What is a migraine?

A migraine is usually felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head, but can affect both sides. There are two main subtypes; migraine without an aura and migraine with an aura. An aura is a signal from the brain that a migraine is beginning, and can include a range of symptoms (usually visual) that develop gradually from 5 minutes to an hour before the pain of the migraine.

Signs and symptoms of migraines:

It’s common for migraines to develop in stages, although some people experience them in different ways.

  • Stage one: Pre-headache stage with changes to mood, energy levels, behaviour and appetite. It can last for hours or days before an episode.
  • Stage two: Around 30% of people experience an aura - visual or other sensory problems, such as flashes of light, blind spots, or zig-zag patterns. Most last for 5 minutes to an hour.
  • Stage three: Headaches with throbbing pain, often to one side of the head, feeling sick, vomiting, or experiencing extreme sensitivity to bright light and sound. It can last 4-72 hours.
  • Stage four: Resolution. The headache and other symptoms fade away, but feelings of tiredness can last for a number of days afterwards.

Other symptoms of migraines include difficulty concentrating, nausea or vomiting, numbness in the hands or face and/or feeling low or irritable.

Causes of migraines

The exact migraine causes are unknown. Changes in the body and external environment may cause the brain to become extra-sensitive, which triggers the release of substances that cause inflammation within regions of the brain. This inflammation affects the blood vessels in the brain that supply the nerves, therefore creating headache pain – this may explain the throbbing nature of pain associated with migraines. As the sensitivity increases, the symptoms get worse and it becomes difficult to control the headache attack. It’s believed that genes play a role in migraine causes as many sufferers have a close relative who experiences migraines too.

Migraine headaches can be triggered by a number of factors, either alone or in combination. Some of the triggers of migraines are:

  • Hormonal changes, e.g., during the menstrual cycle
  • Missing meals
  • Changes in the weather
  • Altered sleeping patterns, e.g., too much or too little sleep
  • Excessive heat, light, noise or certain chemicals
  • Stress, excitement or tiredness
  • Stressful or overworked periods followed by relaxation (e.g., weekend migraines)
  • Certain foods or drinks, e.g., cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits, alcohol (often red wine).

How to relieve migraines

While there’s no cure for migraines, there are lots of options available to help manage your migraines and reduce the symptoms.

Try the following remedies for migraine relief.

Take a break

If you feel a migraine coming on, try to not move around too much and take time to rest. A migraine may be your body telling you to slow down, particularly if you find it appears when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Take time off work and ask for help with any work, family or personal responsibilities you may have.

Dim the lights

Your brain is extra-sensitive during a migraine, so it’s a good idea to remove anything that might stimulate you in the room. This means turning off the TV, closing your computer and not reading anything. It’s a good idea to dim the lights and lie down in a cool, quiet room to rest your eyes.

Cool down

Use an ice pack to relieve any swelling or pressure you may feel in your head and neck. Try taking a cold flannel and gently placing it on your forehead or neck whilst lying down for 15 minutes. If you don’t have an ice pack or flannel, try wrapping a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel, or even taking a cold shower might help.

Get hydrated

Sometimes dehydration can trigger migraine headaches so taking small sips of water may help to ease your migraine pain. Better yet, if you drink cool, iced water, it can help you to cool down whilst keeping hydrated for a double migraine-busting effect.

Add ginger

Ginger is sometimes used to help relieve nausea and vomiting, so if your migraine is making you feel sick, it might be a good idea to take small sips of some ginger tea. Simply cut 1 inch of ginger into small pieces, and let it simmer in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Of course, don’t try this if tea or warm drinks trigger your migraine symptoms in any way.

Ease the pressure

Since migraine headaches are associated with pressure from the blood vessels in the brain, it makes sense to remove any additional pressure on your scalp or head. Take off any hats or headbands you might be wearing. If you have a ponytail, try loosening it or wearing your hair down.

Avoid chewing

Try to relax your face and jaw to avoid creating more tension in your head and neck. Sometimes missing a meal can trigger a migraine, so if you think eating food will help, avoid chewing anything that’s crunchy or sticky. Make sure you take small bites and avoid any foods that might trigger your migraine, such as chocolate or citrus fruits.

Relax your mind

Training your body to relax can do wonders for a migraine, particularly if it’s triggered by stress or being overworked. Try practising relaxation through meditation and gentle yoga. You may find that listening to some peaceful music and taking deep breaths helps to relieve tension in your head and neck.

Have a snooze

Poor sleep can trigger migraine headaches, so trying to sleep off your migraine may help to reduce migraine pain. Not only can sleep help when you’re experiencing a migraine, but having a regular sleeping pattern and improving your quality of sleep can help to prevent migraines in the long-term.

Get help with pain relief

If you find that these suggestions haven’t helped to relieve your migraine, try over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen. If you experience nausea or vomiting, speak to your doctor about other treatments available.

What is ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen helps to relieve pain (like headaches), fever and inflammation. It works by blocking substances in the body that promote inflammation and make the nerves more sensitive to pain. Ibuprofen tablets, capsules or liquids can be taken with water.

How Nurofen Quickzorb can help

Migraine sufferers know that it is important to act at the first sign of discomfort to help relieve the headache pain.

Nurofen Quickzorb contains a form of ibuprofen called ibuprofen lysine, an advanced formula for fast absorption* in the body to quickly relieve headaches.

*Miles T et al 2018.

When to seek medical help

Contact your GP if you are experiencing new, frequent (more than six days a month) or severe migraines or if you are concerned at all about your headache.

You should also seek medical advice if you find light or noise painful or this is not usual for your migraines

Minimising the onset of migraines

It’s a good idea to keep a diary so you can recognise when you are vulnerable and make appropriate changes. For example, you may notice that stress or certain types of food are triggering your migraines.

Small lifestyle changes can also minimise the chances of dealing with migraines. Things like frequent exercise, regular mealtimes, and lots of water throughout the day are good to incorporate into your daily life. Of course, avoiding alcoholic drinks and coffee can help too, as these beverages often lead to dehydration.

If you have made changes and have been avoiding any possible triggers, but your symptoms persist or you are still concerned about your migraines, seek advice from your doctor.

Other types of headaches

Sinus-related headaches

Sinus headaches can occur as a result of inflamed sinuses and the build-up of mucus. This results in a feeling of pressure and pain in cheekbones, forehead and around the eyes.

Tension headaches

A tension headache feels like an aching type of pain. It can feel as if there is pressure on your head like it’s being squeezed.


This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.


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