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Migraine: Self-help Tips

Updated on July 12, 2010

15% women and 6% men are affected by migraine. Onset is mostly after 30 years of age. Migraine causes much misery and affects the routine life of the sufferers.

How to identify migraine headache?

Migraine headache can present in any of the following ways:

  • Classically, if you have visual(or other) aura lasting 15-30min followed within 1 hour by one sided, throbbing headache, and associated with nausea or vomiting, then it's a migraine headache. Photo phobia may also be present.
  • Isolated aura with no headache
  • Common migraine:Most common form of presentation. There's paroxysmal, sever, one sided headache with nausea, vomiting and there may be photophobia but no aura. There may be pain with any form of stimuli, like while combing hair, or shaving. If there's no aura, then >5 headaches lasting 4-72 hours with nausea, vomiting or >2 unilateral, pulsating headaches meets the diagnostic criteria of migraine.

Now what's an aura?! Visual aura is the most common form where you see shimmering, silvery zigzag lines which march across the visual fields over 20 minutes, sometimes leaving a trail of temporary visual field loss. Other aura may include tingling, numbness, or limb weakness.

Like when we're in trouble, we always ask "Why me?",similarly if you are one of the sufferers of migraine, it may be the very question you've frequently asked yourself, your doctor or internet. So, what is the answer?. It's largely unknown. Owing to family history, it has been said it has some genetic components. Similarly, female predisposition and increase in frequency during menstrual period hint at hormonal influences. Many hypothesis regarding cerebral vessels abnormalities, ion channels defects in brains have been suggested.

Triggers: In around half patients, no trigger is found. Cheese, alcohol, anxiety, travel, oral contraceptives, strenuous exercise, travel can be identified as triggers in half of the patient; however in only few patient, avoiding triggers prevent all attacks.


It's always better idea to seek expert medical help. Here are few self-help tips.

  • Keep a diary: It will help you find out the frequency of headaches, that aids your physician decide whether you need a prophylaxis or not. Also it gives you clue about the triggers and so you can avoid them.
  • Stress relaxation techniques: Since anxiety, stress has been associated with migraine attacks, doing meditation, yoga or muscle relaxation helps reduce frequency and severity of attacks.
  • Maintain healthy life style: Hunger, poor quality of sleep, dehydration are also triggers of migraine in some patient. It's a good idea to have regularly spaced meals, good and adequate sleep, and ample amount of water. Sticking to routine healthy habits always do good.
  • Stop smoking
  • Stop Oral Contraceptive Pills: It's not only trigger of migraine but can also produce serious complications,like stroke, in female with migraine.
  • Spinal manipulation, Vitamin B, magnesium may have role in decreasing frequency and severity but it can't be overemphasized.
  • If obese, weight loss makes sense.

So, in general, the preventive measures for migraine mainly includes identification of triggers and their avoidance.

Things to do to abort migraine attacks:

  • Be prepared: It's wise to keep your drugs in hand.
  • Some people find warm or cold packs to the head help abort attacks.
  • Rebreathing into paper bag may abort some attacks.
  • Lying silently in a dark and quiet room is helpful.

Drugs for migraine:

  • Dispersible high dose aspirin
  • Paracetamol
  • Metoclopramide for nausea and vomiting
  • Rizatriptan, sumatriptan and ergotamine are most effective for severe migraine attacks.
  • If attacks more than 2 per month, then for prophylaxis pizotifen or propranolol or amitriptyline can be used. Most will achieve reduction in attack frequency.

Migraine disturbs life. But don't lose hope, you'll get better. Self help and expert help are what you need. Final words: Avoid triggers, maintain healthy life and take appropriate prescribed drugs.


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    • drabsurd profile image

      drabsurd 7 years ago from Kathmandu,Nepal

      i have tried to give complete self help tips, hope you guys will like it :-)