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Migraine Awareness Week – Not Bad Headaches

Sep 06, 2021

* This post is written by one of our volunteer content creators. *

It’s Migraine Awareness Week and I’m honoured to have been asked to write something on behalf of Access Your Life to mark the occasion. Migraine sufferers know it is such a misunderstood condition, whereby people often use it as an excuse to get out of work or school. I wish I didn’t have to write this post, but it is something I suffer with so severely and awareness is so important! Migraines are not just a headache.

What Is A Migraine?

When we think of migraines we may initially think of a headache, however, there are multiple types of migraines: chronic migraine sufferers have symptoms for over 50% of the month; hemiplegic migraines present like a stroke, migraine with aura, just to name a few. Migraine is a neurological condition that can also cause multiple other symptoms. Most frequent migraine ‘attacks’ will include a debilitating headache on one side of the head. Migraine can often come with nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. Migraine can vary in intensity and symptoms can fluctuate over time. A migraine will affect an individual's ability to carry out day to day tasks; it often leaves patients bedbound for hours or even days at a time.

Migraine is not an excuse to get out of work or do something you don’t want to do. Migraine is a serious neurological condition.

Causes Of Migraine:

Migraines can be triggered more easily in some people due to genetics. Factors such as emotions and environment can all play a role too including:

• Diet & Exercise
Stress & Anxiety
Sleep Issues & Loud Noises
High Air Pressure
Neck Injury/Back Injury/Pain
Bright Or Flickering Lights

Stages Of Migraine:

Despite common belief, migraine sufferers often experience multiple stages to their attacks. When we think of migraines, we automatically think of your typical painful head migraine, yet it is rare we acknowledge the symptoms migraine sufferers experience leading up to this stage - sufferers often experience warning signs prior to a migraine, typically known as the premonitory stage. Warning signs can include physical and mental changes to our bodies like pain and fatigue. Similarly, following your typical ‘attack’, migraine sufferers often refer to the ‘migraine hangover' - the period of feeling generally unwell recovering from the trauma their bodies have recently endured. This is known as the postdrome stage.

The Brutality Of Migraine:

Earlier this year I lost my speech for two weeks following a severe migraine attack. This is not an uncommon response to a rare form of migraine called a hemiplegic migraine attack. When experiencing hemiplegic migraines, paramedics in the past have worried I'd been having a stroke.

Blurred Vision
Slurred Speech
Facial Drooping
Temporary Paralysis
Neurological Twitches / Pins & Needles
Intense Stabbing Pain Behind The Eyes

Things That Have Helped Me:

1 - Long Hot Water Bottle
2 - Ear Defenders For Noise Cancellation
3 - Adjusting My Phone Display / Colour Intensity
4 - Blue Light Lenses In My Prescription Glasses & Sunglasses For Light Sensitivity
5 - Lavender Oil & Tiger Balm (White For Headaches & Red On The Neck For Muscle Ache)
6 - Prescription Preventative Medication & Prescription Abortive Medication (Consult Your Doctor For Options)

How To Support Someone Living With Chronic Or Debilitating Migraine:

Start by understanding that migraine is not just a bad headache and educate other family members on migraines. Help reduce their stress levels. Understand situations that may trigger symptoms and help to prevent attacks; the migraine ‘hangover’ is very real and even though the head pain may have subsided, migraines work in cycles. Remember a migraine is not just the typical ‘lie down in a dark room and get better’ headache. Many neurological migraine symptoms can last days before and days after the typical ‘painful head’ migraine attack. Finally, learn more by visiting the Migraine Trust website.

A pink banner with information on the writer of this blog - Lauren! Along with an image of Lauren standing in front of a lake. She is wearing pink coat and smiling directly at the camera.