Dealing with Migraine Pain

Most people usually refer to any type of severe headache as a migraine. This is not the truth. Migraines are as a result of certain changes in the brain. The result of these changes is tremendous pain.

Although many people use the term “migraine” to describe any severe headache, a migraine headache is the result of specific physiologic changes that occur within the brain and lead to the characteristic pain and associated symptoms of a migraine.

Migraine headaches are usually associated with sensitivity to light, sound, and smells. In addition, many patients experience nausea or vomiting. The headache of a migraine often involves only one side of the head but in some cases, patients may experience pain bilaterally or on both sides. The pain of a migraine is often described as throbbing or pounding and it may be made worse with physical exertion.

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Migraines can be triggered by anything from food to drinks and even auras. For a person to be able to manage migraines they will have to know what triggers their migraine.

Things that can trigger a migraine headache include foods, drinks, activities and exercise, medications, stress, too much or too little sleep, bright lights, hunger, odors, and hormones, among other factors.

Migraine Trigger Checklist

Aged cheeses

Alcohol (red wine, beer, whiskey, champagne)

 Artificial sweeteners

 Caffeine (excess intake or withdrawal)


Citrus fruits

 Cured meats



 Diet (skipping meals or fasting)

 Dried fish

 Dried fruits

 Exercise (excessive)

 Eyestrain or other visual triggers

 Fatigue (extreme)

 Food additives (nitrites, nitrates, MSG)

 Lights (bright or flickering; sunlight, particularly glare)

 Lunch meats (cured with nitrites or MSG)

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Knowing what triggers your migraine gives you the advantage of controlling the migraine. People can take preventive measures and preventive medicine. If your migraines are as a result of dehydration then ensure that you drink more water. You can also visit a doctor for prescription drugs.

Disabling headaches continue to happen in some people, even after they have made serious attempts to identify and avoid trigger factors, and make lifestyle changes. You should talk to your doctor if you find yourself in this situation, as you may need to take medication to try and stop the attacks from happening.

How often you have a headache is not the only thing a doctor will look at to decide whether to prescribe preventative medication. The decision will be based on the effect the headaches are having on your life.

When headaches are affecting you badly, a doctor can prescribe a number of different preventative medications. Migraine preventatives have usually been developed to treat other conditions. Experience has shown that these drugs also stop migraine attacks from happening.

Therefore, you may be prescribed:

An anticonvulsant, such as divaloproex sodium (sodium valproate), topiramate or gabapentin

An antidepressant such as amitriptyline

An antihistimine, such as cyproheptadine

A beta-blocker, such as propranolol, metoprolol, timolol, nadolol

An anti-inflammatory drug, such as pizotefen

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For those who do not want to take drugs prescribed by the doctor there are other options of pain relief. Exercise is one good way of dealing with stubborn migraines.

Exercise approaches for tension headache and migraine have been shown to be helpful and regular exercise is often recommended in migraine treatment. For a small proportion of the migraine population however, exercise can act, or be perceived to act as a trigger for a migraine, perhaps making them avoid exercise. A study published in Cephalgia in 2011, compared three groups of intervention for migraine sufferers – an exercise group, a medication group (Topirimate –a prophylactic medication for migraine) and a relaxation group. Good reductions in migraine frequency were seen in all three groups with no statistically significant difference between them. The exercise used was a 40 minute session of indoor cycling three times a week. Of that 40 minutes, 15 minutes was a warm up, 20 minutes was the main exercise component and 5 minutes was a cool down. It terms of risks versus benefits, this shows huge potential as it is easy to implement and has virtually no side effects, compared to some of the mild side effects seen with the medication group.

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