Pain of a Migraine


By day three, 29-year-old Ché Kimber was exhausted. Curled in a dark room and hiding her sensitive eyes under a pillow, she was waiting out the final stages of what felt like a pain that would never end.

By Dominique Clarke

Ever feel like your brain’s on fire?

“It’s like someone is swinging a sledgehammer against my right temple, and it doesn’t stop for three days at a time.”  The sensitivity to light, the nausea and the pounding through her head and face are all symptoms of her migraines.

“I’ve been suffering with migraines for over ten years now, and I still don’t know what causes them,” she said.

Like many other migraine sufferers, Ché has tried almost everything to prevent the disorder. Finally some scientists might have the answers within their grasp.

“Pain killers, massage, prescribed medication, diet, meditation…surely someone can give me an answer,” Ché said.

“I have a healthy lifestyle, I eat well, I exercise but when they come on, there is nothing I can do. It affects my social life, and if it hits over work days then I have no choice but to take time off,” she said.

According to migraine experts, the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute, migraines affect one in six women and one in twelve men, but doctors are still unable to give us any real solid answers as to what causes them.

Rumours circulate the internet, identifying stress, hormones, caffeine, and even the weather as possible triggers of the disorder.

Researchers from Australia and Europe have made the recent discovery that genes can be an important factor when determining who is more likely to suffer with migraines.

According to the scientists from the International Headache Genetics Consortium, there are six genetic variants that are most susceptible to migraine without aura (the most common form of migraine).

Four of the genetic variants are recent discoveries by the scientists and two are from previous findings.

This new research has been published in a paper in the Nature Genetics Journal.

Co-Lead author of the paper, Dr Aarno Palotie says that the findings will make way for future research into how a migraine works.

“The onset of migraines is made up of a cascade of cellular events.  Our research provides a new way of understanding these events that underlie migraines. Although the predisposition of migraines is still not fully understood, these studies reveal specific regions of the genome we can now focus on,” he said.

Dr Palotie says that they will continue the research, and that they hope to identify specific treatments for sufferers.

“The next step for our research is to compare susceptibility regions on the genomes of an even larger cohort of people to discover further variants involved. To allow us to determine the exact pathways involved in migraines and to identify treatment targets for this common disorder, we will need to carry out functional studies.”

For sufferers like Ché Kimber, research such as this is good news.

“ Finally!  It’s so frustrating that doctors aren’t able to give me a solid answer as to what’s causing my migraines, and how I can prevent them. Any step forward in this area is great,” she said

While doctors are unable to pinpoint the reasons why individuals suffer with migraines, everything from pills, to meditation is offered as possible solutions.

As Senior James Cook University Lecturer, and Medical Educator, Dr Margaret Campbell says, the severity of pain that migraine sufferers go through varies.

“On a scale of 1-10 the pain for some patients can be a 12,” she said.

Dr Campbell says that migraine is a disorder in dire need of further research to provide proper treatments for sufferers.

“ It’s really very common and often not treated well as the preventative medication has lots of side effects. There is often too much reliance on pethidine and other addictive drugs.  This means patients can get hooked on codeine from over the counter meds,” she said.

“It’s a huge problem, especially in after-hours surgeries, doctors seem to take the easy way and prescribe drugs to patients rather than educate them in other preventative options and treatment methods,” Dr Campbell said.

Sufferer Ché Kimber says that it’s hard to know what to do when a migraine hits because of all the side effects with different drugs.

“Half of the drugs on offer make me knackered and I will just sleep for hours on end, the other half barely help the pain of the migraine and just make me feel like throwing up, I don’t know what to do anymore, I need help.”

Like so many others, Ché is praying for the day when research will provide more answers, and she will be able to live a normal life without fear of a migraine attack.

“I’m over it – if the doctors don’t know what’s going on, how the hell would I know how to make it stop?”


The Facts About Migraines


  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Australian Households include someone with migraine.
  2. Over 10% of the population – including children- suffer with migraine
  3. Three times as many women as men suffer from migraine in adulthood.
  4. Migraine is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined
  5. Migraine is most common between the ages of 25 and 55.
  6. Migraines tend to run in the family with a 40% chance that the child of a migraine suffer will also suffer.  The risk is even higher if both parents suffer.
  7. Migraine attacks can last up to 72 hours
  8. Sufferers experience an average of 13 migraine attacks per year.
  9. Migraine ranks in the top 20 of the worlds most debilitating medical illnesses.
  10. Australian employers lose around $1 billion each year as a result of 8 million lost work days due to migraine.






  1. Some modern medications can help prevent a migraine before the headache actually starts.  Pain relievers are no longer the only option.
  2. Unfortunately, many sufferers try to self medicate by taking common pain relief drugs.  When taken in large amounts, this can cause ‘rebound’ headaches where the drug itself is responsible for the pain.
  3. A cold ice pack can be placed on the area of pain to ease the symptoms of the migraine.
  4. There is no one answer for treatment of migraine, best to take a visit to your local GP to find the option best suited for you.