Headache or migraine, what to do

“Give me something for a migraine!” is a request that pharmacists hear so confusingly often in the pharmacy. But – whether every headache is a migraine – neurologist Dace Bērziņa and pharmacist Ārika Pētersone of “Mēnes Aptiekas” help to find out.

“People who have never experienced a migraine often think that it is the same headache they experience after drinking an extra glass of champagne at a birthday party, only a little stronger,” says Erika Pētersone, a pharmacist at Mēnes Aptiekas. Many customers who ask for “something for a migraine” at the pharmacy are actually looking for a simple pain reliever for a minor headache that interferes with work.

But migraine attacks are more than a slightly annoying headache.

Excruciating migraine

“Regardless of whether a migraine attack starts at home or outside, it can disrupt daily plans, because these headaches appear suddenly and can continue for quite a long time,” explains Dace Bērziņa, a neurologist at the Association of Health Centers. “Many suffer from severe migraine pain. A recently published study concluded that more than 52% of people worldwide have experienced various types of headaches, including migraines. Researchers also suggest that at least 15% of the world’s population, or 1.1 billion people, experience headaches every day. Half of them have migraines. The US National Headache Foundation (The National Headache Foundation) estimates that nearly 40 million Americans have experienced migraine headaches. While this may initially seem like faint consolation, in a way it holds hope. The more people are affected by a particular health problem, the greater the chance that there will be a lot of research in this area, so there will also be a solution,” said the neurologist.

Despite the fact that a large part of the population suffers from migraines, health experts admit that people still do not see it as a serious problem. Even when daily life can be significantly affected due to migraine.

Everything is clear about researchers – researching and understanding the disease is still relevant, but what about fellow human beings – employers, colleagues, acquaintances, friends of migraine patients?

“People do not really perceive migraine headaches as a scientific and public health problem,” admits the neurologist. “Also, the public does not fully understand that migraines cause much more problems than just headaches. Observational and survey data show that migraine is one of the most inaccurately diagnosed and undertreated ailments. The problem is that migraines are one of the most common reasons why people miss work, experience difficult family relationships, and are thrown off balance in their daily lives.”

How is a migraine different from a typical headache?

Some headaches are usually mild and go away quickly. In the case of migraine, an intense and powerful headache is only one of many symptoms. Migraines can be different for everyone and often the symptoms can be very pronounced.

For many, migraine is more than pain – it also causes nausea, fatigue, frequent cognitive dysfunction, brain fog, sensitivity to light and noise,” explains the doctor. In addition, usually these symptoms tend to combine and a person really feels completely unable to function during an attack. A migraine attack can last from a few hours to up to 3 days (72 hours). Sometimes migraine attacks can follow one after the other, taking away almost half of the days of the month, and sometimes even more.

Tips for Migraine Relief

“With migraine symptoms, it would be best to consult a neurologist or an algologist – a pain specialist. People who suffer from migraines are usually prescribed special prescription drugs for this ailment – they cannot be bought at a pharmacy without a prescription. Therefore, if a migraine attack occurs again, you should definitely seek the help of a doctor and always have medicine at hand,” the pharmacist urges.

When experiencing a migraine for the first time (and it cannot be predicted in advance), you can try to relieve the condition with over-the-counter pain medications. These should be in every home first aid kit, and it should also be reviewed regularly so as not to stock up on medications that have already expired. However, the pharmacist of “Mēnes aptiekas” also warns that the medicine can be effective if it is used immediately, and not when the pain has been bothering you for a long time.

You can also relieve the condition with cool compresses, massage, but before looking for ways to reduce the symptoms, you should try to understand what causes this pain. As a preventive measure, you should try to follow a regular bedtime routine, regular physical activities, and you should review your menu, reduce the amount of caffeine you consume. The headache diary, which is available in Latvian on the Internet or in the “Migrēnas kompas” app, helps to understand the connection between the daily routine and headaches.

Don’t overdo it with over-the-counter pain relievers!

Over-the-counter pain medications can help, but remember not to get addicted to them.

“Excessive use of over-the-counter pain relievers can lead to a problem known as medication overuse headache,” says Pharmaceite Erika Peterson. “In time, the headache is not controlled with these medications, but will intensify, thus creating a new problem to the already existing one. Due to frequent use of drugs, the brain “figures out” a way to bypass them. Therefore, headache medication should not be taken more than twice a week or 10 days in one month. In addition, these drugs act as a band-aid, rather than treating a problem that can be solved in cooperation with a doctor.” Neurologist Dace Bērziņa adds: “In order not to get to the point where painkiller-dependent headaches develop, preventive headache therapy has been established, which is prescribed by a headache specialist, neurologist or algologist.”

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