I can still remember when I got my very first migraine. I was in the fifth grade, leaving a basketball game and we were driving past a shell station. Suddenly my vision became funny, my head started pounding and when I looked at the sign, I could no longer see the letter S. It's kind of comical now, but I seriously thought I was dying. I've dealt with migraines for about 13 years. They're not only a terrible headache, but they cause me to lose half my vision, make me nauseous and basically the worst thing ever - making my day to day quite difficult. I've gone through seasons where I've had them everyday for weeks on end, and others where I have maybe one a month. I've gone to the doctor, gotten MRIs, and I've tried every medication. For those of you who may be new to these terrible headaches, or for those who have struggled with them for years like me, here are some of the things that I have found helpful.
T R I G G E R S ::
knowing your migraine triggers are a huge step in reducing the attack of one. Everyone has different triggers, but some of the main ones are light and food. Light is a huge one for me, especially flickering lights, or extremely bright lights - therefore I avoid raves (ha). Some foods that I steer clear from are coffee and fast food. With coffee, I don't know if it's the actual coffee itself, or the creamer I usually have in it, but I started to notice that everytime I drank some, I would have a migraine that day. In the same way, when I eat fast food, whether it's the grease they use, MSG or nitrates in the meats, I don't do well. If you don't know your triggers, start keeping a journal, even on your phone, where you can note what you eat and some of the activities you do on a daily basis, then you can go back and notice if there's a trend on when you get your migraines. That's what I did, and it changed my life.
S T R E S S ::
this is the big one. I can honestly say that this is my number one source of migraines. Working on removing some of the stressors in your life, will help improve your overall health. For example, I recently stopped checking my email after work and on weekends. It's incredible what this did for my home life. I was constantly stressed because my email would show me more things I had to get done, that I didn't have time or the ability to do at that moment. So I stopped. The work will still be there in the morning, but there is no reason for me to stress about it right before I go to sleep or the moment I wake up. Little things like that will slowly add up and make a big difference.
S L E E P ::
it's incredible what a good night's rest can do. There are two things pertaining to sleep that changed my life. One, tempurpedic pillow. Seriously guys, there was such a change, not only in my sleep pattern, but in releasing tension in my neck and shoulders and ultimately helping in my migraine struggle. You can pick up one of these pillows for about 15 dollars at target. It will change your life. Two, if light is one of your triggers, I suggest getting some dark curtains to cover your windows, not all the time, but at least for the mornings. I've found that if I sleep and wake in a darker area, I'm less likely to have a migraine.
M E D I C A T I O N ::
medication is obviously one way of minimizing the pain. For me, if I'm able to take an Aleve before the migraine hits, then I can catch it in time and i'm okay. I can generally tell right before I'm going to have one by the way my head starts to feel. If you pay attention enough, your body will always give you warnings. The best over the counter meds I've found are Aleve - liquid gels, Excedrin Migraine, and Advil Migraine - liquid gels. Liquid gels release faster, so they're always my go to. While using a drug like Aleve, as a preventative, can help, it shouldn't be your answer. Before you know it, you may find yourself taking 3 a day for weeks on end, just to ensure you won't get one. That's not a good place to be at, trust me. If nothing above is helping and you find yourself at this place, go visit your doctor. He may have some advice or even offer to prescribe something stronger.
Quick note : Heat is also another great way to release tension. Most times I'll just take a heating pad and rest it on the back of my neck/head for about 15-20mins. This will help your blood vessels to release and I've found it really helps.
E X E R C I S E ::
exercise is a great way to relieve any sort of tension, so it kind of just makes sense. I've found yoga to be the biggest source of relief as far as exercise routines go. I've been practicing yoga regularly for about two months now and I have not had a single migraine since. Granted I'm doing all of the above as well, so it may not have anything to do with, it, but it sure isn't hurting!
I understand that I am not a doctor. I know not everyone gets these nasty little headaches (read: terrible life altering pain), but for those that do, I hope this is helpful. These are just the things that have worked for me and helped to change my migraines. I know I've learned so much from others who have dealt with these, including my mother. We're not all going to respond the same way, but if even one of these helps in reducing your migraines, then this post was worth it. Here's to being well.