Nicole O'Connor suffers from migraines five days a week and has some advice on how to minimise your discomfort

Two years previous to being diagnosed with migraines, I had been hit by a car while coming home from school. 

It resulted in a large amount of ligament damage in my legs as well as large amounts of tissue damage. Despite complaining of a headache the night of the accident, I never had it checked. After a few days the headache went away but it recurred regularly.

After two years of suffering with disabling headaches, you’d think I would’ve gotten used to the symptoms; dizziness, nausea and numbness. I haven’t. Sometimes I become so sensitive to light and sound that I can’t complete a simple task. Even taking a bath becomes arduous because the sound of the water and bubbles is magnified to an unbearable level.

Diagnosing migraines is not an easy task. And it’s made even less so when your doctor doesn’t believe you. I remember the first time I went to my doctor with a migraine headache, she told me I was stressed and gave me some paracetamol. The second time, she gave me Imigran, a specific tablet for migraines. But still no joy. The third time I went to see her, I couldn’t keep anything down and was finding it difficult to hold my head up. She handed me a prescription for tranquilisers and told me I was depressed. I was understandably insulted at the misdiagnosis.

It wasn’t until my tenth visit over a two-month period that another doctor in the surgery sent me for a blood test. After passing out during the blood test, I was admitted to hospital with a suspected brain aneurism. I was hospitalised for about a week before being released with a cocktail of medication and a referral letter for a neurology consultant. I was assured it was just a migraine. 

It’s been two years since my diagnosis. I was hospitalised again this summer as a result of disabling migraines which led me to experience stroke-like symptoms. I am currently awaiting an appointment with neurology and am considering going private for an MRI.

Despite learning to deal with my migraines and accept the condition for what it is, I still find it heart-breaking when people say “It’s just a headache.” 

It is not just a headache, not when it affects my life so much. 

It prevents me from enjoying some of the everyday college activities, including completing assignments, attending lectures and having a social life. A normal headache does not make you feel exhausted and hungover once you have finally rid yourself of it.

I suffer from migraines five out of seven days each week. With this in mind, I thought I would share some remedies and tips I find useful for getting some relief.

Something I have found extremely useful over the years is coffee. I am aware it does not work for everyone, but if you have a cup shortly after taking painkillers it constricts the blood vessels, helping the tablets to kick-in quicker.

An ice pack is another tool to rid yourself of a migraine. The coldness can be a relief, particularly if your head is hot. When I lie down with an ice pack at the base of my neck and an ice cold cloth on my forehead, the pain eases.

I would avoid taking tablets every time you have a headache, as this can lead to pain due to medication overuse which, needless to say, is unpleasant. Try and sit some of your minor headaches out on your own. Some yoga routines help with relieving headaches and migraines and are usually take only five or ten minutes. If you are a migraine sufferer, maybe look into preventive medication.

In terms of preventing headaches, I would suggest you keep regular meal times and avoid dairy or other trigger foods. Go to bed around the same every night and get up the same time each day, even on the weekends. 

Avoid wearing your hair up tight where possible as this can also contribute to headaches. You should also drink plenty or water to prevent dehydration

The biggest tip I can give you is to keep a headache diary because everyone has different triggers. Just because chocolate doesn’t affect your sister’s migraines, that doesn’t mean it won’t affect yours. It can be a great tool in helping you reduce the amount of headaches you experience each month and may help you identify what is the best way to rid yourself of it.