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  • Jean Jordan

Migraine Headache Pain – A Crippling Disability For Many

Updated: Apr 27


Bare branches of a tree represent nerves of the brain

It can be difficult to have an illness such as migraine headache pain, probably the worst thing is the unpredictability. No matter how careful you are to avoid triggers you’ve identified, sometimes in the busyness and rushing of our daily lives we can be brought to a sudden halt with that tremendous pounding in our head or other features of your personal migraine pain.

 


Prevalence of Headaches; Tension Headaches and Migraines


I chose some information from 'The Lancet' that presented many figures and statitics available for global migraine headache pain. This gives you an idea of the disability burden, all headaches, especially migraines - that can have a tendency to stop us in our tracks. Almost, three billion individuals were estimated to have a migraine or tension-type headache in 2016. Of these approximately 45.1 million were migraine headache, which has a much higher disability effect. The headaches affected more women between ages 15 and 49 years, with migraine affecting 20.3 million.



Non-pharmacological Treatments for Migraine Headache

 

Aguilar-Shea (2022) makes a list of migraine non-pharmacological treatments. Their first most important aspects is set routines and fixed schedules. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I think most of us would agree, these days, keeping set routines are becoming very difficult.


What I thought I'd cover in this article is first of all a story. A client story of chronic migraines that with their unpredictability could send her to the emergency department of the local hospital because of the unbearable pain. In the process of researching this article I found a number, in fact a large number of self-help ideas. Out of these there are two or three I found particularly interesting  that I’d like to share with you. However I will list other articles that had many ideas; from soothing teas such as peppermint, chamomile or ginger to drink, apples to eat and citron syrup, a Persian remedy.



First, My Client Story of Chronic Migraine Pain


Some people, especially women can suffer almost unbearable pain from migraine headaches. One such client, I'll call her Sarah, had migraines for many years. She had occasions, despite being on various medical treatments, when she had to be taken to the emergency department at the hospital. Here she was given injections to provide relief for the unbearable pain, that was accompanied with constant nausea and vomiting.

 

This occurred several times in the two years that I knew Sarah. She was in her 50s, a homemaker, extremely fit and active but despite this she never really got satisfactory results from her ongoing medication. This caused her to be always worried about when the next migraine would occur.

 

Sarah came to me for naturopathic treatment as nothing else had worked. She had a healthy diet and was fully aware of any triggers that could bring on a migraine.



Impact of Stress on Migraine Pain

 

Once we started treatment it soon became apparent that stress was a crucial factor in her migraine problems. She talked about challenging family relationships that had been lifelong. These had recently increased as her elderly mother was becoming frail and unable to take care of herself. Her mother lived in a different country as did the rest of the family so from a distance she felt that her siblings were taking advantage of her mother.

 

The full story of these relationships are not relevant to this article except to say that there were times when she was migraine free, however news from overseas would cause one of the trips to the hospital emergency department mentioned above.

 

As in many chronic diseases and other health issues stress can only be described as bad, very bad and needs to be addressed and hopefully reduced in all cases.

Unfortunately, it is rarely the case that stress is actually discussed during medical consultations.

 




With several sessions Sarah’s migraines reduced in frequency, as she began to understand the need to find ways to address her stress. Luckily for Sarah her daughter was a yoga teacher who introduced her to yoga nidras, that Sarah really enjoyed.

 

I also used a particular magnesium powder, that had been well researched for migraine treatment together with her doctors recommendation of riboflavin (vitamin B2).

 


Migraine Headache Pain - Get Yourself Informed

 

It may be informative to keep a migraine diary. This can be useful for identifying triggers and also useful for women to be aware of any hormonal involvement in their migraines. Keeping this record is certainly worth doing. However I would also add a section that involves perhaps emotions, or personal interactions as these could be beneficial to understanding why you get migraines.

 


Melatonin as a Treatment or Preventative for Migraine Headache Pain

 

In an article by Gelfand (2016) they mentioned a number of observational research studies into the use of melatonin. Adults with migraine have lower melatonin levels on migraine days compared to non-headache days, and nocturnal melatonin can be implicated in menses migraine.

 

Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and plays a role in regulating circadian rhythms, including initiating, and sustaining sleep. Secretion of melatonin is increased in darkness, a reason I often suggest clients switch off their devices, that can suppress the production of melatonin, and sit outside in the dusk, with a milky drink or camomile tea.

 

Another important aspect in the migraine non-pharmacological treatment is getting a good night’s sleep which could be another reason why melatonin treatment could be successful.

 

 


Rebound Migraines due to Pain Medication – Overuse of Medicines

 

In a recent webinar about migraines by the New Zealand Pain Society, I was interested in a comment by one of the experienced chronic pain specialists. In his opinion migraine sufferers were apt to take too much over the counter medications for their migraines, that in fact resulted in making their condition worse.

 


Overuse of pain medication causes rebound headache

This prompted me to consider how I self-medicate myself for recurring headaches. I would often wake up at 3:00 or 4:00am with a tension headache and my solution for many years has been to get up; have a cup of tea, some toast and, one or two ibuprofen tablets. Consequently, was I in this way contributing to the persistence of these headaches?

 

Some of us wanted to know the solution to this problem. We were told to break the cycle; to stop taking the medication and suffer the headaches for a few days or a week while our system returned to normal. The thought of that was rather challenging! However, this is obviously worth discussing with your doctor or other clinician who treats your migraines.

 

If I think back to my childhood and teenage years, and even as a young woman in my 20s, although suffering tension headaches rather than migraines, I certainly took a lot of aspirins. One of the reasons I did this was to prevent nausea and vomiting. Perhaps finding something that could relieve these symptoms to help reduce the reliance and amount of medications would have been worth considering.

 


Conclusion about migraine management.


Migraines can be debilitating, ongoing and with their unpredictability difficult to manage. My purpose today was to open a door to possibilities of research treatments and further natural therapies, and it articles listed below, that may not be researched but have holistic effects on our health.

 

Some ideas worth discussing with your health practitioner are:

 

·      The role of stress maybe playing in your migraines.

·      To consider melatonin as a treatment and also to improve sleep.

·      To openly discuss the amount and frequency of pain reducing medications both prescribed and over the counter.

 

And finally, to explore natural remedies such as sitting quietly in the dusk away from screens and perhaps to take up regular mindful breathing to bring calmness and relaxation into your life.

 


I invite you to try the free resources I've put together


 

Jean Jordan - Naturopath and Self Care health writer

Want to find simple effective ways to reduce your chronic pain without increasing your stress and overwhelm? This is where I can help! Ideas can be found in the articles on my website.


You can sign-up to regular updates or spend time using some of the collection of self-help techniques.


After over 20 years of having my own pain clinics pain clinics I started natural pain solutions to reach more people, rather than one person at a time. Therefore when I completed my postgraduate pain management studies I wanted to spread the word about holistic self-help techniques that people can use at home. Learn more about me here.

 

References

 

Aguilar-Shea AL, Membrilla Md JA, Diaz-de-Teran J. Migraine review for general practice. Aten Primaria. 2022 Feb:54(2):102208.


Gelfand AA, Goadsby PJ. The Role of Melatonin in the Treatment of Primary Headache

Disorders. Headache. 2016 Sep;56(8):1257-66.

 

Jafarpour M, Yousefi G, Hamedi A, Shariat A, Salehi A, Heydari M. Effect of a traditional syrup from Citrus medica L. fruit juice on migraine headache: A randomized double blind placebo controlled clinical trial. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Feb 17;179:170-6.

 

Namazi N, Heshmati J, Tarighat-Esfanjani A. Supplementation with Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) for Migraine Prophylaxis in Adults and Children: A Review. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2015;85(1-2):79-87

 

Prajapati, S., & Vinode, P. K. (2022). Various remedies for management of Migraine: A short review. Atencion Primaria54(2).


Global, regional, and national burden of migraine and tension type headache, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the global burden of disease 2016. The Lancet, neurology 17(11).954-976

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