Migraine: Beat The Headache That Plays Dirty
An ache that feels as if it’ll split your skull in two, nausea, zero tolerance for even a sliver of light or a modicum of noise — a migraine is no fun. But knowledge is power, and we bring to you all that you ever wanted to know about the headache that plays dirty.
Migraines happen for a number of reasons. It is a neurobiological disorder that involves both neurological and vascular changes in the brain during an attack. The blood vessels inflame, and the pain begins. Chemicals are also released from the nerve fibre cells that coil the blood vessels. Most people who suffer from migraines have a low level of serotonin in the brain.
The triggers of migraines are many — alcohol, caffeine, nutritional deficiencies, stress, allergies, smoking, dehydration, lack of adequate and regular sleep, hormonal fluctuations, low sugar levels, and even the humble chocolate.
So what should one do to treat or prevent a migraine attack?
- Shhh! — As soon as you get a migraine attack, go to a quiet room, switch off all the lights, and try to sleep, but don’t force yourself. If sleep doesn’t come, just relax till it does.
- Goodnight — Regular and adequate sleep is essential for preventing migraine. Keep regular sleeping hours, and don’t indulge in alcohol, coffee, heavy meals, or exercise just before sleep time. Try to relax with a warm bath, a book, or a glass of warm milk before bedtime, so it’s easier for you to sleep.
- Eat right and keep a food diary — Your mealtimes shouldn’t vary much from one day to another. Skipping meals will up the risk of a migraine attack. Keep track of what you eat when, and if you find something that is a trigger for your migraine, eliminate it from your diet. For some people, coffee, chocolate, aged cheese, almonds, bananas, and even a certain kind of alcohol could be triggers. Avoid MSG.
- Exercise — Working out releases chemicals that can block pain signals to the brain. These happy chemicals can also help manage anxiety and depression, which are migraine triggers in themselves. Obesity is also a trigger, so getting fit is another step towards preventing migraine. If you aren’t used to it, start slowly so as to not cause another episode.
- Leave stress behind — Stress is one of the biggest culprits for most diseases, and migraine is no exception. Give yourself time to relax every day. Block negativity and start inculcating positive thoughts — it’s not so easy, but practice will make perfect. Delegate, instead of taking everything on yourself. Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation will help you manage your stress and ward off attacks.
- Keep a migraine diary — Note in it when and where your attacks occur, what you were doing at the time, what you ate, and what your mental state was. This will help you identify your personal triggers, which can then be managed to avoid such episodes in the future.
When an episode does occur, massaging the temples, forehead, and the back of the neck have been found to be very effective. Neck stretches, shoulder shrugs, and pressing the palms onto each side of the forehead also work very well. You can also apply hot and cold compresses to your head and neck. This helps block the reception of pain. Warm baths can have a similar effect. Caffeinated beverages have also been found to be helpful, if taken in small doses.
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