Migraine relief
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Karen Botha MAR reflexologist at Essential Feeling Gidea Park, Romford who specialises in fertility

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a type of headache which is very severe. Pain is often felt as a throbbing at the front or to one side of the head and in about 1/3 of attacks, both sides are affected. Some people also experience other symptoms, such as nausea and sensitivity to light.

This is why many people refer to a migraine is more than a headache.

Because it’s more than just a bad headache, it’s debilitating.

A migraine affects the nerves in your head, it’s been noted that it is a neurological disorder. Interestingly, in 15-20% of attacks, other neurological symptoms occur before the actual throbbing head pain.

Karen Botha MAR

Your Association of Reflexologist’s Therapist


Questions & Answers


How do I know this isn’t just a headache? There are two types:

• Classical – you have a warning sign, known as aura, before the migraine begins. About a third of people with migraine have this. Warning
signs may include visual problems (such as flashing lights) and stiffness in the neck, shoulders or limbs.
• Common – no aura.


Who is affected?

While headaches are a common health condition, a migraine may affect about 15% of the adult population in the UK.

Symptoms affect about one in every four women and one in 12 men in the UK. Hormones may be the cause affecting three times more women than men. For example, some women find that migraine attacks are more frequent around the time of their period. However, this association has not been fully proven although anecdotally in our reflexology practise in Essex we see this link a lot.

A migraine is most common in people between age of 18 and 44 and they tend to run in families. As many as 90% of sufferers have a family history.

Migraines usually begin in young adulthood. About 9 in 10 sufferers have their first one before they are 40 years old. However, it is possible for them to begin later in life.


Why is a migraine caused?

There are common emotional and physical triggers of a migraine and it’s important to learn what they are to try to either spot or ideally avoid the onset.

Emotional triggers of a migraine includes:

*depression and anxiety
*excitement, and shock

Physical causes of a migraine include:

*tiredness/ insufficient sleep
*shoulder or neck tension, poor posture
*physical overexertion
*low blood sugar
*jet lag can also act as a trigger


What happens during a migraine?

There are five distinct stages to a migraine, although not everyone experiences all the symptoms:
1. ‘Prodromal’ (pre-headache) stage. Changes in mood, energy levels, behaviour and appetite are common, and sometimes aches and pains several hours or days before an attack.
2. Aura. Some people experience a sensation, or aura, just before their migraine starts. Symptoms of aura include flashes of light or blind spots, difficulty focussing is common, and seeing things as if you are looking through a broken mirror. This stage normally lasts around 15 minutes to an hour.
3. Headache stage. Usually a common symptom is a pulsating/ throbbing headache pain on one side of your head. You usually experience nausea or vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds to the point where this can feel like a pain. You’ll have an overwhelming desire to lie down in a darkened room. This stage lasts for four to 72 hours.
4. Resolution stage. Most attacks gradually fade away. Some people find the headache stops suddenly after they vomiting following nausea. Sleep often relieves these symptoms.
5. ‘Postdromal’ or recovery phase. There may be a stage of exhaustion and weakness afterward a migraine.

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How do you make a migraine go away?

There are several medicinal methods that are established as being the best migraine relief. These include:
Many people who have a migraine find that over-the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and aspirin can help to reduce their symptoms. Soluble painkillers (tablets that dissolve in a glass of water) are a good option because they are absorbed quickly by the body.

*Triptan medicines
If ordinary painkillers are not helping to relieve the 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, read on in the Q&A below to understand why these work.

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 in the form of tablets, injections and nasal sprays.

*Anti-inflammatory medicines
Some people find that anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen are effective. Diclofenac, naproxen and tolfenamic acid are anti-inflammatory medicines that are only available on prescription.

*Anti-sickness medicines
These may be prescribed by the GP if nausea/ vomiting is a symptom your migraine. Your doctor will usually say that these can be taken alongside painkillers.

*Combination medicines
These medicines contain both painkillers and anti-sickness medicines. They are available over the counter.

If the sufferer is not responding to treatment or their migraines are not being well managed, their GP may refer them to a specialist migraine clinic for further investigation.


What is vestibular migraine?

A vestibular migraine is caused by a problem of your nervous system. It creates repeated dizziness (vertigo) in people who have a history of migraine symptoms and so with a vestibular migraine, you typically also get nausea, vomiting, sweating, flushing, diarrhoea and changes in your vision including blurring, flashing lights and difficulty focussing.

Unlike traditional migraines, if you have a vestibular migraine, you may not always have a headache. A Vestibular migraine is also called migrainous vertigo and migraine-related vestibulopathy.


What is a hemiplegic migraine?

A hemiplegic migraine is a variant that only affects a few people. It involves a temporary weakness on one side of your body. ‘Hemiplegic’ means paralysis on one side of your body so if you have a hemiplegic migraine, this is what you’ll experience as part of your attack. It can include your face, arm or leg and is often accompanied by pins and needles/ numbness.

As a result of a hemiplegic migraine, you may also suffer problems speaking, vision disruption or mental confusion which can be a frightening.

The weakness can last anywhere between one hour to several days, although this is extreme. After the weakness dissipates, this is when the typical migraine symptoms will follow, other than the headache which may precede the weakness, or just not happen.


What causes the symptoms of hemiplegic migraine?

In terms of the cause, it’s important to understand that our brain and nervous system work via a series of chemical signals. These chemicals are what we know as hormones.

A nerve impulse (electrical) passes from one nerve cell to another, opening a channel along the way. As this process happens, other chemical messages are relayed telling the rest of your body in the same area how to respond, so for instance, if you build an extra lane on a motorway, then the grass will be moved and replaced with tarmac.

When a channel isn’t functioning properly our hormones can’t travel down that extra lane properly. In fact, we get a bit blocked like the slow traffic when we’re in roadworks. And you know how angry we can all get when we’re stuck in traffic!

While that is a gross over-simplification, hopefully it helps you to see how reflexology which balances hormones, is not only something we have success at using as a treatment for migraines, but also makes medical sense on a simple level.


What is a visual migraine?

We’ve already noted the symptoms of a migraine throughout. A visual migraine is the aspect of these symptoms that are a temporary visual distortion. It will often begin with tiny sparkle with zig zag edges which expand. Visual symptoms of a migraine usually last 20-30 minutes before disappearing.


What is an ocular migraine?

It would be easy to assume that an ocular migraine (also called retinal) is the same as a visual migraine. But it isn’t. An ocular migraine caused by a condition of the eye itself which causes brief blindness/ visual problems e.g. flashing lights. So, don’t confuse ocular/ retinal migraine with any other.

Foot map showing some of the main reflexology points in different colours
reflexology romford

How does reflexology act as migraine relief?

At Essential Feeling we have experienced giving reflexology in treatment for some of the common symptoms of migraine and had wonderful success. Even in those who have suffered with regular and debilitating pain. Although we’d never say you shouldn’t seek medical intervention, when some of the best medicine reliefs on the market haven’t worked, what are your options?

We have worked with two different types of clients. Ones who have had hormonal imbalances generally (issues with periods etc) and after weekly sessions, their migraines, firstly subsided into more of a niggling headache, and then eventually disappeared over time.

The second group of symptoms had no diagnosed reason, but we think it came from a tight neck because once we worked this, again with regular spinal reflexology, their migraines firstly became less frequent and severe and then disappeared.




Migraine aura treatment — natural

Of course, we’re always going to look at natural ways to treat a migraine (and their symptoms/ aura) at Essential Feeling. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for your GP/ consultant. There absolutely is. But, there are also some things that you can do to help yourself be on top of symptoms.


Healthline recently published a report which listed the ten things to do if you suffer from a migraine. Here they are:

1. Watch your diet. There are foods which contribute towards a migraine.
2. Apply lavender oil. This works on relaxing and widening the channels as discussed above.
3. Try acupressure (reflexology is a form of acupressure). This works by removing the road blocks which cause the traffic build up as discussed above.
4. Look for feverfew. This is a herb that is supposed to reduce side effects. We have no experience with this.
5. Apply peppermint oil to prevent them. Again we have no experience with this.
6. Ginger eases nausea and vomiting.
7. Yoga may relieve the frequency, duration, and intensity by improving anxiety and releasing tension in trigger areas. It also improves vascular health.
8. Try biofeedback which is supposed to reduce stress and your reaction to it.
9. Add magnesium to your diet.
10. Book a massage. And we quote “A weekly massage may reduce frequency of migraines and improve sleep quality. A 2006 study suggests massage improves perceived stress and coping skills. It also helps decrease heart rate, anxiety, and cortisol levels.” Source Healthline.

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