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Coping With Migraine

Migraines are headaches of a severe and chronic nature. They are usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances which can last from up to a few hours to a few days.

Main symptoms
Pain located on one side of head: The pain usually begins on one side of the head, at the temple, and can spread downward to the eye, face, and even neck.

Throbbing pain: Migraine sufferers almost always complain of throbbing pain on only one side of the head, usually around the temple. Occasionally, a migraine causes pain all over the head.

Pain, aggravated by activity: The simple act of moving may be difficult if you have a migraine, and pain may be aggravated or worsen from activity.

Sensitivity to light sounds and smells: During (and sometimes prior to) a migraine attack, many sufferers experience strong, painful reactions to light, loud noises, and certain odors.

Aura or the warnings of migraine
An aura is a single symptom or set of symptoms the patient sometimes experiences immediately before the onset of a headache. It can serve as a warning that a headache will follow. It may consist of visual symptoms, smells or unusual odors.

Visual Aura: Patients often describe bright, shimmering lights around objects or at the right or left edges of their field of vision. This is known as scintillating scotoma. It may gradually enlarge to occupy the entire field of vision. Some patients have the feeling of being temporarily blinded. Others experience patterns of zigzag lines or images. Some patients experience bizarre hallucinations.

Other Aura: Some patients feel a tingling or numbness on the face, tongue, or extremities. This may start in one location and spread throughout the body. Other auras include motor weakness, speech or language abnormalities, dizziness, vertigo, and abdominal symptoms.

Causes
The exact cause of a migraine is not known. It tends to run in families and this family history of migraine may be one cause of the headache. Vascular theory states that a migraine is a disturbance of blood flow to the head.

Blood vessels in the head and face become engorged and dilated. This excess pain causes the pain. It is widely accepted that there are a number of factors that can trigger an attack. Knowing what is likely to precipitate an attack will give you a head start in learning to manage your migraine. Migraine ‘triggers’ can be grouped as follows:

  • Physical (fatigue, over-exertion, over-relaxation)
  • Psychological (stress, excitement, worry, shock, anxiety)
  • Diet (consumption of alcohol or particular food, missing meals)
  • Medical (blood pressure, dental problems)
  • Hormonal (menstruation or oral contraceptives)
  • Other factors (loud noise, bright lights, TV, strong smells)

Because there are such a variety of triggers you could be forgiven for thinking that life in general is enough to give you a headache! It is for this reason that it is important to try to discover those which apply to you so that you can avoid them or at least have advance warning of an attack.

Food: Certain food types contain chemicals, which can trigger a migraine attack. The most likely ones are cheese, chocolate, alcohol (red wine and port especially) and citrus fruits. Often, missing meals can trigger an attack, especially in children.

Hormonal: Many women find that they suffer migraine at the same time as, or just before their periods. This is linked to hormonal changes. If this happens to you, try to avoid additional triggers at this time of the month and make sure that you have fast acting treatment on hand if an attack starts.

Stress: Stress or relaxing after a particularly stressful time, can also trigger migraine. Certain activities or occasions such as travel or social events can also lead to an attack.

Sleeping patterns: Lack of sleep can trigger migraine attacks, as can too much sleep - some people find that they get migraine after a weekend ‘sleep binge’.

If you are prone to migraine attacks

Dos

  • During a severe attack splash cold water on the face, then lie down in a dark room and rest
  • Regularise your life style
  • Work in congenial atmosphere
  • Take adequate sleep
  • Practice regular bowel habits
  • Take a break from your daily routine

Don’ts

  • Do not overwork yourself physically or mentally

Avoid

  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Cold drafts
  • Being under sun for long
  • Overstraining your eyes
  • Long working hours in ill-ventilated rooms
  • Self medication

Nutritional Advice

  • Try to avoid artificial sweeteners. They are suspected to be migraine inducers
  • Avoid white flour products
  • Avoid pickles, preserved foods, canned foods, pastas etc.
  • Overeating is best avoided
  • Eat small and frequent meals
  • Drinking 2 to 3 glasses of water at a stretch is recommended

Migraine in children
Migraine is a common cause of headaches in children although it should always be medically diagnosed. In fact, one child in nine between the ages of five and fifteen suffers from attacks of migraine - they may describe them as a ‘sick headache’ or even ‘a headache in the tummy’. Although childhood migraine does not differ essentially from adult migraine, the headache symptoms may not be as pronounced and nausea, sickness and stomach ache are more common. If you think that your child may be suffering from migraine, try to ensure that he or she does not miss meals - especially breakfast and before exercising - and avoid those foods known to trigger an attack.

Homeopathy and migraine
Homeopathy treats patients based on the personality of the person. Homeopathic medication is safe even for newborns, children, pregnant women and the elderly people. It helps people mentally and emotionally as well as physically. Hence migraines can be successfully treated with homeopathy.

(The writer is the chairman and managing director of Dr Batras’ Positive Health Clinic Ltd. and can be contacted at help@positivehealthclinic.com)