So you’ve identified your migraine symptoms and honed in on what causes migraines for you. Now what? How do you actually hit your pain on the head and get on with your day? The good news is there are myriad medical and natural treatment options to choose from for migraine relief. We spoke to the experts to get the low-down on each one.
MEDICAL TREATMENTS FOR MIGRAINE RELIEF
‘During a migraine attack, the body systems shut down and drugs are not easily absorbed,’ says Dr Katie Munro of The National Migraine Centre. ‘It is important to take treatment as early as possible. I recommend carrying a dose of migraine medication with you plus a small juice carton and snack so you’re not taking the tablets on an empty stomach.’
Drug treatment falls into two categories: acute and preventative. ‘Together they create a rescue remedy,’ says Dr Andrew Dowson, Chairman of the Medical Advisory Group for the migraine charity Migraine Action. ‘It’s about working out which combination works best for your type of migraine and then supporting this with everyday lifestyle changes to help reduce your triggers and lower your migraine attack threshold.’
‘These are drugs you take to try and abort an attack,’ says Dr Dowson. ‘Painkillers such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin and Paracetamol.’
‘These drugs work best when taken alongside an acute treatment and an anti-sickness medicine, which allows the medication to absorb better,’ says Dr Dowson. ‘The most common are called Triptans – these relieve swelling and narrowing blood vessels, and replace the feel-good hormone serotonin. They are available on prescription and can be taken as tablets, injections and nasal sprays. Although there are side effects – they may make you moody or foggy headed, give you vivid dreams, or encourage you to gain weight –most people feel that the migraine relief they provide is worth it. However, if you find you need this treatment more than twice a week, it is worth discussing the situation with a medical expert.’
NATURAL TREATMENTS FOR MIGRAINE RELIEF
Montefiore Medical Center discovered that migraine attacks are increased by what they called a stress ‘let-down’ – ie if you’re super stressed one day, then plummet to chilled out bliss the next, that’s when your head is most likely to explode with pain and wipe you out. Now, that’s not to say that you should simply stay fraught 24/7; quite the opposite – manage your stress levels so they never hit those extreme highs and lows. Here’s how…
STRETCH IT OUT
American researchers found that people who incorporated meditation, controlled breathing and yoga in their routine have better regulation of the stress hormone cortisol. Try these ultimate yoga poses for relaxation.
Ongoing studies at the University of Southampton shows that 20 minutes of yogic breathing, five times a week, can reduce symptoms associated with anxiety. Here’s how to inhale right.
Acupuncture has been endorsed by the British Medical Association as being an effective treatment for migraines, providing pain relief, reducing inflammation and boosting levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Not had it before? Here are 10 things you didn’t know about acupuncture but probably should.
If ever there was a good excuse to treat yourself to a massage, now’s it. The University of Granada found that tension headaches improve within 24 hours of receiving a 30-minute neck massage. Why? It helps regulate the nervous system and reduces stress. Here’s how to have a massage without feeling like an idiot.
MIGRAINE RELIEF THROUGH DIET
Yes! Nutritional therapist and author of The Balance Plan: Six Steps to Optimise your Hormonal Health, Angelique Panagos (angeliquepanagos.com) gives her recommendations on what to top up on for tasty migraine relief:
‘68% of us are deficient in this mineral, which has muscle-relaxant properties that can ease migraines,’ says Panagos. ‘Fill up on it with dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds – half a cup of spinach and 28g roasted almonds, for example, meets 40% of your RDA.’ Need inspiration? Try this almond and fennel salad recipe.
‘If you find you suffer from migraine around the time of your period then help to balance your female hormones by topping up on lentils, soybeans, flaxseed and sesame seeds, which are high in phytoestrogens – plant-based dietary oestrogens,’ says Panagos. Chickpea and lentil dahl it is then.
‘That’s right, including at least three portions of oily fish such as mackerel and salmon in your diet each week can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine in some people,’ says Panagos. This salmon, egg and lentil salad ticks all the boxes. Don’t eat fish? ‘Flaxseed is another source of omega-3.’ Sprinkle it over your morning porridge, or add it to a smoothie for an extra boost.
‘Herbs and spices such as ginger and turmeric are famed for migraine relief. Ginger is thought to block prostaglandins, which are inflammatory substances, and can ease any nausea,’ says Panagos. Serve up this pear and ginger cleanser for maximum benefit.
MIGRAINE RELIEF THROUGH EXERCISE
According to The Migraine Trust, 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, three times per week is best for managing migraine symptoms. Hit it too hard and you’re at risk of bringing an attack on. So, slow things down with a gentle jog, cycle or swim. Or try one of these 30-minute full-body workouts:
- Get a body like Australian model Shanina Shaik with this military-inspired routine.
- Focus hard and maximise every minute with Elsa Patakay’s model workout.
- Okay so it’s only 15 minutes but do this yoga sequence on waking and just before you hit the sack and bam, there are your 30 minutes sorted.
Sources of information and support: Migraine Action; National Migraine Centre; Migraine Trust