The last 18 months have been particularly pertinent for those who suffer from the effects of both the pandemic and now the pingdemic with reports of many people who suffer from migraines having an increase in their attacks since the pandemic triggered the lockdown.
Typical migraine symptoms are:
- Pain usually on one side of your head, but often on both sides
- Pain that throbs or pulses
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and sometimes smell and touch
- Nausea and vomiting
- COVID-19 also commonly presents with a headache that may feel like a migraine attack, the two
- types of headache are actually different:
- A migraine attack is a primary headache. It’s thought that changes in nerve signalling or levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin cause it. Genetics and environment may also play a role.
A COVID-19 headache is a secondary headache. This means it’s caused by another underlying disease or condition (in this case, COVID-19). In fact, people with a history of migraine have reported noticeable differences between COVID-19 headaches and migraine attacks.
- A COVID-19 headache does not occur with other typical migraine symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to lights and sounds.
- A headache that happens with COVID-19 may feel different than an individual’s typical migraine attacks. For example, it may be felt on both sides of the head (bilateral) as opposed to one side (unilateral).
- Headache due to COVID-19 may not respond to medications that are used to treat acute migraine pain.
- Unlike a migraine attack, a COVID-19 headache hasn’t been reported to be preceded by aura, a group of symptoms that can occur before or during a migraine attack, but will often be associated with other covid symptoms – cough, temperature or symptoms of a cold etc.
So why are some people getting more frequent migraine attacks?
We know from a range of sources that many people with migraine have had an increase in their attacks since the pandemic triggered the lockdown. This may be due to several factors.
The brain of a person with migraine is always sensitive to change because of the genetic link with this condition. The changes may be in our internal environment or our external environment. The lockdown has caused many changes in our daily lives.
Sleep routines may have altered with the change to working from home and with schools being closed. Anxiety, stress and low mood may contribute to restless sleep.
Mealtimes may also have changed with the temptation to snack, cravings for comfort food and the simplicity of takeaways leading to a change in the balance of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Alcohol and caffeine intake may have increased.
Some people have reacted to our confinement by exercising more than usual where others may be finding their lives are more sedentary.
Those people working from home have often become more sedentary, spending more time at the screen, more zoom/team calls, especially as the blue-tinted light that’s most commonly emitted from phone and computer screens can aggravate those sufferers with sensitivity to light.
With that quick pivotal change at the beginning of the pandemic - working from home and not having the ideal office setup. Poor positioning or posture can increase the likelihood of a migraine headache for some people. The hunching over on the laptop, or leaning forward, holding the neck in anything but an ideal position can lead to tension in your neck and shoulders which for some can be a trigger.
So all these changes can impact and irritate the brain of a person with migraine. Trying to control them as much as possible can be helpful. Routine is a keyword.
So here are some self-care tips that might help those who suffer:
- Stick to a routine sleep pattern go to sleep at the same time and wake at the same time every day if
- Once awake in the morning, try to get outside into daylight for your exercise even if this is just a
- simple walk around the block.
- If doing exercise, remember little and often is better than an occasional full-on 2-hour workout. Go gently at the start, eat and drink to maintain blood glucose levels and hydration and stretch out gently afterwards.
- Make sure you are eating regularly every 3-4 hours and introduce a bedtime snack, especially if you eat your main meal in the early evening. Think about the balance between the food groups and try and reduce carbohydrates like sugar, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and wheat products as in bread, pasta and pizza. Increase the proportion of protein and fat by altering the relative portion sizes. Increase the amount of vegetables you eat -you can’t have too many! Snacks of nuts, seeds, berries and dairy products (if you are not vegan) may be useful.
- Mindfulness, relaxation breathing exercises -slow exhalations, yoga stretches and other techniques like expressive writing, gratitude journaling and meditation can all help reduce anxiety and improve restorative sleep quality.
- Beware of caffeine and alcohol. It is tempting to have these to relieve our stress or perk us up but both are not helpful for sleep quality and may result in triggering a migraine attack.
- Be sure to have a good supply of the usual medications that you take to help your acute migraine and also your preventative medications if applicable. GP surgeries are still open although they may be operating via video consultations or telephone. They are still there for you for advice and prescriptions.
- Supplements that have some evidence of benefit in reducing migraine: Magnesium, Riboflavin(Vitamin B2) and /or Co-enzyme Q10.
- Avoid reading, watching or listening to depressing or anxiety-provoking news stories which can often circulate widely on social media too. Find a trusted news source and only update yourself once a day -preferably not just before going to bed. It is very easy to catastrophise and that will raise stress hormone levels which in turn can make migraines more likely.
- Finally Traditional acupuncture can help relieve certain uncomplicated forms of migraines. Similarly, osteopathy or physiotherapy can help relieve those migraines that are triggered by problems in the neck and shoulders.
Get in touchCONTACT US for an appointment with one of our therapists. They will help you with tailored lifestyle advice to help you move forward and manage your migraines.