Migraines (ouch!). Can massage help?
Today I'd like to talk about Migraines. How do people know they're going to have a migraine, what it feels like to have one (intense pain, weird sensations, sensitivity to lights and sounds, nausea, exhaustion) and that horrible hangover feeling that lasts for days after.
If you haven't had a migraine before, you're going to know your stuff by the end of this blog post! And if you are a migraine sufferer - I hope there's some useful information for you.
Migraines are something that seems to be coming up a lot in my clinic recently, people contacting me for help to feel better after they've had a migraine, wanting to see if massage can be used as a tool to help prevent them from having migraines, or even to reduce migraine frequency.
It's a bit strange how sometimes I seem to see a flurry of people with the same condition. Maybe there's something in the air (stress???) or maybe my marketing is working well and getting out to the people I want to help. Who knows?! But either way I'm grateful to be of help and share all the little nuggets of information I've learnt.
So first off I need to declare that I too am a migraine sufferer.
The type of migraine I suffer with is a Hemiplegic Migraine, which sits in the bracket of 'Migraine Aura Without Headache / Silent Migraine'. Apparently Hemiplegic Migraine is quite rare, though it's totally normal to me as it kindly got passed down through my lovely genes from my mum and her mum before her and so on. It's something I've seen my whole life and it never occurred to me that people don't actually know what a migraine is (lucky them!!).
So, you're talking to someone who truly has a lifetime of experience of caring for people with migraine and of having them herself.
When I say I feel your pain, I really, truly, do feel your pain!!
Did you know there are several different types of migraine?
The main types of migraines, as classified by the NHS, are:
Migraine with aura - with this kind of migraine you get some sort of warning sign that a migraine is about to happen. The warning sign can be very different from person to person, but common signs include seeing flashing lights or zigzags, numbness or tingling, finding it difficult to speak and dizziness. This is then followed by the headache phase.
Migraine without aura - with this kind of migraine there's no funny warning signs before the migraine headache begins. According to the NHS it's the most common type of migraine.
Migraine aura without headache - this is also known as silent migraine because even though it definitely is a migraine, people experiencing this type of migraine can get an aura (warning sign before a migraine happens) but don't experience a headache. Don't be fooled into thinking this is the easy option, because there's a whole host of other rotten symptoms a person with this type of migraine can experience including seeing flashing lights or zigzags, numbness or tingling, finding it difficult to speak, dizziness, neausea and more.
The frequency a person experiences Migraine attacks is individual. Some people can experience them daily, several times a week, when their period is due, when they're stressed, every now and then or even have years inbetween migraine attacks.
How do I know if I'm having a migraine?
People with migraines will have been diagnosed by a Doctor and will get to know their symptoms, if they have any triggers and how to manage their condition.
People living with migraine are the experts in their own condition as they're the one living with it. So if you have a loved one with this condition, talk to them and ask what you can do to help when they're having a migraine and in the days after.
If you have never had a migraine before and you think you may be having a migraine, seek professional medical attention immediately.
What are migraine symptoms?
Migraine symptoms can vary wildly from person to person. Here is an overview, which is by no means exhaustive, my best advice would be to speak to loved one who experiences migraines about their condition to get a good idea of how it affects them.
Just before a migraine, some people may experience some symptoms including:
tiredness and yawning
needing to use the toilet more
a stiff neck
Before a migraine starts, some people experience 'migraine aura'. This can present as a variety of symptoms and as you get to know your migraine, you'll recognise these warning signs that a migraine is about to happen. Migraine aura symptoms can last up to an hour and could include:
visual changes such as seeing zigzags or flashing lights
a pins and needles type sensation or numbness
not being able to speak properly
Migraine headache is typically a throbbing headache experienced on one side of the head which can last from 2 hours to 3 days.
Some people experience a migraine 'hangover' where they may feel worn out, nauseous, or foggy for a day or so after the migraine has subsided.
What should I do if I think I have a migraine?
Migraine is a condition that should be properly diagnosed by a medical professional.
The following information is taken straight from the NHS website (correct as of today, 23.04.23) so I don't unwittingly cause any misunderstanding! You can read all the NHS information about migraine by clicking this link, it's a really helpful read.
Where can I find reliable sources of information about migraine?
There's some really great resources online if you'd like to know more about migraines. The key ones I use are:
The Migraine Trust www.migrainetrust.org
I also use a really fantastic app called Migraine Buddy to help track my migraines and symptoms. I like this one because the free version is pretty good, but there are others you can try and I'd love to hear your feedback!
Can massage / soft tissue therapy help with migraine?
Well done for reading this far! There's been a lot of useful information and links to great resources that I wanted to share before talking about how massage may, or may not, help people with migraine.
The honest truth is we just don't know.
BUT if you experience migraines, and massage / soft tissue therapy feels good to you, there's no reason why you can't enjoy this therapy as part of your self-care (unless you have another contraindicated condition, or are under investigation by a medical professional, but your therapist will go through this with you at your consultation).
I have many clients who have sought out the help of hands on massage / soft tissue therapy to help them feel good after a migraine and to de-stress in an effort to reduce the frequency of their migraines.
These people find hands on therapy feels good for them, and are being led by their own experience. Hopefully science will one day catch up and be able to explain to us why it feels good for these people.
Until then, as always, be led by what feels good to you. If it helps you, keep doing it. And if it doesn't help, or make you feel good, then perhaps another therapy would suit you better. And that's absolutely ok because there's plenty of choice out there - because we're all so different and enjoy different things.