Managing migraine

Migraine is a hugely individual condition: trigger factors, symptoms, and responses to treatment differ greatly from person to person, meaning that it can take time to recognise and manage.   Research into the condition is continuing: at present we don’t know what causes migraine, there is no definitive way to diagnose migraine, and there is currently no cure.  However, there have been huge developments and steps forward in recent years and there is much that can be done to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

It may be possible to recognise certain circumstances in which you may be more likely to have a migraine attack, often referred to as ‘triggers’.  Some triggers are fairly common, sometimes they can be more unusual.  Often what may trigger a migraine in one person may have no affect on another and for many people there is not just one trigger, but a combination of factors which individually can be tolerated, but when several occur together a threshold is passed and an attack occurs.

By maintaining a healthy life-style and considering your own personal migraine triggers it may be possible to reduce the frequency and / or severity of attacks.  There are also a wide range of medications  available (both over-the-counter and on prescription from your GP) to help you manage your migraine and get on with your life.

Tips for students affected by migraine

  • Keep hydrated - dehydration is a common migraine trigger.  Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water each day and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine
  • Eat regularly – skipping meals can be a trigger for some, as can eating a lot of sugary foods.  Try to maintain stable blood sugars by having a healthy balanced diet and do not skip meals
  • Maintain a regular sleep pattern – long lie-ins and late nights can contribute towards an attack
  • Exercise and fresh air – try to get some fresh air and exercise every day.  Simply walking to college everyday could be enough to make a difference
  • Relaxation is important - stress and anxiety are triggers for many people. The pressure of exams, worries about finances and relationships etc. can lead to tension.  Make time for rest and relaxation everyday and avoid stressful situations where possible – although this can be easier said than done!  Some migraineurs find that complementary therapies like the Bowen technique or Indian head-massage can help
  • Consider environmental factors – triggers can include staring for long periods at white- walls, watching TV or spending long periods of time on computers or video games, and bright, flashing or flickering lights.  Make your work-station as comfortable as possible, with your chair correctly adjusted, glare from windows eliminated etc.
  • Consider your personal migraine triggers – keep a migraine diary to help identify what factors may contribute to your migraine attacks and then take steps to avoid them.  Some people have identified foods and drinks which contribute to their attack, including chocolate, citrus fruit, caffeine, marmite, onions, and alcohol 
  • Identify warning signs – you may begin to recognise early signs that an attack may be imminent (for some people this is a stiff neck, becoming clumsy, or excessive yawning, but your signs may be very individual).  If you do recognise the signs take action early – stop what you are doing and /or take medication (the earlier you take medication in an attack the better). In some instances it may be possible to prevent a full-blown attack from occurring
  • Don’t suffer in silence – if migraine is affecting your studies and /or home life, seek help. Your pharmacist can offer advice on the over-the-counter treatments and your GP can discuss the wide range of medications available to take during an attack – acute treatments - and possibly preventative treatments for those who suffer regular attacks). Migraine Action can also provide lots of advice and information on migraine, mediations and managing the condition.  Visit or call 0116 275 8317.

Migraine Action is the leading charity offering support and information to thousands of migraineurs throughout the UK.  To find out more about migraine and Migraine Action’s services visit or call 0116 275 8317.

This advice leaflet has been kindly produced by Migraine Action.

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