Motion Sickness and Migraine Nausea

motion sickness

Nausea and vomiting are both common symptoms of migraine. In fact, between 50% to 60% of migraine sufferers vomit during an attack, and between 60% and 95% of migraine sufferers experience nausea. Although this statistic does vary depending on which study you read, it is certainly generally accepted that nausea and vomiting are common migraine symptoms, and a symptom which you are more likely to suffer from if you also experience motion sickness.

Motion sickness happens when messages from the inner ear and from the eyes are in conflict with one another. If the inner ear detects one degree of motion, and the eyes detect an even slightly different degree of motion, then motion sickness can occur. Often this happens when travelling on a boat, in a car, or while in other forms of transport. However, it can also occur when there is motion in your visual surroundings while you’re stood still.

Scientists aren’t clear exactly why there is a link between suffering from migraines and from motion sickness, but there is a theory.

Many drugs which are used to treat motion sickness work by increasing levels of the hormone serotonin in the brain. Research has also suggested that having low levels of serotonin may make you more likely to suffer from migraines. Perhaps this low level of serotonin is one reason why migraine sufferers often suffer with nausea.

If you find that you suffer from motion sickness, from migraines, and also from nausea during migraine attacks, then that combination will make a difference to what kind of medication you might want to take in order to treat the nausea. Motion sickness medications are generally more effective for treating migraine nausea than over-the-counter treatments which are used for gastrointestinal issues.

Migraines and Dizziness

Although head pain is typically what people think of when they think of migraines, it’s certainly not the only migraine symptom.

dizziness

Another common migraine symptom which many sufferers experience is dizziness or vertigo. In cases where dizziness or balance problems are the main migraine symptom the migraines are called vestibular migraine or migrainous vertigo.

Vestibular migraine sufferers may experience dizziness, imbalance, vertigo (feeling as though the world is moving), and sensitivity to movement – not only just before or during the migraine attack, but for some the dizziness and balance issues can be experienced during headache-free periods.

In terms of triggers, as is the case with other types of migraine, vestibular migraines can be triggered or made worse by certain types of food, by stress, and by certain activities such as intense exercise.

Treatment varies for vestibular migraines, but in general drugs to relieve and/or to prevent the symptoms of headache, nausea, dizziness or vertigo may be prescribed, but another treatment option for vestibular migraine sufferers is physiotherapy.

For some vestibular migraine sufferers, physiotherapy exercises can help to relieve balance symptoms – although if the migraines are very frequent these exercises can make the symptoms worse so timing of the physiotherapy exercise is key. 

A diagnosis of vestibular migraines is made via reporting of symptoms as there is no test which can be conducted to confirm migraines. However, your doctor may ask for some tests to be conducted in order to rule out other potential causes of the head pain and dizziness.

Lockdown, Screen Time and Migraines – How To Limit The Impact

In the current situation with people being advised to work from home where possible and socialising mainly taking place via the likes of Zoom, time away from the screen is getting less and less – which is a problem if you suffer from migraines.

screen time

Too much screen time can strain your eyes, raise your stress levels, but most importantly, help to trigger a migraine attack. But what can you do? Most work that people are doing is now via a computer screen, and unless you want to become completely cut off from the outside world, chances are you’re going to be spending some time on Zoom staying in contact with friends and family.  

There are things you can do to limit the effect which all this extra screen time is having on you and your migraines though.

Screen filters

If you haven’t already, try and get hold of a screen filter that you can put on your computer screen which will block the blue wavelengths. Blue light can mess with your circadian rhythm and aggravate light sensitivity, even in migraine patients who are blind. So blocking out these blue wavelengths should help you. Alternatively, or additionally, software called F.lux is a blue light exposure protection app which is available as a free download for Windows.

Space out your screen time

Or, at least, try and spread it out if you can. If you’re part-time, talk to your boss about spacing out your time with flexible hours, perhaps across a greater number of days, so that you don’t have to be online for such a long uninterrupted period. Taking breaks will help so take them if you can.

Turn off your video

When you’re on a Zoom call, use the option to be audio only and turn away from the screen. Maybe not always (you’ll want to see the faces of your friends and family from time to time!). 

Find screen-free fun

Netflix is tempting, but if you’ve spent all day on a screen, finding something to do that you enjoy that doesn’t involve a screen will help. Audiobooks are one suggestion, or colouring (which some people find relaxing – so could help reduce the migraine trigger of stress), or puzzle books – essentially something which won’t strain your eyes any further and will help you to wind down.   

Be honest and look after yourself Tell people why you can’t make every Zoom meeting they plan (yes, even when you’re stuck at home with no prior engagements) and don’t just try and battle through it. Explain to them that it’s important for your health not to go over a certain number of hours of screen time in a day. Your health has to come first. 

Is It A Covid Headache Or A Migraine?

It would be an understatement to say that we’re all a bit on edge about coronavirus. Any slight tickle at the back of the throat can leave us wondering if it might be the first sign of an infection. What with headache being a potential symptom of COVID-19, is it any surprise that every migraine attack leaves us stressed and questioning if we’ve caught it.

covid

The symptoms of a headache caused by COVID-19:

  • Is moderate to severe in intensity
  • Has a pulsing or pressing pain
  • Is felt on both sides of the head (rather than migraine which is often (but not always) felt on one side)
  • Is difficult to alleviate with over-the-counter medications like ibruprofen
  • Generally happens early on in the infection (probably not a comfort but worth noting)

Better news is that people with a history of migraines have reported differences between COVID-19 headaches and their usual migraine attacks.

Most notably perhaps, a COVID-19 headache does not occur alongside other typical migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound. Similarly, COVID-19 headaches have not yet been reported to be preceded by aura – unlike migraines. So if you have visual disturbances, feelings of vertigo, and other aura symptoms, you can be pretty sure that it’s probably nothing to do with COVID-19.

A COVID-19 headache is also not likely to response to medications which are used to treat acute migraine pain. Essentially, if it feels like your normal migraine, and it reacts to your medication as your normal migraine would, it’s probably not COVID-19 related.

If you do contract COVID-19, it has been recommended that if you are in the midst of an active infection then you should be wary of using aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and other NSAIDS. Paracetamol, triptan medications, and usual preventative medications have been deemed to be safe however.

Some final good news to do with migraines and coronavirus: suffering from migraines does not increase your likelihood of contracting COVID-19, so that’s something.

Why do I Have Migraines on the Weekend?

A migraine is wholly unwelcome at any time, but when it always hits just as the weekend starts and ruins your precious time off it’s especially horrible. It’s not just bad luck though, there’s a reason that you might regularly suffer from migraines at the weekend. It’s so well-recognised as a migraine variant in fact that these attacks are even termed “weekend migraines”.  

The primary reason why you can experience an increase in migraine symptoms over the weekend is down to changing routines.

One change that’s common to the weekends is a change to your sleeping habits. It’s tempting when you have the opportunity to do so to spend some extra time in bed and get a lie-in, or stay up a bit later and watch a late-night film. Any change in sleep schedule can be a migraine trigger. As well as disrupting your natural body clock, it means you’ll get a different amount of sleep to that which you’re used to, and both too much and too little sleep can be a major migraine trigger, so it’s important to keep your sleep schedule the same, even on the weekends!

Another reason why people can find themselves suffering from a migraine attack on the weekend is because they’re finally able to relax – as strange as that may sound. Stress can sometimes trigger migraines, but so can a release of stress. If your body is used to being under constant stress then when that stress level lowers the change can result in a “let down” migraine.

Essentially, when the weekend comes and we’re able to do something a bit different, we need to be careful not to do everything differently. Keeping our mealtimes the same, what kind of things we eat the same, our bed time and waking-up times the same, and (as odd as it may sound) not suddenly stopping dead to relax if we’re used to a fast-paced workplace, is key in keeping weekend migraines at bay.

Gluten Intolerance and Migraines

Firstly, what is gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is where the body has a negative reaction to foods containing gluten resulting in symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea and fatigue. Gluten intolerance affects around one in every twenty people.

Celiac disease on the other hand is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten proteins cause inflammation and damage to the small intestine. It is not the same as gluten intolerance, but both those who are gluten-intolerant and those who have celiac disease are harmed by diets which contain gluten and can suffer from similar symptoms.  

Some sources suggest that eating foods which contain gluten can trigger migraines for those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but is this the case?

According to the Migraine Trust, headaches may be “part of a large number of symptoms which are listed as being associated with gluten-sensitivity but there is no evidence that gluten-sensitivity causes migraine”. There is scientific evidence to support this statement. 

In one study, around 25% of people with celiac disease reported suffering from migraine headaches, and migraines were often reported as the first symptom of celiac disease. In another study however, only 8 of the 188 celiac patients in the study reported a reduction in their headaches when following a gluten-free diet, and the period of the gluten-free diet did not correlate with migraine severity.

It may be then that gluten intolerance is a condition which can go hand-in-hand with migraine, and that celiac sufferers are more likely to suffer from migraine than the general population, but the Migraine Trust states that there aren’t enough scientific studies to say that eating a gluten-free diet will stop your migraines if you are intolerant. On an individual basis however, it has to be said that if eating a gluten-free diet helps to reduce your migraine severity and/or frequency, who cares what the statistics say!  

Mindfulness and Migraine Pain Reduction

A study investigating mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has shown promising results when it comes to reducing the pain felt by migraine sufferers during an attack.

The study in question involved eighty-nine adults who had between four and twenty migraine days per month, and who experienced high disability as a result. Of the eighty-nine patients, forty-five were placed in the MSBR group, and forty-four in a group which received headache education. Each group had weekly sessions lasting two hours for a period of eight weeks, and the MSBR group were also given activities to do at home.

The headache education group were given instruction on headaches, pathophysiology (the functional changes which accompany headaches), headache triggers, stress, and treatment approaches. The MBSR group undertook, in addition to the two hour sessions, meditation and yoga, including accompanying audio tracks, to practise at home for thirty minutes each day. Patients were followed up with throughout a thirty-six week period.

Both groups had fewer migraine days per month following their weekly sessions, with the MBSR group experiencing 1.6 fewer migraine days per month, and the headache education group experiencing 2 fewer migraine days per month, so not much to choose between the two groups. However, a secondary finding was that the perception of pain was noticeably different for the MBSR group.

At the final thirty-six week assessment, the patients in the MSBR group reported greater decreases in baseline pain unpleasantness and intensity. They also reported improved quality of life, self-efficacy, less depression, and less disability at this assessment. The MBSR group had a 36.3% decrease in pain intensity and a 30.4% reduction in unpleasantness. The headache education group had a 13.5% increase in intensity, and an 11.2% increase in unpleasantness.

A larger study is needed in order to further investigate these results, but the authors suggest that MBSR may help to reduce the overall burden of migraines.

Stroke and Migraine: The Differences

Blinding headaches are just one symptom of migraines. Confusingly, and worryingly for anyone who is experiencing one for the first time, a blinding headache is also a key symptom of a stroke. Migraines and strokes are both neurovascular disorders, and they both have symptoms which are similar – especially if the migraine which is being experienced is a migraine with aura.

A migraine (though an awful ordeal) will pass in time and not result in long-term damage, but a stroke is a condition which needs immediate medical attention in order to limit the resulting amount of damage and cell death in the brain. When a stroke happens one of two things has occurred. Either a clot has obstructed the flow of blood to the brain (an ischemic stroke), or a blood vessel has ruptured and prevented blood flow to the brain in that way (a haemorrhagic stroke).

It’s vital to know what the differences between strokes and migraines are, so this is what you should look out for: FAST. FAST is an acronym which stands for:

Face – is one side of the face drooping?

Arm – does one arm drift downwards?

Speech – is speech slurred or strange?

Time – act quickly and call 999 if you see any of these symptoms. 

The FAST acronym helps, but both migraine auras and strokes can include the physical symptoms listed within it, so these additional questions may help you to identify whether it’s a migraine or a stroke.

Is the onset sudden or gradual?

In general, a stroke will come on all of a sudden, while a migraine aura will slowly develop, with symptoms worsening over several minutes. This is one of the best ways to tell if it’s a stroke rather than a migraine. If it happens all of a sudden, it’s most likely to be a stroke.

Do you see more or less?

Visual migraine aura symptoms can include seeing spots, zigzag lines, flashing lights, or temporary partial loss of vision. Stroke on the other hand has the visual symptom of sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes. Similar symptoms, but a subtle difference.

Past history?

Usually migraines occur first during childhood/adolescence (although they can begin at any age), and often the sufferer will have a history of migraines somewhere in the family. Also, the form which someone’s migraine takes tends to be the same every time; so if you’ve had migraines with aura in the past, it should seem familiar to you as a migraine aura. If however the symptoms you are experiencing differ from your usual migraine symptoms, or you’ve never had a migraine before, always err on the side of caution.

Both migraines and strokes can occur at any age and it’s always better to be safe, so if in doubt, call 999.

Migraine and Paint Colours – It Matters

It might sound strange, but research has found that the colour you paint your walls can have an effect on your migraine attacks.

Healthcare communications agency 11 London, in conjunction with Dulux, TEVA UK, and the National Migraine Centre, worked to create a migraine-friendly colour scheme. After surveying over 1,200 migraine sufferers about what colours they found most soothing, some clear favourite shades were identified.

Grey shades were the most popular (chosen by 68%), followed by light green shades (52%), teal (47%), and light blue shades (41%).

As you might expect, they were also some colours which were deemed as being unhelpful to migraine sufferers. Bright colours such as orange and yellow were chosen as soothing by only 5% of respondents, but red was identified as a “problem colour”.

Finding that green shades were favoured by many migraine sufferers may not come as a huge surprise to those who already know about the research which has been conducted into the effects which different colours of light have on migraine sufferers.

In past studies it was found that exposure to any colour of light except green light intensified migraine attacks. Green light on the other hand was significantly less likely to trigger head pain, and in one study around 20% of participants reported that exposure to green light actually made their migraine attacks less painful.

Of course not all migraine sufferers are alike, and a colour which soothes one migraine sufferer may aggravate another. All the same, this “migraine-friendly colour palette” may be worth bearing in mind if you’re a migraine sufferer looking to do some redecorating soon.

Basic Tips For Fighting Migraines

fighting migraines

 

There are no known cures for migraines, but there are certainly some simple things you can do to help alleviate the effects of migraine and to reduce how often and how badly you get them. Although all migraine sufferers are different, and many sufferers will need medical treatment to help them cope with their migraines, there should be at least one thing on this list that will help a little.

 

Eat Regularly

Skipping meals is a big problem for migraine sufferers. Missing a meal can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels, and an awful migraine attack. Making sure to eat regularly helps to keep blood sugar levels steady – some migraineurs find that they need to eat every two hours. How often you need to eat will be personal to you.

 

Get Regular Exercise

A pattern of regular and moderately strenuous exercise can be really helpful in reducing the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. It doesn’t need to be anything too extreme – in fact high intensity exercise like running or racquet sports can be a trigger for some sufferers; but yoga and walking are both forms of exercise which have been recommended as being beneficial. In terms of amount, around 30 minutes, thrice-weekly is enough to make a difference. However, the most important thing is that it is a form of exercise which you enjoy.

 

Eliminate Strong Odours

Strong smells can be a migraine trigger for many people. This can make the workplace a nightmare for some – what with all of the highly scented cleaning products used, colleagues wearing cologne, and air fresheners being used in communal spaces. While you can’t guard against all smells at work or in the outside world (car fumes!), at home at least you can make sure to use natural cleaning products that are scent-free, and to keep away from the likes of room sprays and scented candles!

 

Keep A Routine

Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day is key for many sufferers in guarding against migraine attacks, as is eating at the same times each day. In fact, the more of a routine you can have in what you do, the better. This is why some migraine sufferers find that they can’t work shift work; as the unpredictable hours play havoc with their routines and triggers attacks on a more regular and painful basis.