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All posts for the day October 25th, 2011

Migraine is a pain in the neck as well as in the head

Published 25/10/2011 by damselwithadulcimer

I’ve suffered and struggled with migraines for at least thirty years.  On my worst days I just have to give in to them and rest, but at other times I try to keep going and certainly find it helps a little to swear at them, in the hopes that they really will b****r off!

I can’t believe that I’ve only just discovered (and joined) Migraine Action, an association that was founded in 1958 to support migraineurs and specialist clinics and to help research into migraine, its causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment.  I had the opportunity to attend their recent AGM and education day in London, and am so pleased that I didn’t have a migraine on that day and had the opportunity to meet so many other sufferers, and to listen to, and get advice from, some of the country’s leading specialists in the field.

The day was focused on three major topics.  The first one was a talk on preventative treatments for migraine and was presented by Dr Manjit Matharu, a consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, where the day was also organised.  The first interesting fact I gleaned is that migraine is a brain disorder and there are approximately five million sufferers in the UK.  Although there are a few basic symptoms, many of us also report other experiences and variations, and a horrifying third of all patients don’t respond to any treatments.  We talked about the various over-the-counter analgesics that are available (although they must be taken at far higher doses), complementary supplements that can be bought, along with the recommended doses, and the prescription only preventatives, along with any side effects.  We were also given scientific data relating to the trials of the various medications, so that we could weigh up how useful they have proved and compare their use to the results achieved from taking placebos.

Dr Andrew Dowson is the Director of Headache Services at King’s College Hospital in London.  He outlined the available acute treatments and the latest research into treating migraine.  Again we were given facts and figures regarding treatments and learned about some of the research that is currently ongoing.  This includes needle free injections and transdermal patches.  He also explained the differences between the various triptans that are generally prescribed to treat migraines, and advised me to try an alternative to the one I’ve been taking for years.  So I’m off to see my doctor next week, duly armed with my information.

The third speaker was Dr Sue Lipscombe who is both a GP, and a headache specialist.  She was more interested in discussing ways of managing migraines and also of encouraging alternative and complementary therapies and treatments.  Although scientific data rules out the effectiveness of chiropractic and acupuncture (to name but two) we were given evidence to show that these treatments have worked with some sufferers.  Nobody is sure if there is a placebo effect or how the results can be explained, but it seems there is a case to be answered for these other therapies.  She even cited a sceptical patient, who had no belief in a therapy being offered to her, but who contacted her several weeks later, having been migraine free since that time.

All in all an extremely useful and informative day and a chance to chat to other migraineurs.  It was a shame to learn that Migraine Action is struggling to raise funds just now, so we need to recruit as many members as possible, and to find other fundraising routes.

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Collecting for Charity

Published 25/10/2011 by damselwithadulcimer

As part of my ongoing involvement with my local branch of Mencap, I sometimes shake a collecting box outside a local supermarket.   Last week it was the turn of the nearest Tesco (in fact they only allow one collection day a year).  Unfortunately it’s not one of the more lucrative spots either, but a couple of hours spent coercing the public here and there is never wasted.  Even when passersby remark on how cold I appear, I remind them that I choose to be cold for a couple of hours, but the people I’m supporting have no choice and are disabled for life.

The two hours that I give up of my time seem to pass really quickly.  Although the collecting tin might feel rather empty to start with, it’s made worthwhile by those who drop money through the slot.  Many people will just give a pound or a fifty pence piece and others will empty all their small change into my tin.  I’ve also had the extremes: one lady folded a five pound note and poked it through the opening, whilst somebody donated one penny last week.  I kept quiet and reminded myself that I had no idea of his particular circumstances.

There are those who push past me with their shopping trolleys as if I’m obstructing them, some look me in the eye and walk past, and others mutter something about no change, or having spent it all on their shopping.  Whenever somebody stops before reaching me and fumbles in their bag, wallet or purse I’m always hopeful, but sometimes they’re only hunting for their car keys.  On the other hand, it’s a pleasant surprise when somebody pats me on the back, having passed me, and offers me money.  Of course young children always love to feed money into a collecting box, and love to have a sticker in return.  Very often I find that elderly or disabled people are the most empathetic and will donate to Mencap.

A couple of events stick out from my last collection.  The first was a very heavily pregnant young woman who staggered to the bench outside the entrance, holding her bump from underneath.  Whilst she was sitting down she kept massaging her pregnant stomach and I wondered if I was going to have to be a midwife as well as a charity collector.  However she assured me that the baby was very active and she just couldn’t manage without a rest.

I was also kept company by a gorgeous King Charles spaniel.  The owner left him outside whilst she shopped, and he kept seducing me with his big brown eyes.  He was such a sweetheart, with long, silky ears and I was sorry to see him leave.

Collecting gives me a chance to chat to strangers.  Many will stop to talk, will ask about the cause, or will just pass the time in a good natured way.  We exchange jokes, such as threatening to catch them on their way out, and one lady even remarked how I’d managed to change sex as the previous collector (when she entered) had been a man, and I was now the one rattling the tin.  It all goes some way to restoring your faith in human nature and making you feel that you are helping to contribute something for others who are less fortunate.  There are many demanding causes.  We can’t all contribute financially to everything, but we can donate some of our time.