solve the issue, so it’s vital not to think that taking more and more ibuprofen and paracetamol will eliminate the migraine, this is dangerous. You can however try these initially, and it’s key to take them as soon as you feel the migraine coming on for the best efficacy. One easy to do (if the scenario is right) method to help aid a migraine without or in conjunction with pain medication, is lying down in a room that’s dark and quiet. By removing yourself from anywhere where lights and sounds are too much, you can reduce these aggravations. If you’ve tried taking standard pain medication without success, or have tried before with no luck, then you will want to look towards a pain relief that’s more specifically tailored for tackling migraines (although for these, you do need to have a history of migraines and have been diagnosed before). These contain selective serotonin receptor agonists which are effective at easing cluster headaches, typical of migraines, achieving this by widening the brain’s blood vessels. This treatment can be found in an application method suitable for anyone, such as nasal spray, capsules, or tablets.
To learn more about the treatments for a migraine, and to discover which would be most appropriate for your individual case, visit the UKs popular online pharmacy Pharmica for everyone you need.