Chronic Migraine Survival Kit
What is Chronic Migraine?
Chronic Migraine is where you suffer from more than 15 headaches a month with at least 8 of these being classed as migraines. A migraine is generally a severe, one-sided headache which may be accompanied by visual and neurological symptoms and in some cases nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
A migraine is just a headache, right?!
Wrong! Migraines are very debilitating as sufferers don’t just suffer from the migraine itself. It can take several days to recover from a migraine and
There are Four Distinct Phases of Migraine
Migraine comes in four distinct phases with the Prodrome or build up where the body gathers energy to have a migraine. During this stage, patients may feel very hungry, thirsty or tired or may start craving certain foods. There may be some foggy-headedness, irritability or minor loss of speech and concentration.
This is often followed by the Aura (although not everyone has an aura) Aura is where you get the visual disturbances with flashing lights, zig zagging, blurred or double vision. The limbs may go numb or start to tingle or loose sensation.
The main attack is where the intense, throbbing pain kicks in, you may feel or be sick, feel depressed or have difficulty sleeping. At this stage chances are you’ll just want to sleep in a darkened room. This stage can last from 3 or 4 hours to a couple of days.
After the migraine follows the postdrome or migraine hangover. This can leave you feeling rubbish for a day or two whilst your body recovers. During this time it is important to get plenty of rest, eat a light diet and to stay hydrated, avoiding caffeine if at all possible. (Though some patients find that drinking caffeine is actually helpful, so see which way works best for you!)
Products that might help with Chronic Migraine
White Tiger Balm Ointment
Especially designed for headaches and migraine. Very powerful stuff but make sure you wash your hands carefully after applying it. Available from supermarkets, pharmacies and big online retailers.
Cooling Sports Towel
A cooling sports towel, dipped in very cold water and then squeezed out before applying to the neck or head.
Sunglasses/ UV reactive lenses if you wear glasses
Cooling Pillow Mat Inserts
Having a cool pillow can help. Look at online retailers to find a cooling pillow mat insert
Helps relieve pressure on spine
Can generally be microwaved to help warm the neck/shoulder muscles if needed. (Check manufacturers label before microwaving)
Gel eye masks
Can often be used warm or cold to ease sensitivity on the eyes.
Orange Filter for computer and phones
Look in your phone/computer settings for a nightshift filter or eye comfort filter.
Roll-on headache Balms
These use aromatherapy to help reduce headaches.
A tens machine that’s like a headband, especially designed for migraines and headache relief. See Amazon and other online retailers for more information
A heavy blanket
You can get special weighted blanket (with an equally hefty price tag) but often just having a good old fashioned heavy blanket can make all the difference
Google ‘Migraine Relief Products’
Check out big online retailers for ‘migraine relief’ products. Do NOT buy medication online unless from a reputable retailer like Boots or Superdrug etc
People to contact if you’re having chronic migraines
It is worth speaking to your GP as they will be able to potentially prescribe you with some preventative medication to stop you from having migraines so frequently or offer you some medication to take during an attack (or in some cases both!)
They may need to adjust any contraceptive pills you may be taking or prescribe a different form of contraception, as some brands of the contraceptive pill can exacerbate migraines.
They may also take a blood test to rule out vitamin/mineral deficiencies as some of those can make migraines more prolific. You may be referred to the headache clinic or Neurology if your condition is severe and not responding to the usual treatment.
Especially if you are having any problems focusing or are spending a lot of your time at your computer every day. Having your eyes tested can help ensure you’re wearing the right prescription glasses and often can run tests to ensure that your eyes are looking healthy with no sign of papillodema. If you do spend a lot of time at your desk you might be able to get a pair of mid-distance glasses for working at the computer.
Especially if you’re stressed, tend to grind your teeth in bed, or have noticed tension in your face. Sometimes migraines can be connected to a face/jaw problem. They should be able to check for any problems with your jaws and teeth and put your mind at rest.
All of the above mentioned therapies are great for helping with migraines in their individual ways. Acupuncture involves carefully placed, small needles which suprisingly aren’t painful at all, which helps release energy blockages and has a good reputation for relieving migraine.
An osteopath can gently tweak your body, spine and bones back into alignment and is very good if you’ve got lots of tension in your neck and shoulders or spine.
A reflexologist can help you relax, unwind, release stress and tension by massaging and pressing on specific parts of the feet or face. The aim of reflexology is to bring the whole body back into balance. It can work more quickly if you have a series of treatments ideally close together over a period of 6-8 weeks in the first instance followed by maintainance appointments every 3-4 weeks.
Some health plans include acupuncture or reflexology so if you are with a health insurance plan, check it out.
If you are employed it would be worth speaking to your employer about your migraines so that they can work with you to make your working environment as migraine friendly as possible.
This might involve you having regular breaks away from screens, having regular meal times and breaks, having furniture at a good height to reduce tension on your neck and shoulders.
If you have severe migraines like hemiplegic migraines it would be helpful for them to have a medical plan in place for you so they know what to look out for and what to do should it happen. Hemiplegic migraines often mimic strokes (and hard to differentiate between the two).
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