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How to Deal with Migraine

The Quick Way

Changing all those things that are mentioned below would amount to a major upheaval in anyone's life and you may be happy to compromise with a reduction of migraines rather than attempting to eliminate them altogether. When you have read them you may think that some of the elements of the regime are more important than others and would settle for the most important in each category. If so the skeleton regime below is for you. The technique outlined in this book supposes that migraine has the three main factors as its cause, and that one of the three will be more important than the others. If you attack one aspect diligently, wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, then you stand at the very best a one-in-three chance of getting a good improvement. That good improvement would only happen if your migraines were completely caused by one factor and the others had no influence at all and that you had by good fortune chosen that factor to address. For instance you could rigidly exclude milk and all the other foods to which you were intolerant but if part of the problem was stress then you would not get as good a result as if you had dealt also with that stress and attended to the hereditary factors. However if you attack all three factors in the same diligent way you are as certain as you can be that you will sort things out. The results indicate that about seven in ten people with migraine will have milk intolerance, seven in ten with migraine who use the tape/cd will improve and six in ten who use Butterbur-Petasin will have fewer and or less severe migraine attacks. Assuming now that the three factors appear in individuals in equal proportions this means that the very least we can expect is that about three in ten will get an improvement. So the best chance that you get attacking just one factor is roughly equal to your worst chance in attacking all three.

Life is never as simple and ordered as that and in real life each of the factors has a proportionately different influence and that makes the chances worse if you only deal with one factor. The problem is that we cannot know whether most of your problem is food intolerance, or stress, or heredity and so if you choose just one factor to address you are relying on luck to pick the right one and succeed. Dealing with all three is far more certain to produce a satisfactory result. Furthermore attacking the most probable thing with the most effective tool on each of the three fronts gives the best lazy chance.

These are the action points:-

  • Eliminate milk and milk products for 18 months
  • Listen to the cd or mp3 daily for 6 months
  • Take for 6 months
  • Consider the use of a medical electrical stimulating device

The More Complete Way

The previous sections presented the three main factors in the time order that they began their influence on your body. This section starts with the general measures that can be taken but follows up with the three factors in order of overall benefit achieved by action on them. As a prelude there is a section on "General Measures" that should be the foundation and lifelong basis for action The second section is "Stress" action on which certainly will produce benefits in other areas of your life and may well be the most important factor in the largest number of migraineurs; The third is "food intolerance" action on which may well produce benefits in other areas And the last is "heredity" where the action and benefits are specifically for migraine although recent research shows that Butterbur-Petasin is effective in hay fever as well as migraine.

General Measures

Because migraine is a problem that comes and goes and leaves you feeling perfectly healthy between times, it is difficult to suggest advice that will not seem overly restrictive during those days when things are normal. It is difficult to be disciplined when you are waiting for something not to happen. The list of factors implicated in migraine can be split into four categories. These lists are not exhaustive and the things are mentioned so as to give you a few pointers in the direction of where to look for trigger factors. Environmental factors These include: - bright lights, flashing lights, smoky atmospheres, perfumes, over cold or over hot environments, exertion, too much or too little sleep, the weather, fever, the general disturbance caused by travelling, and head injury. It is very difficult to provide anything other than an outline list, as the number of precipitating factors is as many as there are people with migraine. Most migraineurs will have a good idea from their experience what the likely factors are in their special case. Are you causing your own headaches? There is a well-recognised problem that occurs in about one in eight people who regularly take painkillers for any reason. This is known as the "medication induced headache" and can occur if you take more than six 200mg ibuprofen or four 500mg paracetamol (acetaminophen) on a daily basis. If you have been doing this then it is worthwhile stopping these for three weeks in order to wash the drugs out of your system. You may even find that this is all you need to do to stop your headaches. Be warned though, that this is an approach that will give you a difficult three or four days dealing with the withdrawal symptoms but it is very worthwhile being persistent in eliminating these drugs despite the headaches in the early days of the withdrawal.

Food Factors

A direct effect unrelated to the leaky gut syndrome may be produced by a long list of foods. These include: - chocolate, oranges, tomatoes, shellfish, pork, beef, tea, soy, coffee, alcohol (especially red wine and spirits) and onions. Some of the food additives that have been implicated as triggers are benzoic acid (a food preservative), monosodium glutamate (a flavour enhancer often used in oriental cooking) and nitrites (used in curing meats). These direct food factors produce their effects within a couple of hours and migraines caused by them can usually be clearly related to the last one or two meals. This makes them relatively easy to identify and eliminate. These foods are not specifically related to the cause of the leaky gut syndrome but are

How to Deal with Stress

The Important Starting Point!:- Keep a diary covering at least four distinct migraine attacks and closely look at the 48 hours before each attack to identify any common factors. Eliminate those factors, starting with the easiest first.

Stress Reduction

Stress reduction is big business these days and there are a great many stress counsellors and companies providing plans to help people address the stress of modern living. The basic ideas of stress reduction are simple and in the spirit of this advice they will be presented to you simply. The main objective in stress reduction is to reduce the amount of the hormonal soup that circulates in the blood as a result of the long-term arousal of the fight or flight process and which in turn cause the long-term problems associated with stress. It is the prolonged high levels of this hormonal soup that are not dispersed by physical activity that contribute to the stress and thus the migraine. The ways that this can be achieved are to prevent the hormonal soup being made in the first place (Routines, identification and elimination of stressors, talking therapies) and doing something to make it go away once it is there (touching therapies, and physical exercise), These things may not always be practical in every day life so there are various self managed therapies including brief contact therapy, electrotherapy and biofeedback or any other reputable talking therapy on cd or mp3)


Prevention of stress is achieved by taking control of your life in areas where you feel that it is out of control and that involves living with a routine that is comfortable for you. Some people find that they manage better with a rigidly timed routine and others like the day split into three or four compartments where the boundaries are moveable. For instance, the person who always leaves for work at 8am; arrives there at 9 am; opens the post until 10am; answers the letters until 10.30 and then has precisely 15 minutes for a coffee would find the kind of regime that I followed quite happily as a GP to be too loose. By contrast I would have found the rigidly timetabled life too restrictive.

I used to arrive at the surgery at 9am and see my morning patients until they were all seen, then have a coffee whilst dealing with the correspondence and repeat prescriptions. After that would come the house calls and if time permitted a swim at lunchtime. At 3 pm I returned to the surgery and completed any paperwork before seeing the afternoon patients. There were few fixed timings in that routine and an important point - it also factored in some time for myself that involved exercise.

Point 2:- Have a comfortable routine that works for you (preferably written down) and stick to it.

Stressor Resolution

There are many things that produce stress in our lives whether at home, at work or generally in the world. They will continue to cause havoc and produce and maintain the harmful hormonal soup if they are not addressed or avoided. At the end of every day it is worthwhile spending ten minutes replaying the events of the day that has just ended and identifying one cause of stress for action. The most important part of that process is making sure that the identification is accurate enough to be able to deal with the problem sensibly. For instance it is no good saying that the problem is "I hate my boss and everything she does" because that is not a specific enough problem to be able to be solved. It would need to be a much more specific issue such as "My boss criticised that last report that I wrote". Having identified the problem then you will need to form a plan to solve it.

A potential plan for the example given would be to see your boss and find out exactly and specifically what was wrong with that report. This would also require the goodwill of your boss and your boss's willingness to sort things out, because she will need to calmly define what she thought was wrong in order to tell you in a way that enables you to act sensibly and solve the problem. This might turn out to be impossible for your boss who will have her own stresses. You will always need to be prepared to mark some problems as insoluble. In that circumstance you will need to decide whether you can put up with the problem being insoluble as it is or whether you need to get out of the situation that you are in. That can be a very difficult decision but it needs to be faced. Either way forward is an improvement on a simmering resentment.

Similar examples may occur in your home life. The day needs to be examined at its end and a defined stressor identified. For example "I hate the way he moans about my cooking" is not a soluble problem, whereas "We must find out what we would both like and cook it together" turns the issue into an action that could be performed constructively. As you can see the first statement concentrates on the hate you have towards the moaning which is your response to the problem rather than the issue itself, which is the cooking. The second alternative concentrates on finding out the detail of the problem so that it may be addressed. These are probably different approaches to those that you have tried before and the best way of breaking the vicious cycle of anger and blame is always to do something unexpected. Whilst the example given is unlikely to be serious enough to cause a break-up of the relationship in an extreme case the problem may not be soluble at all. Then you have to focus away from it or have to accept and tolerate it or remove yourself from the situation; the last is a most difficult and serious decision.

Point 3:- Sort out a stressor a day.

Talking Therapies

There are a great many talking therapies that are effective in dealing with stress. They come in many guises but some of the best known are: - cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy, autogenic training, relaxation and visualisation, meditation and counselling. The scientific evidence of their effectiveness is slowly being produced. Migraine is a well researched problem in this area and there are many published papers dating back to the 1970s. These suggest that hypnotherapy is a treatment of choice for people with migraine. However it would be helpful to investigate and choose a suitable one for yourself, if only to provide relaxation on a regular basis.

Brief Contact Therapy

This is one technique with scientific evidence. The editor of the European Society of Hypnosis Journal (Hypnos) coined this name when that journal published one of my research papers. Hypnos is a peer-reviewed journal of high standing in the hypnosis world. This means that the research was reviewed by at least three independent experts who are not known to the researcher. There is always suspicion that any work produced by a lone researcher is biased and almost anything he says or writes invites the response "he would say that wouldn't he". The use of peer reviewing ensures that the research is reputable and unbiased as the reputation of the publication rests on the rigour of its science, protected by the independent peer review. The research in question into migraine used a relaxation visualisation technique recorded on to audiotapes and showed that three months after they started listening to the tapes 83% of the participants had an improvement in either the frequency or the severity of their migraines or indeed both. Round about 70% had a markedly noticeable improvement.

I believe that migraine, irritable bowel syndrome and eczema share a common causation and may be looked at as different facets of the same problem, and that they potentially share a common remedy. There are Cd and MP3 based self hypnosis techniques. Select one that suits you. Any further selection of treatment or therapist is beyond the scope of this advice.

Point 4:-See your therapist regularly and/or listen to cd or mp3 daily according to its instructions.

Touching Therapies

Touching and massaging therapies release "happy hormones" into the body that are different from the fight and flight complex. These produce relaxation of mind and body and cut the production of the stress inducing hormonal soup. Touching and massage can usefully be combined with the talking therapies that work on the stressful thoughts, rather than their effects. Touching and Massaging therapies include Indian Head Massage, Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Shiatsu, and Acupuncture. It is important to mention that any massage of the neck and shoulders that loosens spasm of the neck muscles will generally increase the blood flow to those neck muscles. Although that would seem to be harmful during the over widened phase of migraine the diversion of the blood from the head to the neck will reduce the flow through the widened blood vessels, and thus reduce their size and all its bad effects. Massage and osteopathy directed at the neck, would seem to be more likely to be beneficial because of their focus on the neck. There are many institutions that provide part time tuition for basic touch therapies such as head massage and aromatherapy so it may be worthwhile investigating these to practice with your partner.

Point 5:- Choose a touching therapy and have it regularly

Biofeedback and Neuromuscular Stimulating Therapy (TENS)

Biofeedback is a system that allows you to hear your degree of anxiety by taking a measurement such as the electrical resistance of the skin or the pulse rate that alters when you are stressed. This is then turned into a sound. In the case of the skin resistance it is a low or high-pitched squeak, if related to the pulse it is a simple beep at the pulse rate. You can then hear that and concentrate on it and change it to the level that you want. It takes a little practice but is easily mastered. This then acts as a self-relaxer.

This short subsection is very important, as it is the only section in this advice devoted to something that will provide a do-it-yourself action for the acute attack.

Neuromuscular Stimulating Therapy (TENS) is the application of an electrical stimulus to make the muscles contract. It is safely provided in migraine by a placing electrodes on the shoulders and passing a very small but suitable current between them. This causes them to contract. The effect is like massage and diverts the excess blood away from the brain so relieving the acute symptoms of the migraine. The area of medical electrical stimulation is very specialised and beyond the scope of this little book. Moreover some devices may be harmful if inappropriately used for migraine so it is important to obtain proper advice about the right devices for you.

Point 6:-Get advice and if appropriate buy and use a Neuromuscular Stimulating Machine and/or Biofeedback machine

Exercise Therapies

Exercise therapies can be expensive and so is the gym or swimming pool. Exercise, especially something like brisk walking for half an hour three times a week, will help to reduce the harmful hormonal soup; will release quantities of helpful "happy hormones" and is potentially free. What you are doing in effect is initiating the flight response in a controlled way. It does not matter too much if this flight is some hours after the hormonal soup has been produced because the object is to reduce the longterm background quantities of these hormones and this is what regular exercise does. The cheapest form of exercise is brisk walking. Jogging is probably less helpful from a general viewpoint as there is a tendency to injure leg and back joints from the constant jarring on hard surfaces. If you are at all overweight then swimming is probably the best exercise as this removes this risk of joint jarring and subsequent injury.

In a Nutshell!

  • Keep a Diary of 4 distinct attacks of Migraine
  • Have routine and stick to it
  • Sort out a stressor a day
  • See your therapist regularly and/or listen to cd/mp3
  • Have a touching therapy
  • Consider a TENS machine
  • Exercise for half an hour three times a week
Index What is Migraine? Leaky Gut Syndrome Heredity in Migraine Herbal Remedies in Migraine The FISH Regime in One Place


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