What treatments are available for migraine sufferers?

MIGRAINES are painful headaches with sensory disturbances, and six million people suffer from them in the UK.

PUBLISHED: 16:55, Mon, Jan 11, 2021 | UPDATED: 16:59, Mon, Jan 11, 2021

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There are about 190,000 migraine attacks experienced every day in England, leaving sufferers stuck in bed with the curtains drawn. Migraines are debilitating headaches that severely impact the lives and mental health of those who experience them regularly. So what is a migraine and what treatments are available for migraine sufferers? Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Sarah Brewer, Medical Director of Healthspan, well-being brand to find out.

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What’s the difference between a headache and a migraine?

Most people use the word migraine when they are experiencing a bad headache, but it’s more than that.

There are more than a hundred different types and subtypes of headache, and migraine is just one of them.

Primary headaches are the most common of all headaches, responsible for a huge 90 percent of all headaches.

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Migraines account for 10 percent of that, and tension headaches - which are the most common specific type of headache - make up 40 percent of this.

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The headache most people encounter every now and then is probably a tension-type headache.

Dr Brewer said: “Tension type headache is usually mild to moderate in intensity and felt on both sides of the head.

“It typically produces a steady ache rather than a throbbing pain, and often feels like a continuous pressure, or a tight, constricting band over the top of the skull, over the back of the head, or above both eyes.

“It’s not made worse by physical activity such as walking, and there is no nausea.

“Tension-type headache can occur at any age and is thought to result from tension in the neck and scalp muscles which affects blood flow within the skull.”

You can normally steer clear of tension-type headaches by avoiding stress, poor posture, overwork and dehydration.

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Dr Brewer advised: “Don’t stoop, hunch your shoulders, clench your fists or grind your teeth.

“Ensure your workstation is set up ergonomically and take regular breaks to walk around.

“Ask a friend to gentle massage muscles in your neck, shoulders and upper back.”

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Migraine is a different type of headache, and you’ll know if you have one compared to a regular tension-type headache.

Dr Brewer explained: “Migraine is a severe pain that is usually, but not always, worse on one side of the head and often centred around one eye.

“Most people with migraine (90 percent) have the form known as migraine without aura.

“This produces a severe, throbbing, pulsating or hammering headache along with nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound.

“Migraine without aura usually lasts between four hours and 72 hours and is made worse by physical activity.

“Migraine with aura is associated with visual symptoms such as shimmering or flashing lights, strange zigzag shapes (fortification spectra) or blind spots.”

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What causes headaches and migraines?

The cause of your headache depends on what kind of headache you have.

Some headaches, including tension-type headaches, migraines and cluster headaches, are not associated with another underlying health condition.

Tension-type headaches are normally caused by things like stress, dehydration or staring at screens and are easily cured with paracetamol or other remedies.

Migraines, which impact 15 to 18 percent of the population, have no known cause.

However, according to the Migraine Trust, most people with it are genetically predisposed to migraine.

Dr Brewer added: “Symptoms of migraine usually begin at puberty and cause recurrent attacks until middle age when they often disappear.

“The cause is not fully understood but may be linked with changes in the dilation and constriction of blood vessels so that certain brain tissues become congested.

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