Almost three million Canadians — like you — suffer from migraine headaches.
Although the cause of migraine is not clearly understood, it is likely that you are naturally predisposed to attacks. If you are particularly sensitive, you may suffer frequently.
In addition to the pain, which can be quite severe, many people also experience nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine attacks may or may not be associated with an "aura" that occurs just before the headache starts.
Potential Migraine Triggers
Sometimes "triggers" or specific events are associated with the onset of an attack. These triggers may be quite different for individual sufferers. It may be helpful to start managing your migraine attacks by identifying factors that could influence your individual risk of attack.
Possible dietary, lifestyle, medication or hormonal triggers:
- Birth control pills
- Disturbed sleep
- Aged cheeses
- Certain diuretics
- Food additives
- Irregular eating
- Certain anti-asthma medications
- Excess caffeine
- Sudden or intense exertion (sports)
Possible environmental triggers:
- Light (bright sunlight, flashbulbs, fluorescent lights)
- Complex visual patterns
- Odours (perfumes, cigarette smoke)
- Barometric pressure changes
Fortunately, there are effective ways to manage migraine attacks. Usually this involves modifying behaviour and/or using medications. Behavioural approaches involve regular sleep and meals, stress reduction and relaxation techniques, and the avoidance of "triggers".
Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Although stress is a part of everyone's life, migraine sufferers may be particularly susceptible to its effects. Here are simple strategies to manage stress:
- Get plenty of rest
- Participate in aerobic activities (even brisk walking is good) for 20 to 30 minutes, three to four times per week
- Eat sensible meals at regular intervals, and consume foods that you have identified as "trigger-free"
- Communicate your problems, concerns and thoughts
- Identify sources of stress in your life and work at improving problem areas
- Learn to do nothing on occasion; sit down on the couch and just relax
Medication can be very helpful in controlling the symptoms of migraine attack. There are acute approaches to treatment in which medications are used to lesson the symptoms after an attack has occurred and treatments which help prevent migraines from occurring.