Migraine: Alison's story

Alison,* 29, had been experiencing intense headaches for several months. She felt a throbbing sensation on one side of her head, and it could last up to two days before the pain would subside. She felt nauseous and was very sensitive to loud noises and bright lights, so she retreated to her darkened bedroom until the headache was over.

Since moving to Calgary for a new job, Alison hadn't had time to find a new doctor. She had been self-medicating with non-prescription painkillers, which offered some relief. As Alison's job as a project manager became more demanding, she had headaches more often, and was sometimes forced to miss work or the few social engagements she made.

After Alison missed a deadline because of a headache, her colleague, who has migraines, suggested she try a different type of medication, one made especially for migraines. Like many people, Alison wasn't aware that there were prescription treatments just for migraines. She agreed to visit a walk-in clinic at lunchtime.

The doctor diagnosed Alison's symptoms as migraine. He asked if there was a history of migraine in her family, and Alison recalled her mother having bad headaches quite often. The doctor asked Alison if she had identified any migraine triggers. She mentioned that eating chocolate and take-out food seemed to cause headaches, and the doctor said it's common for foods to trigger migraines. He advised Alison to keep a journal to identify triggers such as stress at work, her menstrual cycle, lack of sleep, or hunger. Alison admitted that she usually skipped breakfast and sometimes didn't have time for lunch. When she did eat, the food was not very healthy.

The doctor explained that there are medications developed specifically for migraine. After reviewing her medical history and asking about medication allergies, he prescribed a medication called rizatriptan (Maxalt RPD®), a rapid-dissolve tablet. He explained that the medication should be taken at the first sign of a migraine, and because it dissolves quickly in the mouth, it can be taken without water. Alison's doctor also explained that the medication, which belongs to a family of medications known as triptans, relieves migraine pain by mimicking shrinking swollen blood vessels in the head.

The doctor also recommended that Alison make some lifestyle changes - not skipping meals and getting plenty of rest were priorities. Alison agreed to try. For the next month, she kept track of her activities and what she ate. Chocolate and takeout foods did seem to be linked to migraines, and the level of stress at her job seemed constantly high.

Alison changed her eating habits. She would have at least a cereal bar in the morning, and made salads or sandwiches to bring to work. Her boss agreed to delegate parts of the projects she was working on to others. Alison also took walks at lunchtime with a co-worker.

Over the following few weeks, Alison had a few headaches, but not as many as before, and she found that the migraine medication prescribed by her doctor worked much better for her than what she used to take. Alison started to feel more in control of her headaches, and is now happy she decided to take action by getting a doctor's help.

 
*Alison's story is a hypothetical story based on experiences of migraine sufferers.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/The-Impact-of-Migraine

The right migraine treatment for you

If you have been treating your own headaches and you think they aren't as well controlled as they could be, perhaps it's time to explore other options.

If you're not sure what kind of headaches you have, talk to your doctor. There are several types of headaches, and treatment varies. If you already know that you have migraines, fill out the Migraine Assessment of Current Therapy (MACT) questionnaire to evaluate how effective your current treatment is. It's very brief (just four yes/no questions), and it can be found in our Migraine health channel information resources. One or more "no" answers may suggest that you a change in treatment should be considered. The more times you answer "no," the more a change in treatment may be needed.

If you need to change treatments, the good news is that you have many options. There are a variety of new medications developed specifically for migraine treatment. They are available as tablets, rapid-dissolve tablets, injections, and nasal sprays.

With so many medications available, it's easy to find one that meets your needs. Some medications have special features that you may find convenient. For example, some medications can be taken without water anytime, anywhere (such as the rapid-dissolve tablets), and others start to work quite quickly (fast onset). Talk to your doctor about your treatment needs and preferences, and your doctor can help you find the medication that's right for you. Try using the Doctor Discussion Guide, available in our Migraine health channel information resources, to help you prepare for your visit to the doctor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/The-Impact-of-Migraine

Learning and avoiding your migraine triggers

Migraine triggers are different for each person. It's important to identify and avoid your personal triggers. Keeping a journal can help you find your triggers - make a note of the foods you were eating, your activities, stressful events, your menstrual cycle (for women), and any other changes in your life around the times of your headaches. Then check your journal to see which things seem to be related to your migraines.

The culprits may not be obvious. For example, did you know that certain odours (perfume, paint thinner, etc.) can set off a headache in some people? Other triggers include bright lights and exposure to sunshine, stress, intense physical exertion, and changes in weather, barometric pressure, altitude, and time zone.

Alison* was sensitive to chocolate and the monosodium glutamate (MSG) in takeout food. She also found stress to be a trigger. Other common triggers include alcohol (especially red wine and beer), foods that have been marinated, fermented or pickled, caffeine, aspartame, aged cheeses, and foods that have been processed or canned. Hot dogs and luncheon meats, which contain nitrates and MSG, can also bother some people.

You won't necessarily have to cut all of these foods out of your diet, but check your journal to see which foods you were eating around the times of your headaches, then try eliminating these foods to see if it makes a difference in the frequency of your headaches. Be sure to eat regularly - skipping meals or fasting can also lead to migraines.

You may also need to make some simple changes to your lifestyle. For more information, see "Migraine: changing for the better."

 
*Alison's story is a hypothetical story based on experiences of migraine sufferers.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/The-Impact-of-Migraine

Migraine: changing for the better

Making some positive changes in your lifestyle may help you manage your migraines. Keep a journal of things that seem to be related to your headaches, and look for lifestyle changes you can make to avoid these migraine triggers.

Many of us get caught up in work and forget to take care of ourselves. The first thing to go when things get busy? Sleep! Get plenty of rest and practise good sleep hygiene (for example, try to go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day; keep your bedroom for sleep, not work; and don't oversleep on weekends).

It's important to learn effective ways to reduce and manage stress, such as relaxation techniques, meditation, and yoga. Exercise reduces tension and improves overall well-being. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. But avoid exercise during a headache - it can make the pain worse.

Some people may find biofeedback, a therapy in which you learn to monitor your physical responses with your mind, helpful. Smoking can trigger and worsen headaches (not to mention the other health problems it causes!). Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking.

If you're having trouble coping with migraines, you may benefit from talking to a counsellor or therapist. There are also support groups for people who have migraines, and they can be a good source of information.

Avoiding your triggers, finding effective treatment, and making positive lifestyle changes are the keys to living well with migraine. You play an important part in improving your well-being. It will take some time to find the right balance, but it's well worth the effort! Talk to your doctor for more information on how you can find migraine relief.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/The-Impact-of-Migraine