Cotswold Life


With Mi­graine Aware­ness Week tak­ing place in Septem­ber, we look at what’s be­ing done to clear our heads

- WORDS: Health · Health Tips · Mental Health · Medications · Medicine · Lifestyle · Healthy Living · Health Conditions · Pharmacology · United Kingdom · Headaches · Neurology · Migraine Trust

Isud­denly get over­whelm­ing crav­ings for choco­late and feel the ten­sion in my shoul­ders in­creas­ing. When I wake up the next day, I am wel­comed with a pound­ing headache. If this sounds fa­mil­iar, you are prob­a­bly one of the es­ti­mated six mil­lion peo­ple in the UK who ex­pe­ri­ence mi­graines.

Ac­cord­ing to The Mi­graine Trust it is es­ti­mated that one in seven of us suf­fer from the de­bil­i­tat­ing headaches, with 190,000 at­tacks each day in the UK, cost­ing the NHS £150m a year. It’s of­ten dis­missed in so­ci­ety as ‘just a headache’ be­cause it’s in­ter­mit­tent, but many find them­selves dis­abled dur­ing an at­tack.

‘We don’t ac­tu­ally know why peo­ple get mi­graines,’ says Una Farrell of the Mi­graine Trust. ‘We do know it’s ge­netic, and we know there are trig­gers for the at­tacks and the mi­graine brain doesn’t like change.’

For some, th­ese changes are hor­monal, or trig­gered by food or drink. ‘It can be changes to rou­tine, some­thing as sim­ple as go­ing on hol­i­day,’ adds Una. ‘In terms of food, it’s im­por­tant to work out if the food trig­gered the mi­graine or some­thing you ate as a re­sult of a crav­ing at the start of an at­tack. It’s a thresh­old con­di­tion: one trig­ger on its own might not be enough to cause an at­tack, but say if you’re stressed and then you don’t sleep, the two to­gether can be enough.’

A mi­graine starts around 24 hours be­fore you feel the pain, ex­plains Una, which is called the pro­drome phase. You might feel tired or stressed, or ex­pe­ri­ence food crav­ings. Around a quar­ter of peo­ple have an aura, a vis­ual dis­tur­bance or tin­gling. The pain stage can last any­thing from 15 min­utes to three days. Throb­bing pain can be ac­com­pa­nied with sen­si­tiv­ity to light and sound, brain fog and nau­sea. Mi­graine suf­fer­ers of­ten find some respite in a dark­ened room. Once this fin­ishes the last stage is the post­drome stage, which can last any­thing from three hours to 24 hours and leave suf­fer­ers feel­ing fa­tigued or even eu­phoric.

It’s re­ally im­por­tant to have a di­ary and work out the pat­terns. ‘Try and avoid the trig­gers and manage things like stress,’ Una says. ‘Look at your life­style, your eat­ing and sleep­ing pat­terns, your com­mute, or even how you sit at work and your screen time. There’s a cer­tain amount of self-man­age­ment, but do dis­cuss this with your doc­tor.’ For­tu­nately, things have moved on from an­cient reme­dies. In prehistori­c times, a mi­graine was treated by drilling a hole into the skull with the aim of re­leas­ing evil spir­its.

There is hope. Botox has proved ef­fec­tive, nerve stim­u­la­tion treat­ment has shown ben­e­fits, and new drugs are be­ing de­vel­oped. Dur­ing a mi­graine at­tack cal­ci­tonin gene-re­lated pep­tide (CGRP) is re­leased, ac­ti­vat­ing nerves that re­lay headache and fa­cial pain sig­nals to the brain. CGRP an­ti­body med­i­ca­tion is the first of a new gen­er­a­tion of drugs de­vel­oped specif­i­cally to tar­get th­ese sub­stances and neu­tralise them.

For suf­fer­ers it has been de­scribed as ‘life chang­ing’, with one user say­ing: ‘My life has changed be­yond recog­ni­tion. I have been given the op­por­tu­nity to live again.’

See more at mi­grainetrus­

Herbal sup­ple­ment Ash­wa­gandha is ideal for those try­ing to bal­ance their stress lev­els nat­u­rally. Ash­wa­gandha’s adap­to­genic prop­er­ties help the body when re­act­ing or re­cov­er­ing from phys­i­cal or men­tal stress, pro­mot­ing a feel­ing of calm. It bal­ances hor­monal lev­els and pro­vides po­tent anti-in­flam­ma­tory and an­tiox­i­dant prop­er­ties that help to sup­port the im­mune sys­tem. Ash­wa­gandha also fights fa­tigue and helps boost en­ergy lev­els.

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When pain strikes, it can be de­bil­i­tat­ing
ABOVE: When pain strikes, it can be de­bil­i­tat­ing
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£19.95, linknu­tri­

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