Friday, August 17, 2012


Click here to find out more!

Headache Relief: 6 Tricks to Ease the Pain

Exercise and weight loss can help chronic headache sufferers

By one estimate, 1 in 25 adults and almost as many teenagers have at least as many days with headaches as without them. Many veterans of chronic headaches know exactly what will trigger the pain or make it more likely to happen, and take precautionary steps. They may avoid certain foods. They may take up yoga to offset stress at work. If sensitive to strong odors, they may ask friends and family to go light on perfume. Now researchers are learning that overall health is critical, too.
A study published today in Neurology links headaches with unhealthy lifestyle in teens, a group for which little data exists. Researchers in Norway looked at the relationship between three factors—smoking, weighing too much, and exercising too little—in adolescents ages 13 to 18. They found that any of those factors increased the likelihood of frequent headaches (by about 30 percent). Teens who fit all three categories were more than three times as likely as teens with no factors to be candidates for frequent headaches. There's no reason to think the results would not apply to adults. So both adults and adolescents can find headache relief by:
Exercising more. Thirty minutes of walking, biking, or other moderate physical activity at least three times a week is good for managing headaches, says Richard Lipton, a neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Exactly how exercise helps isn't clear, he says. It may reduce stress, a recognized cause of headaches. Following treadmill and other aerobic workouts, participants in a small Turkish study reported fewer and milder migraines, which researchers think was due to the rise in pain-fighting endorphins from the exercise. Getting fit, moreover, improves well-being and staves off other chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which research has also linked to headache.
[5 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise]
Losing weight. A 2006 study by Lipton and colleagues found that about 4 percent of healthy-weight participants reported frequent migraines—defined as 10 to 14 days per month—compared to 5.8 percent of overweight, 13.6 percent of obese, and 20.7 percent of morbidly obese subjects (those above a normal weight with a BMI of up to 30, 35, and higher respectively). As participants' BMI increased, the proportion reporting severe headache pain also went up. Shedding pounds appears to help reduce headaches in sufferers who are overweight, says Lipton. Early evidence shows that obese people who undergo bariatric surgery have fewer headaches after they lose weight, he says. How much weight loss makes a difference? That question is a little ahead of what research tells us, says Lipton.
[6 Weight-Loss Tricks That Don’t Involve Dieting or (Much) Exercise]
Adjusting sleep. As little as one hour more or less than usual could bring on a headache. The standard recommendation is eight hours, and experts say headache sufferers could benefit from sticking to that. One study of women with migraines found that after adjusting to meet the eight-hour benchmark, participants had migraines less often and those they experienced were more tolerable.
[3 Ways to Help Teenagers Get More, Better Sleep]
Modifying diet. Certain foods seem to trigger headaches in some people. Alcohol and chocolate are candidates, but a likelier culprit is coffee—even though caffeine helps relieve headache pain (it is an ingredient in several prescription headache meds). It can get you from both ends: A study published in July in the journal Headache found that adolescents who guzzle one or more cup per day boosted their chance of a migraine, while studies show that quitting a coffee habit can produce withdrawal headaches in adults. Modifying diet seems more effective in adolescents than adults, says Lipton, but that may be because adults who have long suffered migraines have figured out on their own what trigger foods to avoid such as red wine and certain aged cheeses. Experts recommend recording food and other triggers in a headache diary.

Treating Migraine

Pain Clinic
Patients with chronic pain conditions such as migraines are sometimes referred to a pain clinic by their GP. A consultant in chronic pain management explains what chronic pain is, different types of pains and what treatments and procedures may be offered at the pain clinic

Menstrual migraines

Menstrual migraines usually occur within two days either side of the first day of a woman’s period. If menstrual migraines are a problem, they can be prevented using either non-hormonal or hormonal treatments.
The non-hormonal treatments that are recommended are:
  • non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - a widely used type of medication that helps reduce pain
  • triptans - medicines that reverse the widening (dilation) of blood vessels, which is thought to be a contributory factor in migraines
Hormonal treatments that may be recommended include:

During an attack

Most people find that sleeping or lying in a darkened room is the best thing to do when having a migraine attack.
Others find that eating something helps, or they start to feel better once they have been sick.
There is currently no cure for migraines. However, a number of treatments can be used to ease the symptoms.
It may take time to work out which is the best treatment for you. You may need to try different types or combinations of medicines before you find the most effective ones.
If you find that you cannot manage your migraines using over-the-counter medicines, then your GP can help.


Many people who have migraines find that over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and aspirin, can help to reduce their symptoms.
When taking paracetamol or aspirin, always make sure you read the instructions on the packaging and follow the dosage recommendations. Children under 16 should not take aspirin unless it is under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Aspirin is also not recommended for adults who have, or have had in the past, stomach problems, such as a peptic ulcer, liver problems or kidney problems.
Some people find that the painkiller codeine makes migraine worse. This can be because it increases the nausea associated with the migraine.
Taking any form of painkiller frequently can make migraine worse. This is sometimes called 'medication overuse headache'.
Painkillers are usually the first treatment for migraine. They tend to be more effective if taken at the first signs of a migraine attack. This gives them time to absorb into your bloodstream and ease your symptoms.
Some people only take painkillers when their headache becomes very bad. However, this is not advisable because it is often too late for the painkiller to work. Soluble painkillers (tablets that dissolve in a glass of water) are a good option because they are absorbed quickly by your body.
If you cannot swallow painkillers because of nausea or vomiting, suppositories may be a better option. These are capsules that are inserted into the anus (back passage).
If over-the-counter painkillers are not effective, your GP or specialist may prescribe you a stronger painkiller.

Triptan medicines

If ordinary painkillers are not helping to relieve your migraine symptoms, triptan medicines might be the next option. Some triptan medicines, such as sumatriptan, are available without prescription over the counter. Others require a prescription from your GP.
Triptan medicines are not the same as painkillers. They cause the blood vessels around the brain to contract (narrow). This reverses the dilating (widening) of blood vessels that is believed to be part of the migraine process.
Triptans are available as tablets, injections and nasal sprays.
Triptan medicines only work for some people. If one type of triptan medicine does not seem to work, ask your GP about other types.

Anti-inflammatory medicines

Some people find that anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen are effective in treating the symptoms of migraine.
You can buy ibuprofen over the counter at a pharmacy, and it is available on prescription. However, do not take ibuprofen if you have, or have had in the past, stomach problems, such as a peptic ulcer, or if you have liver or kidney problems.
Diclofenac, naproxen and tolfenamic acid are anti-inflammatory medicines that are only available on prescription.

Anti-sickness medicines

If nausea is a symptom of your migraine, you can take anti-sickness medicines. These are prescribed by your GP and can be taken alongside painkillers.
As with painkillers, anti-sickness medicines work better if taken as soon as your migraine symptoms begin. They usually come in the form of a tablet, but are also available as a suppository.

Combination medicines

You can buy a number of combination medicines for migraine over the counter at your local pharmacy. These medicines contain both painkillers and anti-sickness medicines. If you are not sure which one is best for you, ask your pharmacist.
Many people find combination medicines convenient. However, the dose of painkillers or anti-sickness medicine may not be high enough to relieve your symptoms. If this is the case, you may prefer to take painkillers and anti-sickness medicines separately. This will allow you to easily control the doses of each.
Ask your GP or pharmacist if you are not sure which medication is most suitable for you.

Migraine clinics

If you are not responding to treatment or your migraines are not being well managed, your GP may refer you to a specialist migraine clinic for further investigation. Reasons for being referred include:
  • doubt over the diagnosis of migraine
  • a rarer form of migraine is suspected
  • other headaches besides migraine are present
  • treatment is not working well for you
  • your migraines or headaches are getting worse and/or more frequent

Treatment for pregnant women

In general, migraine treatment with medicines should be limited as much as possible when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If medication is essential, then your GP may consider prescribing you a low-dose painkiller, anti-inflammatory or anti-sickness medicine for the shortest possible time. Aspirin and triptans should be avoided.