Migraines: There is No Need to Suffer!

By Beaut.ie | February 17 2012 | 43 Comments


Since I’m in a sharing mood at the mo’ (read all about my extensive knowledge of, er, earplugs), here’s something else I know quite a bit about that might be of some use to some of you.


Now, I’m not an expert about all of this stuff, but here’s what I do know in relation to me. You don’t need to put up with them, because there are a lot of things that can help. But here’s what doesn’t: regular over the counter painkillers.  If you are genuinely suffering from migraines and not just bad regular headaches then you won’t be able to banish the pain with paracetamol or even stronger codeine-based tabs like Nurofen Plus.

You may find the pain goes on in waves for up to 48 hours or more; it needn’t necessarily be the ‘classic’ migraine with aura or vision disturbance either. I used to get those as a teenager; now I get a punching, rhythmic throbbing behind one eye that lasts two days and makes me want to rip my face off.

migraine medication

Migraines are a specific type of headache and they need a specific pill, a triptan.  And triptans like Zomig and Imigran work really well on them, putting the pounding down pretty quickly. Yes, it might – and probably will – come back (mine do), and in that case I take another tab 12 or 24 hours later. But it’s all about managing it so you can live your life.

You can get migraine medicine in differing strengths and delivery methods – for some people, the sickness they suffer along with the headache means a spray method is best. Or you can get tabs to dissolve on the tongue as well as ones you swallow with water, and Botox has now been approved too as a treatment. The point is there’s choice and there is zero need to lock yourself in a dark room and suffer.

Some people find that Migraleve (the pink and yellow tablets) you buy over the counter here work for them – it never worked a jot for me, but hey, it’s worth a go. What does have an effect is Migraleve Ultra or Imigran Recovery, 50mg over-the-counter medications you can buy off-prescription in the UK and northern Ireland, and the reason they work is because they contain sumatriptan.

They make the whole business of suffering a migraine much easier if you can get hold of them online or buy next time you travel as they’re not that expensive – about £7-£8 for two.  It’s such a shame you can’t buy them in the chemist here as generally in Ireland, medication is costly – Zomig and Imigran won’t give you much change from €70 or €80 for six. You can ask for the generic of each in pharmacy – but it depends on where you go, and it may not be available.

The other thing you can do if you’re locked in a cycle of migraine-treat/migraine-treat is to get an appointment with a neurologist – not an easy thing to do in Ireland where they are in shockingly short supply – and try to tackle the issue from the bottom up, as opposed to only treating the symptoms.

That could involve taking beta blockers or anti-convulsants like Topamax which will aim to regulate the blood flow to the brain, helping to cut down on the number of migraines you get for starters. You can look at diet and lifestyle too – I know alcohol affects me badly, so I watch what I drink now. Sugar seems to set me off too (and of course there’s a lot of sugar in white whine, dang), but luckily I don’t have much of a sweet tooth for sugary foods. I bleedin’ love that auld glass of wine or eight, though…

So it’s not easy to cope with, and it’s not cheap either – but it is possible and you don’t have to put up with it. In addition to consultants bills, my month’s supply of Topamax is about €70, when I need to fill the prescription for Zomig it’s over €100 in total (make sure you sign up for the drugs scheme card if you go this route; ask for information in the chemist), but by god is it worth it.

Not so many lost days lying in bed looking green, holding my head and just feeling like crap. Yes, I have to take tablets every day to regulate the blood flow, yes I do still get migraines – especially around the time of the month, if I drink too much and if I am too stressed – but they are much more manageable now. When I feel the onset, I can take a tab, feel rough for an hour or so and then feel ok again. I can live with that.

If you are susceptible, if your headaches are escalating – and they tend to – if painkillers can’t control and manage the pain and your quality of life is suffering then do something about it.  Honestly – there’s no need to live with it.

I know we have a ton of migraine sufferers on the blog; how do you cope?

Diet & Wellbeing , ,

43 Replies to "Migraines: There is No Need to Suffer!"

  • witchgirl26 says:

    Not a migraine sufferer but think you’ve got such a point that when it comes to a lot you don’t have to suffer anymore. I’ve severe ibs & in the past I would have had to just put up with it but now I’m on a shed load of tablets (swear if you shake me I rattle) which can be annoying but I love being able to live my life.

  • Brilliant post Kirstie.

    I’ve ended up in A&E far too many times as a result of migraine (mainly due to the other symptoms rather than the actual headache). But I seem to have them under control now, getting my diet in order really helped.

    Yes, I still get migraine but they’re much less frequent which is brilliant.

    As for medication, Zomig is the only thing that ever works for me so I make sure I’ve always got a pack on hand.

  • Stephcie says:

    I suffer with very sever migraines in that when they come they last approx 4 hours in which I vomit, sweat, shiver, faint and go numb on one side of my face (only happened twice), shake and can’t walk or use my hands. I use zomig too as soon as I feel the signs sick stomach – a headache but not a headache if you no what I mean – I take painkillers with zomig and a stemitil(sic ?) tablet for my stomach and lie down praying I’ve gotten to it in time. I use to get up to 3 a month as they are directly linked with my hormones and PMS (which I also suffer from verrrryyyy much) but I am on treatment for that which has in turn lessened the migraines but if I don’t get to them in time I lose control of my body and have been in situations like my first year in college where I passed out and my flatmate who I only knew a week had to call a friend and get me to caredoc and in work where I had to warn people that I had a migraine coming on and that I would get quite lethargic – it almost appears like I’m having a fit. My doctor has described them as extremely violent episodes but once it goes after about 4 hours that’s it – it’s gone and I’m quite euphoric – I have never suffered with them for days at a time. The doc has me on a migraine prevention tablet that I take every night can’t think of the name. But they seem to be under control – I find stress is the biggest trigger for mine and they can completely ruin a night out (I missed out on my graduation night from college and ended up shaking in the hotel room while all my mates went out). I agree though that nobody should suffer them – and am delighted with the tip about what’s available in the north and UK and will be adding them to my shopping list next time I am away.

  • I’m using Zomig Oro (you just put one under your Tongue and let it dissolve), it really is a lifesaver and I carry 2 everywhere.
    10 years ago my GP (back in France) got me to try a few different triptans, and this one (zolmitriptan) was the best. Use it at the first sign of a migraine (we sufferer know how to differentiate a migraine from a headache) and you won’t feel like sawing your head off.
    Guess migraine medicine really is trial and error, so if your prescribed treatment doesn’t hit the spot go back to your GP and ask for alternative!

  • Aisling says:

    I seem to go through episodes every couple of years when for months I get regular migraines every few days. Then it recedes and I only get them every now and then. Last year was a bad year. Imigran (the one you spray up your nose) usually works for me, but I need to top it up with Nurofen Plus quite often

    And I’m a teeth grinder (I’ve put my jaw out doing it) and that makes things worse.

  • Kirstie says:

    Celine – definitely, I far prefer zomig to imigran, they seem to have less nasty zippy side effects

  • Annie H says:

    I find acupuncture amazing for keeping migraine away! I would have suffered from extreme migraine/cluster headaches which in some cases lasted up to 4 weeks!!! Started acupuncture and it keeps it under control.

  • Lorraine says:

    I get the stabbing pain behind one eye regularly, though it’s not bad enough to cause me to go to ground over it.

    I do have a weird related condition called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, where I can have a migraine aura but no pain. Instead I get all sorts of weird sensations like I’m on a boat, rocking from side to side or my perceptions of size and space change. Sometimes my hands feel like they’ve got HUGE, other times I can feel like I’m actually Alice and I’ve shrunk!

    I didn’t realise OTC pills were in any way decent, I’ve been wondering how the tabs would work with the aura – anyone know?

  • lyonsie says:

    I’ve suffered with chronic neuropathic pain for about 5 years now, its thankfully in remission at the moment and I’m even off all my meds which is the best feeling ever.
    I found that the key to getting proper treatment was having a good GP and neurologist (thankfully I have both). But I wasted nearly a full year with a doctor in the migraine clinic in cork who just point blank didnt believe that me pain could be so severe 24 hours a day and that the medications he prescribed didnt work, it was incredibly frustrating, he also refused to refer me on to someone else, in the end my GP referred me to my current neurologist and it was the best decision ever.
    It still took years to get to where I am today but it was so reassuring to have a doctor that listened to me and wasnt afraid to try new treatments and ask for second opinions.
    I would strongly recommend to anyone changing doctors or requesting a second opinion if you feel you’re not being listened to or getting the care you deserve.


      My Mum suffers terribly from migraine and like you she is bed bound for 24 hours regularly I would be very interested to know what combination of meds finally worked for you thanks, Antonia

  • Lorrrrrraine says:

    I got the weird vision thing for the first time there, thought I was losing it.

    Aisling – I just saw your comment about grinding teeth, I often wake up doing it or catch myself doing it before I doze off – it that what triggers ‘em?

  • Gracie says:

    I have got to try Zomig! For me migraine = me alone in a dark room with absolutely no sound or any other “head-pounding” triggers. I would go mental if someone tries to talk to me or make any other sound at that point.

  • Zoulikha says:

    I’ve been suffering with migraines for 18 years. Tried betablockers (had very extreme bad reaction), zomig (made no difference) and over counter painkillers (dont work anymore). At the moment i’m treated in st vincents migraine clinic and i’m on anti nausea meds, frovex and cataflam. This seems to do the job most of the time. Esp. Antinausea meds as my tummy used to be in bits with migraine.

    • gem says:

      I am also being seen at that same clinic and have same meds, i don’t find they help at all though :( took the frovex for the first time the other day but didn’t help much. Going back in a few months time to see what else we can do, they seem to think the mirena coil would help as mine are linked to hormones, did they say this to you?

  • Laura says:

    I get migraines too but, thankfully, not regularly. They usually start with vision disturbance, which gets progressively worse for a half hour or so, then recedes. Then the throbbing pain comes. I usually find that a 75mg Difene tablet does it for me. Haven’t tried anything else (other than OTC stuff) but am happy to stick with Difene.

    @Stephcie: I’m not sure if this applies to you, but if you get numbness with migraines, you shouldn’t be taking hormonal contraceptives (eg. the pill, implant, etc.) Apparently it can increase the risk of stroke. I sometimes get an odd feeling of tenderness in one side of my face, like I was punched the day before, and my doctor advised me not to continue taking the pill. If anyone’s concerned about it, they should speak to their doctor.

  • z.ky says:

    I very occasionally suffer from migraines, and the infrequency has never caused me to seek relief. Stupid as it sounds, I had never thought of migraine tablets as a thing before – I always popped some Nurofen or Panadol and hoped for the best. The price puts me off, but I think I’ll go looking for the generic version – cheers for the heads up!

  • Kersti says:

    You’ve inspired me to write about my own experiences. One of the big things I noted was the sheer cost of having migraines in Ireland – I’m sure that this causes more suffering than having those drugs on script only could ever do good for.

    But if anyone is suffering, see someone and get the ball rolling – there’s no need to suffer in this day and age.

  • May says:

    Laura-not all pills carry a pro thrombotic risk. It’s the combined oral contraceptive pill that is not prescribed for patients with migraine with aura. Progrsterone only pill is fine.

  • calamityjane says:

    I’ve been getting migraines for 24 years (wow, can’t believe it’s that long. )
    I discovered Zomig 9 years ago and haven’t looked back. My migraines are way better controlled now though, so i don’t use it half as much as before. I had been on beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, did a trial for Topamax then moved onto amytriptiline. None of them dramatically reduced the frequency of the migraines. I was going to the migraine clinic in beaumont and a lovely doctor suggested I come off the pill to see if it would help which it did. I’m now off all meds for 5 years (other than zomig when i really need it).
    I think i’m alot more sensible now about diet, sleep, alcohol and do alot to try to deal with stress, such as breathing exercises, fresh air and yoga. It sounds too simple to work but my migraines now tend to be stress related so these are really helpful.
    I think the main thing for anyone to remember is that no 2 people’s migraines are exactly the same, despite the similarities and you have to persevere until you find what works for you. Keeping a diary is a pain in the neck but can be really helpful to confirm any suspected triggers. oh and reducing the amount of painkillers I was taking has helped too. It took a long time and i wasn’t quite convinced despite everything i read about rebound headache but after years of having a variety of over the counter painkillers in every handbag, drawer etc, all i probably have at home or on my desk is a pack of plain old paracetemol and some zomig buried deep in my bag, just in case.

  • Danni says:

    Hi I’m 15 and get extremely bad migraines the teachers think I’m faking at school so they won’t let me call home when it happens. I have fainted at least five times been sick repeatedly and lost vision in my right eye. When they get really bad sometimes I can’t even feel my legs. Luckily I’m seeing a neurologist at the moment. I was just wondering are there any inexpensive medication as it is quite expensive and over the counter doesn’t really work for me.

  • LouiseEL says:

    Hi all, first post! Never felt the urge to respond until i read this post. I suffered from migraines for years, esp the week before a period. I would have to lie in a dark room for hours and would still be rightly shook for several days after, nauseous, tired, down in general. That all changed when i went to see an osteopath. I am cured!! Long story but it didnt take too many treatments and his explaination of what was causing it made total sense.

  • Baglady says:

    Great post, I’ve suffered from migraine since I was a child, I take frovex or I buy Imagran online. I’m getting them too often though and the meds don’t always work. I think I probably need an Neurologist at this stage.

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