Migraine – only fellow sufferers can truly understand

If you have never had a migraine you are very lucky. I know they are not a life-threatening illness however they are very debilitating and, in my case, come with very little warning at very inconvenient times.

"cartoon picture of a woman with a migraine"

“Migraine is an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance. It’s an instability in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information, and that instability can become influenced by physiological changes like sleep, exercise and hunger.”
Professor Peter Goadsby, Professor of Neurology, King’s College London; Director, NIHR-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, King’s College Hospital London; Trustee of The Migraine Trust.

Here are some of the facts and figures about migraine:

  • Migraine is the third most common disease in the world (behind dental caries and tension-type headache) with an estimated global prevalence of 14.7% (that’s around 1 in 7 people).
  • Migraine is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.
  • Chronic migraine affects approximately 2% of the world population.
  • Migraine affects three-times as many women as men, with this higher rate being most likely hormonally-driven.
  • Research suggests that 3,000 migraine attacks occur every day for each million of the general population. This equates to over 190,000 migraine attacks every day in the UK.
  • More than three quarters of migraineurs experience at least one attack each month, and more than half experience severe impairment during attacks.
  • Migraine often starts at puberty and most affects those aged between 35 and 45 years, but it can trouble much younger people including children.
  • About 4% of boys and girls in pre pubertal age suffer from migraine. As children get older there is a predominance among girls.

"diagram showing what causes a migraine"

My symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and occasionally vomiting, and generally so extreme and debillating. I have to lie down in a darkened room and if I have managed to take my prescribed medication in time I may be able to control the length of time I feel so unwell. My husband and family know to avoid me until I emerge sometimes a day later. I used to suffer from them quite regularly at a time when I had young children so I would have to call my husband to come home and take over the childcare. Migraines and children are a Molotov cocktail! On one occasion my husband had to call the doctor who was very sympathetic and gave me a morphine injection to knock me out however this is not ideal.

I can only describe the pain as how I imagine it would feel if my skull was being crushed i.e. torture. Sometimes it gives me extreme toothache which extends into my jaw.

However I now have a bevy of simple and non-toxic aids to at least alleviate the symptoms which may or may not help fellow sufferers.

  • An inhaler of Olbas oil, Eucalyptus or even Vick as this clears the sinuses
  • Rubbing tiger balm into the temples
  • An ice pack on my temples – this does numb the pain….briefly
  • A drink of apple cider vinegar with a teaspoon of honey (this also has many other health benefits like controlling blood sugar, regulating high blood pressure, reducing bone pain, promoting weight loss and relieving constipation.
  • A drink of ginger tea helps with the nausea
  • Someone suggested eating cherries but my migraines do not coincide with having cherries in the house!
  • Soaking in a lavender and chamomile bath
  • When I can i.e. when the pain subsides a little, I will have a shower and get into fresh clothes as this seems to make me feel better


However I think the important thing is to find what triggers your migraine and to this end everyone is different. Some say chocolate and oranges; stress, anxiety, tiredness are also all possibilities. The best way to find out is to keep a diary and note what you eat, how you are feeling and the weather. Then you may find a pattern. My trigger is the weather so it is out of my control. When there is a storm coming and the air becomes heavy and close this will often trigger one however as I now know I start taking precautionary ‘medicine’ ie doing some of the above and depending how I get on I may take one of the drugs prescribed by my GP however I don’t like to rely on drugs.

If you are interested in some alternative methods for dealing with migraines then check out the website Top 10 Home Remedies (click here). I hope some of this helps other sufferers but do share any of your tips with us in the comments section below.

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6 years ago

Hello Annabel. I have been reading Country Wives for a while and enjoy the posts very much. I felt I had to chime in on this topic as I am currently going through tests and treatments for migraines which have worsened over the last 18 months (I am 48 and a half). Consensus seems to be that my migraines are affected by my hormones. HRT (Progesterone only) made them worse. I ended up in A&E on New Year’s Eve – how I wish they had given me morphine! I will tell you how I am ‘coping’ at the moment as something may help you too. And I do have to ‘cope ‘ – I have a 7 year old son and my husband works away in London all week and I have no family nearby. So – I gave up alcohol pretty much altogether – maybe one or two very small glasses of white wine per week. No coffee. Herbal tea at bedtime and a tummy-filling snack to avoid a ‘crash’ – Pukka Night Time tea and a slice of bread and butter or a tiny bowl of cereal. 50 mg of Noritriptyline per night (does not have a sedative effect as Amitryptiline does). 3 dissolvable aspirin plus Zomig nasal spray at onset of a migraine (a Triptan type drug) – quite expensive for NHS to supply so I had to ask, it wasn’t offered – though to be fair the specialist I saw privately didn’t offer it either. And trying to keep to regular sleeping hours, reduce stress (ha ha), regular eating patterns. Warm bath also recommended. I have just started seeing an osteopath who was recommended to me by a fellow sufferer. Seems promising. Obvious tension in my nerves on one side of head and he explained it is a self-perpetuating circle – migraine, nerves tense = nerves tense – migraine triggered by any little thing that pushes the nerves over the edge so to speak. Hope some of that may be of use. Tried an acupuncturist without much improvement. Hope some of that is of use! All good wishes. Sue.

6 years ago

I have suffered from migraine since I was age 12 and 50 years later I am still having them! I have similar symptoms to you Annabel as well as numbness in my fingers and lips. I find that looking at something dark green helps to soothe my eyes and drinking a cup of tea with a plain biscuit takes away the feeling of sickness. I cuddle up under a blanket with a hot water bottle as I find that keeping myself warm helps too.