1 in 7 people across the UK suffer regular migraines and a lot of people come to see our GPs for this at London Doctors Clinic.
Migraines are a specific type of headache thought to be caused by temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.
These debilitating headaches often mean a lot of time off work. It has been estimated that this costs the UK economy a huge £2.25bn each year: www.migraine.org.uk/information.
Migraines can range from mild to absolutely terrible with vomiting and even temporary paralysis. Luckily there is a lot a doctor can do for the majority of even the worst sufferers.
There are also a number of things that you can try that may well work to treat or stop the migraines from happening that don't involve a trip to the GP or specialist. Try these first, but of course if they don't work come and see us.
Don't Skip Breakfast!
Fluctuations in blood sugar can sometimes cause migraines so always have breakfast and aim to eat at regular intervals. Sugar and processed carbohydrates cause huge fluctuations in blood sugar so be careful of them.
Check your diet
Cheese, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol are known to trigger migraines in some people, so if you're a regular sufferer, cut them out one at a time for 2-4 weeks and see if that makes a difference.
If you can't function without your daily Caramel Frap, consider switching to decaf or limit your intake of coffee to 200mg a day (which is the equivalent to one cup).
Get Some Sleep
Having a consistent sleep routine is vital for keeping migraines at bay. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day -- even on weekends.
It may sound obvious, but be careful with your consumption of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol and don't over-indulge in exercise or food before bed. All of this can have a negative impact on your sleep and therefore lead to headaches.
An aching head does not inspire us to get active, but getting outside in the fresh air can help loosen tight muscles causing a headache. A sweaty exercise session releases those lovely happy chemicals called endorphins, which can minimise pain brought on by a migraine.
Go swimming, shake it at Zumba or jog around the block. Anything you can do to get your heart rate up will help and provide you with a distraction from the pain.
There are several herbal supplements you can take to improve migraines which are loaded with Vitamin B2. Clinical studies show that taking regular doses can reduce some types of migraines or prevent them altogether. Your local health food store or chemist should have a range of products available.
If you're a regular migraine sufferer, you've got a good excuse to ask your partner for a massage! Regular massages help our muscles to relax which reduces our chances of suffering those excruciating headaches. If you're not able to get a massage, deep-breathing from your diaphragm can help too. Spend 10 minutes a day, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply - your body should soon relax!
Botox is one of those incredible ingredients that can be used to treat a multitude of health complaints including squints, excess sweating and also migraines! It's a pricey solution to the problem but if you can afford regular injections, Botox can be an incredibly effective treatment for chronic migraines. Unfortunately the injections for migraines are not in the same parts of the head that effects wrinkles.
Stress & Anxiety
Relax! Take a holiday. Fix what's wrong with your life; take charge... Easy as that - except it's not of course. Most of us have to keep living in London, hunched over our desks doing things we don't necessarily want to do for people we don't always respect.
As a nation, we work incredibly hard and typically take on far too. Rather than looking for ways to squeeze more activities into the day, find a way to leave some things out.
Whether at work or at home, try to delegate. Relieving some of the tasks on your to-do list can ease the stress that leads to migraines. If you're feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate, go for a walk, clear your head and re-energise.
Overall, relaxation exercises, Psychological therapy - anything that reduces your stress or anxiety will help lessen your headaches.
Hormonal changes though the cycle are a common trigger of migraines and so is the combined contraceptive pill. If you get migraines at all then you shouldn't be taking the combined contraceptive pill and if taking the pill gives you a migraine when you have never had one before see a GP to change your contraception.
If it's not very obvious what's causing your migraines, keep a diary. Note when your migraines start, what you were doing at the time, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief. This can really help you and the doctor to work out what next.
If you are still getting migraines you should come and see a GP. There is a whole array of things that can make a huge difference to your quality of life.