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Migraine & Headaches

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Migraines are much more than a headache: The throbbing pain in one part of the head can get to the point where it is unbearable, and it is typically accompanied by sensitivity to light or sound.

Headaches, on the other hand, involve pain in the head, face, and sometimes the upper neck. 

Most migraine or headache will go away on their own eventually, but that can be small comfort when faced with one.

What causes headaches?

Headaches can be caused by a range of emotional and physical factors.

These include stress, as well as relaxing after stress. The latter is a result of hormones dropping after the tension you have been dealing with all week finally subsides on Saturday morning, when you eventually get to rest.

Pent-up anger can also cause headaches, as can grinding your teeth at night (often thought to be the result of stress during the day).

Poor posture can also cause tension in your upper back and neck, leading to a headache in the base of the skull and sometimes the forehead.

Environmental factors like perfume, bright lights, and bad weather can also lead to headaches.

For some people, certain foods may trigger a headache.

Cheeses, fizzy drinks, and processed meats and fish can sometimes contain chemicals that may bring on a headache or migraine.

Skipping meals can also lead to a headache.

Ice cream and other very cold food or drinks can cause a headache, but luckily this one tends to go away very quickly.

Types of headaches

What are the different headache types?

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type.

They are what we often think of as “normal” or regular headaches, and feel like a constant ache on both sides of the head.

Tension headaches usually last for an hour or two, and though they are unpleasant, it is usually possible to continue with the task at hand.

Sinus headaches

Sinus headaches feel like pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead.

Sometimes the pain gets stronger when you move your head suddenly. These are the result of pressure building up in the sinuses perhaps due to an allergic reaction.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are less common, and occur in sequence for a month or two at a particular time of year.

They can be excruciatingly painful, with intense pain around one eye..

Other types of headaches include hormone headaches, alcohol-related headaches, and headaches caused by sleep apnoea.

What causes migraines?

Migraines are thought to be caused by temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves, and blood vessels in the brain.

It isn’t completely clear what exactly causes migraines, though around half of people who get them also have a relative who does as well, suggesting genes could play a role.

Many people who suffer from migraine attacks find that they are triggered by certain situations such as stress, sunlight, excessive exercise, the start of their period, tiredness, or certain foods or drinks.

People who get migraine attacks usually get them on a semi-regular basis, rather than just getting one or two in a lifetime.

Often, lying down, pacing, or avoiding light can provide some relief.

How to ease your headache

Easing your headache will depend on what is causing them.

Often, the most effective thing to do is to prevent the headaches by avoiding known triggers.

However, sometimes that isn’t possible, and sometimes it can feel like we get headaches for no known reason. If this concerns you, please seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity.

Alternatives to over-the-counter medicines for helping with migraines and headaches, include Holland & Barrett Feverfew Migraine Relief 60 Capsules.

These capsules contain just feverfew, a traditional herbal medicine for preventing migraine headaches, based on traditional use only.

Feverfew is a plant that is part of the daisy family and some people have found that it helps to reduce the number of migraines they get.

Feverfew shouldn’t be taken when pregnant. It is also similar to aspirin, so it is best to take one or the other.

To use, swallow a capsule whole with water or another liquid once a day.

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FAQs

A migraine is a severe headache, which is often concentrated on one side of the head. 

 

Two types of migraines exist; those that present with an aura and non-aura or common migraines.

 

A migraine aura is a visual disturbance which can alert you to a coming migraine headache and recur throughout and even after the migraine dissipates. 

 

Auras often appear as stars, dots or lines in your vision. You may experience a blind spot or even temporary loss of vision. Occasionally, some people will experience these auras without the headache.

 

Most people have migraines without auras. These migraines tend to exhibit three different stages. 

 

Most begin with the prodrome, pre-headache symptoms that might include fatigue, stiffness, moodiness or even food cravings. 

 

The debilitating headache phase can cause pain throughout the entire body, not just the head. 

 

Immediately after the headache, in the period known as postdrome, you will likely experience exhaustion or a hungover feeling.

Retinal or ocular migraines are a separate condition but cause similar symptoms to aura-type migraines, often presenting with full or partial vision loss. 

 

Meanwhile, a vestibular migraine is associated with dizziness or vertigo.

 

Rarer is a hemiplegic migraine, which tends to cause weakness in one side of the body, with symptoms including difficulty in communicating.

While headaches can be caused by any number of viruses or environmental factors, including stress, neck or back pain and eyesight problems, migraines are more difficult to fathom. 

 

There is no known cause of migraine pain per se but migraine triggers can be hormonal, emotional, physical or environmental. They can be triggered by certain foods or medicines too.

Migraine treatment ranges from ibuprofen to anti-emetics and triptans, all of which can give chemical migraine relief. 

 

GPs tend to advise lifestyle changes too, including cutting out those issues that can trigger your symptoms wherever possible.

 

Drinking plenty of water, avoiding stress and ensuring you sit well at your desk can all help to minimise your risk of headaches, as can avoiding alcohol and processed foods.

 

Alternative supplements are also available, many of which people find can help ease the pain of headaches.

A popular alternative to over-the-counter migraine relief, feverfew is a flowering plant rich in parthenolide, found in the leaf of the plant. 

 

There is strong evidence to suggest that this compound could help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. This is based on traditional use.

 

Other possible supplements that may help ease the niggling pain of headaches include the homeopathic products lycopodium, silica and phosphorous, each of which may also help with other, different symptoms, including nausea and sore throats.

Gentle and rarely causing side effects, homeopathic remedies are considered safe to use for all ages and even during pregnancy. 

 

However it is important to speak to you GP before using anything new alongside existing medications. You should not stop taking prescription medication without first consulting your doctor.