Thursday, 18 September 2008


Over the years I have had toothache and abscesses galore; I have smashed up my knees in a scooter accident; had gall stones; angina; kidney stones; and host of other things go wrong with my body. Of these, passing kidney stones is about the most painful. But even that doesn’t match up to a good old-fashioned migraine. And even a migraine does not match up to watching one’s son have a migraine and being unable to do anything about it. Fortunately Richard rarely gets them nowadays but when he did it was horrible to see.

Nowadays I am fortunate enough to be able to stave most of my migraines off with drugs. I take Pizotifen on a daily basis as a preventative and then Imigran – the biggest life-saving drug in my vocabulary – once a migraine commences. Nevertheless, Imigran takes half an hour to work – assuming it does – and if I awaken with a migraine that is half an hour that can be distinctly unpleasant.

Over the years I have tried many recipes for getting rid of migraines or lessening their impact; from Chinese massage to herbal teas but nowadays I rely heavily on gel masks. If you suffer from migraines or any sort of headache I most strongly recommend that you get a couple and keep them in the fridge. Make sure they are quite bulky (the thin ones warm up in no time), have a comfortable strap, and are made of soft plastic (the hard plastic digs into your face). The best ones I have found were given to me by Jo and came from a chemist – they have clear gel, not blue but unfortunately don’t have a manufacturer’s name on them. It is irrelevant whether they have eye holes on not since in all likelihood you’ll be lying down with your eyes closed!

You can either leave one in the fridge and swap them over as necessary or use both together - one over your eyes / forehead and the other on the back of the neck. For this reason I always have at least three in the fridge!

Gel masks also have the advantage that apart from staggering to the fridge and back you don’t have to DO anything. People who have never suffered from a migraine often fail to realise that action of any sort can be virtually impossible when a migraine has taken hold. I find, for example, that a cup of very sweet tea (Yes, Pat, even more sugar than normal) and a piece of toast can be helpful – but only if there’s someone there to make it for me.

Putting one’s feet in a bath of hot water while using the gel mask or putting cold wet flannels on one’s head is said be helpful but who, with a migraine, is going to be able run the bath and sit on the edge of it?

Similarly, freshly made ginger, chamomile and lindenflower tea is alleged to be good but it takes twenty minutes to prepare so that is out. Nevrtheless the recipe may be of interest -
8 fl oz of water
1 teaspoon fresh chopped ginger root
1 taspoon dried chamomile
1 teaspoon dried linden flower
Simmer the ginger in the water in a covered pot for ten minutes. Remove from the heat. Add Chamomile and Linden and steep for ten minutes. Strain and sweeten if necessary. Drink hot.

Quicker and more likely to be of help is a simple ginger tea. At the first sign of a migraine mix a third of a teaspoon of powdered ginger into a glass of warm water and drink it. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compounds that may be able to halt a migraine attack.

Massaging one’s temples with a couple of drops of lavender essential oil is more practical but even then I tend to take the easier option and just put a few drops on my pillow instead.

At the end of the day, the only two real solutions I have found are Imigran and gel masks. Imigran is available on prescription or, now, direct from the chemist but at some unGodly price per tablet and you have to fill in a form giving your shoe size to get them. But gel masks are well worth every penny spent on them so if you don’t have one and you suffer from migraines go out and buy a couple now!

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