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Migraine: Not Just a Headache

6th September 2017

It’s Migraine Awareness Week this week and despite 8 million migraine sufferers in the UK, awareness of the condition remains low.

Migraine is a complex condition with a variety of symptoms, affecting people in different ways. The Migraine Trust highlight the following facts about migraine:

  • 1 in 7 people globally are affected
  • It is ranked by the World Health Organisation as the seventh most disabling diseases
  • In the UK, 25 million days are lost from work or school
  • It is the second most frequent cause of short-term absence for non-manual workers
  • It costs the NHS £150 million in prescription drugs and GP visits

The condition does not discriminate against age or gender, and the symptoms vary immensely between sufferers. There is no cure for migraine, and the wide ranging treatment options, both medicinal and complementary, can work wonders for some, but not others.

The very nature of the condition makes migraine one of the most difficult to manage and treat.

One of our Telecare advisors has shared her migraine experience and what she’s been doing to try and manage this debilitating condition.

About my migraine

“When a migraine strikes, it can affect me for up to 5 days”

I had my first migraine just 5 years ago which coincided with a back injury I suffered when I was working as a carer. It started as a pounding headache that just wouldn’t go away. Since then I probably get 3 a month, and they vary in duration but can last for up to 5 days.

With bad attacks, my left eye droops and my left side up to my waist goes all floppy. I am weak on that side, my fingers are numb and my speech becomes slurred as I struggle to string a sentence together. As the headache worsens, it feels like my head wants to explode and the left side gets hotter and hotter.

At the time of the back injury I had physiotherapy and 2 hospital admissions to help sort out the bulging discs I had. I also tried all sorts of painkillers and migraine medication. My back is much better now, but I have been left which these regular migraine attacks.

Managing my migraine

I am learning to identify the triggers and have tried eliminating all sorts from my diet in case they were triggers. So no cheese, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol. But I still get the migraines.

My doctor has been helpful and tried different medications with me. The last one was Gabapentin which was taken daily as a preventative treatment to reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks. They didn’t work. I am using a Migraine Buddy app to help with monitoring the attacks, so far though nothing is really jumping out at me.

Sometimes I feel like I just can’t cope and I call 111. They’re out of options. I can’t take ibuprofen because I have asthma. I can take codeine and paracetamol, but the codeine makes me sick so I also add anti-sickness tablets to the mix. When the bad attacks strike, I have sumatriptan (Imigran) – but this needs to be taken at the first sign of an attack, which can sometimes be difficult to recognise and I don’t want to take them unnecessarily if what I think is a migraine, turns out just to be a bad headache.

Coping with migraine at work

My work life has been varied and I realise now probably contributed to some of the attacks. In previous jobs I was out on the road a lot, sometimes working 60 hours a week. This lead to difficulty sleeping and caused me a lot of stress.

I’ve been at Medvivo since April, and it is a much better environment. Although sometimes it can be noisy and sitting for a long time can affect my back, I am coping quite well. Migraines do still loom but I’m trying to find ways to manage this better. Migraine sufferers can get a bit of a bad reputation for time off, so I’m really conscious not to take time off and try to push through the pain as best I can.

The team I work in is really supportive and our desk assessments have helped me learn how to adjust the computer and chair to suit my specific needs. I am going to see an Occupational Therapist to see if a specialist chair might help, but in the meantime I shall keep trying to figure out what is triggering my attacks.

What else can I do?

I’m really interested to learn more about the condition and why it suddenly started to affect me so badly. My GP has asked me to keep a diary which I am doing so I hope that will help identify potential patterns and triggers. There are migraine clinics so ultimately I will ask to be referred there. In the meantime, I have come across a couple of charities who provide information, help and support to those affected by migraine.

Migraine Action Association

The Migraine Trust

Migraine Awareness Week provides a great opportunity to raise awareness of this much misunderstood condition. There is a wealth of information available from both the above charities’ websites to help and support migraine sufferers. While there is no known cure, having access to the latest information and treatment options is vital in helping sufferers manage this condition as effectively as possible.

By Karen Manning, Corporate Communications Coordinator


Photo of Karen ManningAbout Karen
With a background in marketing communications and a general interest in health and care, Karen was keen to continue her career with Medvivo. She has a passion for the digital world and enjoys working on getting the most out of websites, writing content and using social media.

In her spare time, Karen keeps fit by doing a lot of fun running to raise money for charities. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, listening to music as well as keeping fit. 

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