4 simple steps to head off your migraine pain
If you’re someone who’s ever suffered from a migraine or know someone who has this condition, you already know that it is more than ‘just a headache’. It hampers the daily life of a sufferer and can impact their work as well as personal lives badly.
However, the good part is that migraine is a treatable condition - with proper medication and healthy lifestyle choices, one can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine symptoms.
Here are 4 simple tips to manage your migraine pain:
1. Manage triggers with the help of your diary – Everyone is different, so the most effective way to figure out how to manage your migraine symptoms is to use a ‘headache diary’ to learn to:
- avoid or reduce your headache triggers
- improve your management of the headaches
- and work towards a healthy lifestyle
By jotting down information whenever you have a headache, you may see patterns in when, where, and why you may be having headaches, and be able to identify your personal headache triggers with the help of a doctor. Then you can keep control of your condition by avoiding certain triggers such as red wine, cheese, strong scent, loud music or lack of sleep.
2. Manage stress and emotions – Try to identify what is causing any strong emotions or stress you may be feeling, and learn how to best deal with it. This may include:
- expressing your emotions with someone you trust
- time management, breaking large tasks into small pieces, goal setting
- keeping a regular sleep schedule
- playing games, spending time in nature
- spending quality time with friends, family, pets
- pursuing a hobby, dancing or listening to music
- avoid negative thinking (e.g. “this is awful, I can’t stand it”)
- adopt more positive thinking (e.g. “this is my usual headache and I know how to manage it”)
- deep breathing exercise (10 minutes every day), yoga, or stretching
3. Eat wisely and exercise regularly – Your diet and physical activity levels can influence your migraine pain. Therefore, consider the basics:
- don’t skip meals and be consistent with your meal timings
- avoid foods that trigger your migraine pain (e.g. cheese, chocolates, caffeine)
- warm-up adequately before exercise
- drink plenty of water throughout the activity and afterward
- be aware of environmental triggers such as high altitudes, humidity or exposure to hot or cold weather which can trigger migraines
- 4. Minimize intensity and impact – Notice early warning signs (e.g. increased thirst, food cravings, loss of appetite, sensitivity to light or sound) and take immediate action to prevent or reduce the severity of migraine. These symptoms typically occur 6-24 hours prior to the migraine. To minimize the intensity and impact, you can try to:
- avoid activities that increase headache intensity (e.g. bright light, loud noises)
- manage your mental or emotional reactions
- react early (e.g., take medication, go for a short walk, do a relaxation exercise)
- take advice from your doctor over the phone and use the right medication
- understand your migraine treatment plan from the doctor. You can ask for detailed instructions for your medications. If a follow-up appointment is needed, make sure you understand when this should happen.
- Let your family, friends, and co-workers know what they can do to help out, even if it is leaving you to do your own thing while you have a migraine headache.
By making healthy changes to your daily life, you may find it easier to stay below your headache ‘threshold’ (the point at which a headache will start), and you may be pleased to find that you have fewer and less severe migraine headaches.