Migraines affect around one in seven people, with women being three times more likely than men to have them. While some migraines are signs of an underlying health condition, for the most part, a migraine is not a serious condition.
A migraine can last from four to 72 hours and can occur as infrequently as once a year to several times a week.
The exact cause of migraines is unknown but they are thought to be caused by abnormal brain activity, which affects nerve signals, blood vessels and chemicals in the brain.
For some people, migraines are linked to certain triggers. By identifying and avoiding those triggers, you can minimise your chances of having a migraine. There are many different emotional, physical, environmental and dietary triggers that can cause migraines.
Here are nine common triggers and ways to prevent them from causing a migraine:
Loud noises can act as a sensory trigger for migraines. Try to avoid venues such as clubs, cinemas and theatres.
Everyday loud noises can be impossible to avoid but you can adapt how you react to them. If you can’t avoid being in a loud room, leave the room at regular intervals to allow yourself a break from the noise.
Bright lights are also a sensory trigger for migraines. If you work on a digital screen, take regular breaks and rest your eyes. Adjust the brightness levels on your screens and consider purchasing blue light blocking glasses. When outside on bright days, wear sunglasses.
Pay attention to your diet; certain foods can be triggers, such as processed meats or chocolate. Try keeping a food diary for a few weeks to see if a migraine happens after eating certain foods.
Water is important to our overall health. If you suffer from migraines then drinking water is even more important. Dehydration can be a trigger for migraines as it causes the brain to temporarily contract or shrink due to fluid loss.
Migraines commonly occur when we experience stressful situations. Although you can’t always control or avoid stressful situations, you can manage how you deal with them. Try learning some breathing and relaxation techniques that you can practice if you find yourself in a stressful situation.
Alcohol is linked to migraines, so try to reduce your alcohol intake. As for caffeine, for some people it helps reduce a migraine, while for others it is a trigger. If you find you get a migraine after having caffeine, avoid it or limit your intake.
Exercise is fantastic for our mental and general health. It can also help reduce the severity of migraines and how often they occur. Regular exercise may even prevent migraines altogether.
Yoga and meditation are not only a great form of exercise, but they also help reduce stress and promote good sleep, both triggers of migraines.
Hot weather, rainy days and high humidity can all trigger a migraine. When you’re having a migraine, pay attention to the weather. You may need to go inside to take a break from the weather once you know which kind of weather triggers your attacks.
If you have less than six hours sleep a night, this can trigger a migraine. Try to get around eight hours of sleep. The more tired you are, the lower your pain threshold, which can worsen your migraine symptoms.
If you experience frequent migraines (more than five days in a month) or have severe migraines, then you should see your GP. They may be able to recommend painkillers or a treatment plan to help you manage your migraines.
Migraines can’t be cured but symptoms can be managed. Treatments may include painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, which can be bought over the counter, or prescription medications.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation may also be recommended. This is where a small electrical device, which is held to your head, delivers magnetic pulses. This is often used in conjunction with painkillers.
Some people find acupuncture helps relieve their migraines, although there is no conclusive evidence to support its effectiveness.
If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.
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Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.
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Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager
Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.
Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor
Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.
Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing
Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.