If your migraine was a bushfire…

. Posted in Mind & Body

Take a holistic and long-term approach to your migraine
I’ll be honest. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by all the factors that contribute to my migraine that I just give up tracking them. The myriad of combinations of triggers can make it feel like I’m working on a puzzle… where new bits are constantly added just when I thought I had the answer. That’s why I loved the analogy of Sydney neurologist Dr Raymond Schwartz, who suggests thinking of a migraine headache as a bushfire.


Step 1
Keep a healthy migraine friendly lifestyle
Just like fire fighters undertake “back burning” to prevent fires, consider how you can prevent a migraine by establishing a healthy, “migraine friendly” lifestyle. What are the things that can prevent a migraine for you in particular? For me, the key is daily exercise in fresh air. And, after a very stubborn migraine, the integrated health approach at Elevate helped me discover the connection between neck and jaw problems. I can’t thank them enough!  Add to that daily mindfulness exercises, B2 and magnesium supplements, and a solid dose of laughter to relax inside-out – and that’s my personalized migraine friendly recipe. 

Step 2
Understand and monitor your triggers
A migraine friendly lifestyle is all well and good, but you also need to understand the “triggers” so that you can identify a “high fire danger”. While for bushfires this may be very dry conditions and strong winds, for migraines, stress, lack of sleep or even prolonged periods of time in front of a computer are more likely culprits. For example, if I spend long hours in front of the computer, I can forget about going to the mall after work. The combination of too much screen-time and busy visuals and lighting is guaranteed to send me spinning. 

Step 3
Know your symptoms and warning signs
The warning signs vary from person to person, but common symptoms that occur before a migraine attack include visual disturbances, a feeling of numbness in parts of the body, anxiety, a racing heart, diarrhea or nausea. For me, it always begins with a strange sense that my head is wrapped in cotton, I loose all focus and feel queasy. What are your symptoms and warning signs? 

Step 4
Put out the flames
Sometimes, despite the best preventative efforts, a bushfire will still flare up. When a migraine is lurking, Dr Schwartz recommends to “put it out” straight away. Even this can be a guessing game! Be patient and kind to yourself. If you know what works for you, whether it’s sleep or medications, take action as early as possible before the migraine has a chance to get out of control.

"If we think of a migraine headache attack like a bushfire, and how a strong wind can increase the danger or even fuel that fire, the way we think about treating migraine is a little simpler. Lifestyle factors like stress, anxiety, hydration or the amount of sleep we get can increase the frequency or severity of these attacks."

Blackmores REME-D ($29.95) for Migraine-Headache contains a specially chosen combination of B vitamins and feverfew (a natural treatment traditionally used for headaches), which may help reduce the frequency of migraine-headaches and associated symptoms such as nausea and vomiting when taken regularly. For best results, use Reme-D for Migraine-Headache in conjunction with a holistic migraine management plan.

Always consult your health professional before making changes to your treatment plan, and tell your health care provider about any complementary health approaches you use. For example, riboflavin supplements, feverfew, and butterbur are not recommended for pregnant women. 

 Natural remedies
• Research suggests that riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 supplements may be helpful, and the herbs feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and butterbur (Petasites hybridus) have been used historically for headache relief.
• As magnesium is needed for proper nerve function, it is thought that magnesium deficiency and migraines may be related.

Body-based practices 
• Migraine from muscle tension? Try acupuncture, a massage or visit a chiropractor to work out any vertebral misalignments. 
• There is good evidence that body-based practices help relief or reduce the duration of a migraine. For example, a 2011 Cochrane Review reported that six unblinded studies demonstrated that patients receiving acupuncture had fewer headaches with benefits lasting for 3 to 4 months after therapy. Other trials have found osteopathic manipulation treatment to decrease the pain intensity and duration of a migraine. 
• Sometimes the simplest of all is the best; keep an active and healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, good sleep patterns and a healthy diet to make sure your overall health is as great as it can be.

Mind-body medicine 
If the migraine is caused by stress, yoga can relieve muscle tension and help improve your posture. 
There are many ways to include aromatherapy to ease tension during a migraine, from adding a drop of essential oil to your diffuser to mixing a few drops with your cream for a massage. During the day, try stimulating oils like eucalyptus or peppermint. At nighttime, essential oils with sedative qualities like lavender or roman chamomile may help you relax.
The combination of massage and pressure in a Shiatsu session can restore the “energy balance” and induce relaxation.