Migraine is essentially a nasty headache, even a sick headache, which comes on suddenly in a healthy person, lasts a few hours or even a day or two and afterwards the sufferer is restored to full health once more. During an attack the patient feels and looks very ill and may vomit. It is this repeated and unexpected onset of attacks, which characterises migraine. A diagnosis of migraine is made if there are headaches, which come and go and if two of the following features are present. A dislike of light and noise – pain limited to one side of the head only – vomiting or a feeling of nausea – disturbances of vision – queer sensations before an attack – a history of migraine in the family.
It is not known what happens in the head to cause the symptoms of a migraine attack. One theory is that in the early stages of an attack when the patient looks pale and strange things are happening to the eyes, skin or limbs, the blood vessels of the brain suddenly become narrowed. Later the throbbing headache develops when the blood vessels widen and become larger than usual. The headache continues until the blood vessels resume their normal size again, usually whilst sleeping. Headaches can affect the lives of every one. One in ten people suffer directly with moderate to severe headaches on a regular basis. The lives of those around them can also affected in many ways. The sufferer will probably often need to go and lie down, have difficulty driving, put off household tasks, find their work is disrupted and wish to be alone.
Migraines are twice as prevalent in the population as asthma; in fact it is one of the commonest of chronic disorders. Women suffer more severe and more frequent attacks. The condition is age related and strikes in teens and early twenties, meaning that ¾ of sufferer are under 45, having a serious impact on work and family. The cost to industry of headaches is between £600 and £750 million every year in lost productivity due to time off work. Over 4 million working days are lost per year from men alone and there are 4 times as many women as men who suffer from headaches. In between attacks headaches can interfere with relationships, cause anxiety and depression and lead to an inability to cope with every day life.
Migraines are usually headaches which feel like a moderate or severe pulsing or throbbing pain, usually one sided, which may increase on movement and can last from 4 hours to 3 days. Migraines can be at intervals of between a few days to a year or more and the sufferer is usually symptom free between attacks. There is sometimes a pattern, they may be menstrual related or so-called ‘weekend migraine’ or food, alcohol, stress or even hunger may trigger them.
In order to start to take charge of the headaches the patient needs to find out what triggers their attack. The aim is to find best possible treatment and manage the headache or migraine with as little disruption to daily life as possible. Treatment can be for the acute stage or preventative but the idea is to resume normal activities as soon as possible. There are many ways in which migraines can be helped. These include medication, lying down and resting, fighting the headache, keeping busy, sleeping to try to ease the pain. Most sufferers do take medication for headache but very few want to bother their GP and say that it is ‘only a migraine’. They believe that there is no effective treatment available. Treatment with drugs may relieve the symptoms of pain and nausea.
Certain foodstuffs and activities can trigger headaches and a change in life-style avoiding these triggers may reduce the number of attacks. Treatment with Manual Lymph Drainage improves the blood flow and reduces some of the effects of increased pressure due to circulatory problems. Connective Tissue Manipulation releases the tension around the blood vessels and helps to reduce not only the severity of the attack but also the frequency at which they occur. The effects of Connective Tissue Manipulation are cumulative. Once the tension has been reduced by treatment that reduction is maintained. The degree to which it is maintained is conditional upon the stress put into the system by the patient’s lifestyle. By using a combination of reducing the tension, increasing the blood flow and improving the lymph drainage the altered circulation to the brain, which occurs during a migraine headache, can be returned too normal. See Circulation