NCTV Episode 35

Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-

  • Migraines 101 – What you need to know
  • Triggers
  • Treatments
  • How to manage an attack
  • The word “sensorily”!?

Transcript

If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-

Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 35 with some bitesize tips to help your health flourish and today’s topic is Migraines or “meegrains”, however you wish to pronounce it.

Straight to it then and a migraine is a recurrent headache that strikes after, or along with sensory disturbances known as aura. These disturbances can include flashes of light, blind spots and other vision changes, or tingling in your hand or face.

It can last between 2 to 48 hours (sometimes longer), and usually affects one side of the head, comes on gradually (over 15 to 30 minutes), feels pulsating, is of moderate or severe intensity, and can be aggravated by routine physical activity.

Other symptoms can be nausea, vomiting, pulsating or throbbing pain, along with a hypersensitivity to light and noise.

They affect around 1 in 10 people, are three times more common in females and tend to affect young people who are otherwise healthy.

Most people who get migraines will have a family member with the same problem.

Very little is actually known about migraines but it’s thought that electrical activity in the nerves in the brain stimulate the surrounding blood vessels to release painful inflammatory chemicals.

What we do know though is that the pain is often so bad that it makes it very hard to drive or concentrate.

The aura is usually a reversible warning sign and it can occur up to an hour before the migraine kicks in and it’s usually combination of three disturbances:-

  1. Visually; in seeing spots, lights or having blind spots
  2. Sensorily (great word) with tingling, pins & needles or numbness and
  3. With movement problems such as reduced coordination, dizziness and speech disturbance.

There are many causes or ‘triggers’ for migraines and being able to identify them in yourself will go a long way to keeping your migraine episodes at bay. Often keeping a diary of what you have done, or eaten and drunk during the day will help you to identify any patterns or triggers preceding a migraine which you can subsequently avoid.

Some of the common triggers may include:-

  • Medications that dilate the blood vessels
  • Skipping meals
  • Weather changes
  • Dehydration
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stress
  • Excessive stimulation to the senses such as flashing lights or strong odours
  • History of head trauma or an underlying neck problem
  • Hormonal changes such as the monthly cycle, contraception or menopause
  • Certain foods like chocolate, caffeine, aspartame (which is an artificial sweetener), sugar, processed meats and foods containing lots of colourants and preservatives like MSG
  • And finally Genetics, as 60% of Migraine cases suggest that there is a family history of them

When considering treatment most people believe migraines are only managed through medication and avoidance of triggers.

Yes, medication does play a vital role in migraine management, however there are many benefits from physical therapy interventions.

With migraines, muscles around your head and neck can become very tender and present with spasm. Combined with any stress or underlying neck pain, physical therapy may be key to reducing the pain and intensity of your migraine episode as well as decreasing the frequency and duration of them. Here are some treatments that can be helpful:-

  1. Manual therapy, such as osteopathy or massage has been shown to be as effective as some medications in reducing the pain and intensity of a migraine. Regular weekly treatment has also been shown to be a good preventative measure for migraine management by substantially reducing the frequency of occurrences.
  2. Cold therapy in the form of gel ice packs or neck wraps can be applied at the onset of a migraine, targeting the carotid arteries at the front of the neck can significantly reduce the pain.
  3. Exercise therapy has been shown to be integral in the management of migraines. However, note that in some people activity can be a trigger for their migraines, and avoiding physical activity during a migraine is normally necessary. But regular exercise has been proven to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines, so if you can gradually build up your level of physical activity, this can help. In addition, specific neck exercises and stretches can be used to reduce tension and stress between episodes and even during an attack.
  4. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing the pain intensity with migraines, thus reducing the consumption of medications necessary to manage migraines over the long-term.
  5. Relaxation and deep breathing techniques – this is a little more controversial, because it’s difficult to calculate its effectiveness clinically, but each person is different and this may be beneficial to you either during or preceding an attack.

To help with the day to day management of migraines here are some simple ideas you can implement at home:-

  • Lie quietly in a cool dark room
  • Place a cold flannel or cold pack on your forehead or neck
  • Avoid drinking tea, coffee, orange juice or alcohol
  • Avoid moving around too much
  • Use meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Listen to quiet soothing music
  • Avoid reading and any screen time
  • Don’t drive
  • Some people find relief from ‘sleeping off’ an attack
  • And take medication as directed – the earlier you start treatment the better, don’t leave it and wait to see how you go. Take it as prescribed as soon as you know the migraine is coming on, and start your home routine to lessen the intensity and hopefully the duration of the migraines

Other top tips include:-

  • Wearing sunglasses regularly, especially transitional ones that can reduce the glare even indoors.
  • Wear ear plugs or listen to relaxing music when commuting to drown out the loud noises that may be triggers
  • Carry or wear scents that appeal to you and that you can inhale should you be overcome with an adverse smell – something like lavender, mint or coffee beans, whatever may appeal to you.
  • Having a regular day and sleep routine can help regulate your migraines
  • Also stress or anxiety management – know what you can cope with at work and home and plan accordingly
  • Reduce screen glare or even screen time where possible. Things that can actually help with this are rose-tinted glasses or you can buy anti-blue light screen protectors
  • It’s known that 70% of individuals with PTSD suffer with migraines so advice and counselling can help in these situations
  • And finally join a local headache support group if one is available.

So there are quite a few tips there because migraines are a serious condition that can affect your daily life. Everyone experiences them differently and what works also varies from person to person so the more you know about what you can do to help the situation the better.

That’s all from me today, see you next time, bye bye!