Around 1 in 7 people in the world suffering with migraines; with over 1,900 migraine attacks happening daily here in the UK. Classed as one of the most debilitating diseases by the World Health Organisation, it is becoming more apparent that greater education and knowledge about self management is essential to help limit the severity of attacks. Combogesic, with the help of migraine specialist and GP, Consultant Neurologist Dr Nicholas Silver, and Dr Dawn Harper GP, share their top 6 tips to help combat migraines when they strike.

Consultant neurologist Dr Nicholas Silver advises:

“Migraine is often a highly disabling condition. It may present with headache but may cause many different symptoms, sometimes with little or no headache (e.g. fatigue, sinus pain, light, noise and/or smell sensitivity). Patients need to take control of their condition and to do this they will need to lay down a foundation of lifestyle changes that remain in place long term. If this is not sufficient to minimise the symptoms, speak to your pharmacist about effective medication to help with the pain and nausea. If the condition continues to remain severe and poorly controlled despite trying regular medications, you may need to seek guidance from your GP who can advise you on additional preventative strategies or refer you to a headache specialist.”

GP Dr Dawn Harper advises:

“Migraines affect 1 in 7 people in the UK and are more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. As you may know all too well, migraine can be very debilitating and painful.  Whether your symptoms typically include severe headaches, sensitivity to light or feelings of nausea, migraine attacks can be frightening and frustrating, often resulting in you having to lie quietly in a dark room for several hours and possibly take time off work.  I strongly recommend taking a proactive approach to try and minimise the impact on your life. Fast and effective pain relief is readily available from your local pharmacist. My best advice is to ask for a combination painkiller to give you the benefit of both paracetamol and ibuprofen in one convenient tablet. Being proactive can enable you to effectively manage your pain, so you can carry on with your day”

Migraine is a complex condition with no one set of specific symptoms that could be said to be ‘typical’ of migraine.  So, your experience of the condition will likely be unique to you. As a result, it’s tricky to provide cast-iron advice that’s applicable to everyone, but below are our collective top tips that might help you to manage the impact of migraine.

1.       Keep to a routine

Try to stick to a regular routine as much as possible when it comes to things like when you eat meals, the time you go to bed and wake up each day, and when and for how long you exercise.  If you get migraines, your brain might well be sensitive to environmental changes that the brain considers threatening.  So, a consistent schedule can help reduce the chance of a migraine being triggered.

2.       Stay hydrated

Dehydration is a common trigger for migraines.  With busy lives, it can be difficult to remember to keep drinking fluids, so try drinking a glass after every bathroom break as a regular prompt.  Drinking between two and two and half litres a day might help reduce the frequency, severity and duration of your migraine attacks.

3.       Track your triggers

Modifying your lifestyle to avoid certain triggers may be helpful in avoiding attacks. One way to get a better understanding of your migraines is to keep a diary with the details of your attacks. Try to capture specifics such as when the symptoms started, what you had been doing or eating beforehand, the severity of pain you experienced, how long the attack lasted and any medication taken.  This can help you to recognise trigger factors and warning signs that a migraine is developing. Many people with migraine have warning signs that may occur hours or even days before an attack. Symptoms may include fatigue, craving sweet food, increased noise and light sensitivity, the increased passing of urine, diarrhoea or feelings of detachment.

4.       Take proactive action

When a migraine strikes, act quickly at the onset of the headache to try and prevent it from getting worse. Visit your local pharmacy and ask about over-the-counter solutions.  Drink a large glass of water and if possible eat some carbohydrates. If nausea is present then consider an anti-sickness tablet that also helps to keep the stomach moving – this will allow better absorption of food and fluid.

5.       Effective pain relief

Over-the-counter oral pain relief is a go-to option for migraine pain.  There are now non-addictive options available in pharmacy to help you step-up your pain relief whilst enabling you to carry on with your day with as few side effects as possible.  For example, products that combine paracetamol and ibuprofen in a single convenient tablet mean you get the tried and tested double action pain relief, as well as a more convenient dosage schedule.  Speak to your pharmacist who can advise on the best treatment plan.

6.       Try acupuncture

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, a course of acupuncture can sometimes be beneficial in reducing the frequency of migraines.  Acupuncture is the technique of piercing the body with a solid needle for therapeutic purposes.  It is believed acupuncture can help in the treatment of migraine in different ways, including the release of endorphins and affecting serotonin levels in the brain.

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