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Managing Migraines

September 20, 2018
If you suffer from migraine headaches, you’re not alone. And yet this common, debilitating neurological disease often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Use this infographic to recognize symptoms, understand causes, and consider alternatives to over-the-counter medications to get relief.

Infographic Text

Symptoms, causes, treatments — and critical facts that often get overlooked
Recognizing Migraine Symptoms
If you suffer from migraines, you’re not alone

Almost 40 million Americans get migraine attacks. In fact, it’s the 6th most disabling disease in the world.1

How do you know if it’s a migraine headache?

Migraine attacks are often accompanied by one or more of these disabling symptoms.1

Attacks last between 4 and 72 hours.
  • Visual disturbances
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities or face
  • Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch, smell
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances are common for those with chronic migraines.1

What Causes Migraine Attacks?
Many factors can trigger migraine attacks and even turn episodic headaches into a chronic condition:
  • Forms of medication, including pain-relief, contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy and blood treatments like nitroglycerin.
    • Medication overuse is the most common reason why episodic migraines turn chronic.1
  • Stress at work or home
  • Hormonal changes, especially estrogen fluctuations3,4
  • Heavy sensory stimuli like bright lights, loud sounds and strong smells3
  • Salty foods, aged cheese, processed foods and additives like artificial sweeteners or preservatives2,3
  • Sleep patterns such as too little sleep, too much sleep or changes like jet lag
  • Environmental and weather changes like temperature, humidity and barometric pressure1
How to Treat Migraines (and How Not to)

More than 90% of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their attacks,1 so it’s understandable that most sufferers will do whatever it takes to alleviate the pain.

The go-to treatment options

Here are some non-drug remedies that can provide relief without harmful side effects:

NATURAL REMEDIES
  • Physical therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and other relaxation techniques
  • Hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback
EXERCISE
  • Low-impact workouts like ellipticals and resistance bands
  • Limited weight-bearing exercise
  • Exercise caution: Impact on the neck area and dehydration can trigger migraines
LIFESTYLE CHANGES
  • Reducing stress
  • Drinking less (or no) alcohol
  • Getting enough sleep and maintaining regular patterns
  • Eating regularly (skipping meals can trigger attacks)

Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications can be effective and safe. But overuse of acute pain-relief medicine often makes migraines worse. Plus, these drugs can cause other harmful side effects, including addiction.

Key facts about treating migraines with OTC or prescription drugs:
  • Aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen often work well for headaches if you don’t use them often. If you are taking them more than two days a week, cut back.4
  • The medications most likely to cause overuse headaches include:
    • Drugs with butalbital (Fiorinal, Phrenilin and generics)
    • Opioid painkillers
      • Codeine (Tylenol 3 + others)
      • Hycodan (5 mg)
      • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, etc.)
      • Morphine
  • Many OTC medications can cause harmful side effects like liver damage, kidney problems, stomach bleeding and more.4
Don’t let migraines keep you down
With the right information and a knowledgeable approach to treatment, you can help prevent and treat headaches — and regain your quality of life.

 

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  1. migraineresearchfoundation.org
  2. mayoclinic.org
  3. huffingtonpost.com/entry/migraine-triggers_us_5b279ca8e4b056b2263bff07
  4. choosingwiselycanada.org