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10 Migraine Questions Answered

Helping you to best manage your migraine pain

1. How long do migraines last?

To be classed as a migraine, the pain will last between 4-72 hours (3 days). A migraine lasting longer than this is called status migrainosus. Basically, an unrelenting migraine. If you have a migraine lasting for longer than 3 days you should call your doctor. If you are struggling with vomiting you may become dehydrated, it is important to go to hospital for treatment if this is the case. 

2. How do I get rid of a migraine?

There is no sure-fire way to get rid of migraines that work consistently and work for everyone.  The usual medication for migraines is Sumatriptan, though this doesn’t work for all sufferers. Some people’s migraines resolve with over-the-counter painkillers.

There are lots of anecdotal reports of possible solutions to migraines, though none that universally work for all. The best bet is to try different things and find what works for you.

Medication is the most reliable way to stop a migraine, discuss this with your GP. 

Other tips and tricks you might want to try:

  • Caffeine
  • Going for a gentle walk-in nature, time spent in the fresh air
  • Stretches or neck exercises
  • Tiger balm on the temples
  • Cold showers
  • Sleep
  • Acupuncture or acupressure
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Peppermint tea

Most of these possible solutions are in no way detrimental and are worth trying if you have a migraine.  

tiger balm

3. What causes a migraine?

Migraines are a neurovascular disorder, meaning they are related to the nerves and blood vessels of the head and neck, though the specific cause is still unknown. They aren’t caused by any injury or other medical condition, they are a condition in their own right.

When the nerves that supply the head become over stimulated they can trigger a migraine. There are several genes that have been linked with migraines and there is a strong hormonal element to them too, though you can still suffer with migraines without genetic or hormonal predisposition.    

4. What are aura migraines?

A migraine Aura is when you get symptoms that can sometimes go alongside migraines. They happen in about 25% of migraine cases, this surprises some people as many mistakenly think that migraines must have an aura. There are different types of auras.

The most common is a visual aura. This can be:

  • Flashing lights in your vision
  • Jagged lines
  • Blurring of your peripheral vision or blind spots

Some auras affect your sensation and you may get numbness or tingling, some get speech and language difficulties. Less commonly you can get difficulty with movement coordination and balance.  

migraine

5. Can alcohol cause migraines?

Alcohol can be a migraine trigger for some people. This can be for different reasons for different people. Sometimes it is related to chemicals in the alcohol and may be triggered by some types and not others.

Sometimes they are triggered by dehydration from alcohol. Sometimes it is due to the activities that might accompany the consumption of alcohol, or if you have slept very heavily with your neck at an awkward angle due to the alcohol, the aggravation of the neck can trigger the head pain

6. Should I go to work after a migraine?

It is common to have a lower-level headache in the day or days following a migraine, it is called a postdrome, or “migraine hangover. Different people can have different severities and symptoms. Most commonly it can present in the following ways:

  • A headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Light and/or sound sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue.

Depending on your work you may or may not feel it is appropriate to work while you feel this way. The other barrier may be the attitude and level of understanding displayed by your employer and colleagues, it is important to feel like you aren’t being judged or penalised when you have a migraine and you may need to educate your work place about the reality of migraines and how they can support you with them.  

migraine

7. What causes migraines in females?

Migraines are about 4x more common in females than males. The theory for this is that the female sex hormones lower the “threshold” for triggering migraine attacks. Many women are more susceptible to migraine around their time of menstruation for this reason. Women with migraines are also more triggered by missing meals, which may be due to the differences in male and female metabolism.

More about this can be read here Sex differences in prevalence of migraine trigger factors: A cross-sectional study 

8. How does botox help migraines?

botox

Botox is an injectable toxin that paralyses your muscles. The theory of why this works for migraine is that it prevents neurotransmission (the nerve signals) from the trigeminal nerve (in the face) that can trigger migraines.  

9. How do I prevent a migraine?

Identifying and minimising your triggers is very important in migraine prevention. Apps such at N1 Headache and migraine buddy can be great for helping you to identify your triggers, they are a form of headache diary.

Managing your sleep, diet, stress levels, exercise levels and hydration levels can make a big difference in migraine frequency. Preventative medications may also be prescribed by your doctor if you suffer with migraines on more than 4 days in a month, there are different types of medications for this and they may need to trial a few.

Manual therapy and acupuncture are often used and have supporting evidence for migraine management. 

10. Why do I keep getting migraines?

Migraines have a strong genetic component, making some people vulnerable to them while others aren’t. You may have times in your life when you get more migraines and this is usually due to some lifestyle factors.

The most common reasons for increased bouts of migraine are:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Periods of high stress
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Diet comprising of the wrong types of foods (often high sugar).

Other factors may be at play, as some people are even susceptible when there are big changes in the weather.  

We hope we have managed to answer some questions you may have about this debilitating condition. Please don’t suffer in silence. There is definitely hope!

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