Headaches and migraines are a pain which is often difficult to alleviate – try whatever works, whether it is allopathy or alternative therapy
A lot of people don’t go to doctors when they have a headache – a simple aspirin takes care of the problem. But those who suffer from recurrent migraine have a much tougher time. You see them making the rounds of hospitals hoping for a cure. And it is often elusive.
First, it is important to understand the difference between routine headaches and migraines.
Migraines are recurrent, pulsating and usually one-sided (unilateral) headaches, which are accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Sometimes they begin in childhood but 80% of the time in adolescence or early adult life. Their frequency decreases with advancing age but it may worsen in some postmenopausal women. The good news is that there is nothing life-threatening about it.
“Recurrent chronic headaches affect the patient’s day-to-day functioning and may hamper the quality of life,” assures Dr Jaideep Bansal, Director, Dept of Neurology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. “It is when a person suffers from a severe headache for the first time that the underlying cause may be serious or even life-threatening.” It is advisable to immediately get medical help in such a case.
Dr Bansal explains that migraines are of two types:
Classic migraine: Here patients may see an aura before the onset. Aura may be in the form of visual disturbances with flashes of light or zigzag lines or other neurologic symptoms.
Common migraine: No aura is seen — it is five times more common.
In both cases, they may be preceded by vague premonitory changes in mood and appetite. There is sensitivity to bright light, loud sounds or smell. Moving the head makes it worse.
Apart from stress, which we all know about, there are there are several migraine triggers, including:
- Hormonal changes in women: Fluctuations in estrogen, such as before or during menstrual periods, pregnancy and menopause, seem to trigger headaches in many women
- Drinks: Alcohol, especially wine, and too much of coffee
- Sensory stimuli: Bright lights and sun glare, loud sounds. Strong smells – perfume, paint thinner
- Sleep changes: Lack of sleep, jet lag can trigger migraines in some people
- Weather changes: Change of weather or barometric pressure can prompt a migraine
- Foods: Cheeses, chocolates and coffee might trigger migraines. So might skipping meals or fasting
- Food additives: Sweeteners and preservatives.
Hopefully, your doctor will be able to provide the right medication to cure you. If not, there are many alternative treatments you can try – after all, recurring headaches are bound to affect your functionality. The following are the measures recommended by the website Medical News Today:
Acupressure therapy may help relieve some migraine symptoms. You can yourself use the right hand to put pressure on a point on the left hand called LI-4 point (the space between the base of the left thumb and pointer finger) or the PC6 point (three fingers up from the base of the wrist on the inside of the arm). Apply firm but not painful circular pressure, using the opposite hand for five minutes, may relieve pain.
You can also go to an acupuncturist, who will identify the problem and effect a cure. On the same principle, biofeedback about muscle tension can be taken using small machines which have sensors attached. The sensor judges whether the tension is in the forehead, jawline or trapezius muscles in the shoulders.
Symptoms can also be relieved with yoga or stretch exercises, which improve blood flow and reduce muscle tension. The same results can be achieved by massages – you can try using a tennis ball to self-massage your back and shoulder.
Inhaling essential oils is another such measure — lavender oil is often used in Europe. You can try consuming ginger powder or take a daily dose of 150 mg of butter. There are also a number of herbal supplements and hair oils which have traditionally been taken to cure headaches.
Dr Reshma is an advocate of wellness, prevention and holistic health. Instagram handle: dr.reshmakhattarbhagat