Avoiding Festive Migraine

Christmas may seem full of migraine triggers; late nights & alcohol, flashing lights, frantic last-minute preparations, over excitement and travel. Migraine is horrible at any time, but at Christmas, it can really spoil the fun. There is the inevitable guilt of letting down those closest to you and the accompanying strain on relationships. In anticipation, migraineurs can be reassured that with careful planning and lifestyle changes, their focus can be on enjoying the festivities.

1. Pace

Recognise your limitations - plan and pace your activities and resist the urge to stretch yourself too thinly. There is a temptation for migraineurs to do too much, to push too hard and overcompensate on good days, increasing the risk of migraine.

2. Routine

Try to stick to a regular sleeping and eating pattern where possible. If late nights are unavoidable, at least be vigilant of other avoidable triggers on those days. Catching up with a lie-in is often counter-productive for migraine sufferers. Avoid too many sugary foods and don't skip meals. A healthy breakfast and frequent snacks with protein-rich almonds, fruits and vegetables will help to maintain optimal blood sugar levels and prevent migraines.

3. Exercise

Start your New Year’s resolutions early by exercising regularly and getting out in the fresh air. Light cardio exercise kicks in endorphins, improves the neurochemical balance in your brain and prevents a stress 'let down' headache after a busy day.

4. Alcohol

Alcohol is a big trigger for a lot of migraine sufferers but you may be able to get away with the odd glass if you follow the points above and try to:
  • Opt for white wine and clear spirits over red wine and cocktails.
  • Keep hydrated
  • Eat before and after drinking to prevent a drop in your blood-sugar levels. Lining your stomach with fatty food or a glass of whole milk will slow down the rate at which alcohol reaches the bloodstream and reduce irritation in the lining of the stomach.
  • Drink slowly. The body metabolizes approximately one unit of alcohol per hour. If you drink faster than this, alternate an alcoholic drink with water or a soft drink.
If you wake up feeling a little worse for wear eat something light and easy to digest to counteract the effects of the alcohol, try a fructose containing foods combined with carbohydrate eg. toast, honey and fruit juice. Take a couple of pain-killers if you need to, soluble or effervescent forms are useful and avoid drugs containing codeine as they worsen nausea. It’s also best to avoid caffeine as like alcohol, it irritates the stomach.

5. Treatment

If you do feel an attack starting, take action fast. Treating migraine early, drinking plenty and eating fibre and protein regularly are usually effective in stopping or making the attack more tolerable.


Welcoming Patients

We are pleased to say that the majority of patients are so positive when they leave the Centre, and want to do more to help. We felt that this was too good an opportunity to miss engaging them in our cause, so have with the help of a user-led focus group produced a new leaflet that will be handed out to all new patients.

We wanted something for patients to take away with them following their first visit, firstly to promote the idea of community and that we are here to help them longterm, but also to encourage patients to help us in future by spreading the word about us and fundraising. Patients often say to us when they leave, 'I wish I could afford to donate more' so this leaflet contains our suggestions for different ways that they can help, for example taking posters to their GP surgery.  

We hope that it will boost awareness of the condition and NMC's service, increase fundraising activity and maximise longterm engagement with the charity. You can view the leaflet here. We'd love to hear what you think. 

Research Update

Hypnotherapy trial

Some of you participated last year in a trial using hypnotherapy to help with migraine. In total there were 26 participants, three on a one-to-one basis and 23 in groups of seven or eight. We asked for detailed feedback from the participants at the end of the five sessions and then three months and six months later, so we have only recently received the final outcome measures, and would like to thank all those who responded.
The final outcome was very encouraging. Using HIT-6 (a Headache Impact Test score) there was an average improvement of 3.7, 5.2 and 3.7 points at the end of treatment, three months and six months later respectively, a statistically significant result. There was also positive feedback on the use of a group for treatment as participants gained support from sharing their situation with others.
During the five sessions participants learned a number of different self-help techniques, the most fundamental being self-hypnosis. Participants were asked to rate how useful the different techniques were and the majority found self-hypnosis to be the most helpful. However, each person is different and we were expecting that any one technique would appeal to some participants but not all. This proved to be the case. Hypnotic self-help techniques included dissociation, master control room imagery and symptom imagery. There were also some techniques for reducing stress, a common contributory factor for migraine, and for avoiding triggers.
Although there was a considerable variation in the effect on participants only one person would not recommend hypnotherapy to another migraineur, so we are continuing to look for sources of funding to carry out a larger trial. In the meantime, anybody who wants to experience self-hypnosis can do so if they have an iPhone or iPad. Patrick Browning, the clinical hypnotherapist who conducted the trial, has created an app, which you can download for free. Go to the Apple App Store and search on Patrick Browning. Within the app there is a further session (short title "migraine") offering dissociation imagery, and in future there will be other sessions of interest to people with migraine. See also for more information.


All Party Parliamentary Group on Headache

Your experiences of NHS services

The APPG on Primary Headache Disorders has launched an inquiry into care for sufferers in England. Current evidence suggests that headache services in the UK are inefficient and inadequate, failing to address the significant burden of primary headache disorders on the NHS and the economy.
The inquiry will investigate the current provision of care for headache patients in England.  It will build a body of evidence to examine whether opportunities exist in the new NHS system to save money and to improve patient care through the design and commissioning of cost-effective headache services.
We would like to invite you to submit written evidence to the inquiry. All written submissions must be sent, using this questionnaire, to by Wednesday 15th January 2014. Full details can be found on the Headache UK website.  
Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Chair of the group said:
“We want to hear from as many people as possible with experience of NHS services in England.  It is important to the inquiry that the evidence given to the group reflects the experiences of those providing and receiving care for headache disorders across the country.  This will enable us to build a full picture of the challenges and opportunities that exist for headache in the new healthcare system.”
A full report with the panel’s recommendations will be published in Spring 2014.  

If you have any questions please contact Hannah Verghese by email or on 020 7631 6973.

Christmas cards

We have a very limited number of these fun Christmas cards for sale in aid of the Centre! They make us smile so if they do the same for you drop us an email and we can send some out to you.

We are selling them for 50p each or £2.50 for 6, plus postage.



Avoiding festive migraines

Welcoming patients

Research Update
- Hypnotherapy Trial

All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry

- Easy Fundraising
- Thanks


Easy Fundraising

With Christmas just around the corner using easyfundraising is a great way to raise raise money for NMC just by shopping online. It won't cost you a penny extra.

1. Start at easyfundraising
Let's say you want to buy a book from Amazon. Instead of going to, go to first and select 'support a great cause'. Choose National Migraine Centre and register in seconds with a few basic personal details.

2. Make a purchase
You click from the easyfundraising website through to Amazon to make your purchase. The price of the book is exactly the same as if you'd visited Amazon directly.

3. NMC gets a donation
After you have bought your book, Amazon will make a donation to our cause as a thank you for shopping with them. easyfundraising collect these donations for us, and it costs nothing!

There's never been a better excuse to get spending!



We are hugely grateful to Zac the manager at Malmaison for the donation of furniture to the Centre following their recent refit. We now have a more welcoming hallway (see photo above) and consulting rooms as a result of the pictures, lamps and comfy seating they kindly gave. Thank you also to Paton Developments for negotiating our stairs with it all! The hotel is looking great, well worth a visit after your next consultation.


A big thank you to the following people who have raised money or given their time to help us in the last couple of months:

London to Brighton cycle - Dr Paul Booton

Great South runner - Peter Collett (above)

Great Birmingham Runner - Lisa Pitchford (below)

Volunteers for compiling a database of NHS contacts:
Clare Churcher
Katy Adams
Fiona Thomas
Sarah France

Designing a quirky Christmas card for our regular donors and the artwork in this email - Rosey Taylor.

Design of our welcome pack - David Wildish
(and Lisa Verrall's design package tutoring!)

PR Campaign focus group:
Jack Knight
Helen Teschauer
Scott Ralston
Daniel Stewart

If you wish to fundraise or offer your expertise get in touch with Rebecca to share your ideas.

About us

National Migraine Centre is a registered charity founded in 1980  that carries out treatment, education and research into the management of migraine and other headaches. We receive no government funding, but rely on donations to keep the service accessible to all. To request an appointment fill in the form here.

To make a donation between £1 and £10 now text Head08 to 70070.
Or visit our website and make a gift of any value via Paypal. Thank you.

Copyright © 2013 National Migraine Centre, All rights reserved.