Migraines cause real pain like injury-related pain – with one difference: healthy habits and simple non-medical treatments sometimes stop the migraine before it begins!
Medication is a proven way to manage and prevent migraines. But medicine is only part of the story. It is also necessary to take care of yourself and understand how to deal with migraines when it occurs.
The same lifestyle options that promote good health can also reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines.
Knowing how to manage migraine pain through lifestyle and behavior measures, as well as medications, is often the most effective way to manage migraine headaches. At the first sign of a migraine, if possible, withdraw yourself from usual activities.
Turn the lights off. Migraines often produce sensitivity to light and sound. Relax in a dark, quiet room. Sleep if you can. Try thermal therapy. Use a hot or cold compress to your head or neck. Ice packs have an anesthetic effect, which can reduce pain feeling. Ice bags and heating pads can relax in tense muscles. Hot showers or baths can have a similar effect.
Drink a caffeinated beverage. In small quantities, caffeine alone can relieve migraine pain in the early stages or increase the effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and aspirin. Be careful, because drinking too much caffeine often can lead to withdrawal headache later on.
Migraines can prevent you from sleeping or wake you up at night. Likewise, migraines often occur due to poor sleep at night. Here are some suggestions to help you sleep well.
Determine routine sleep times. Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends. If you take a nap during the day, keep it short. A nap longer than 20 to 30 minutes can interfere with sleep at night.
Check your medication. Medicines that contain caffeine or other stimulants – including some medications to treat migraines can interfere with your sleep. Your eating habits can affect your migraines. Avoid foods that cause migraines. If you think eating certain foods – such as old cheese, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol – is causing your migraines, discard it from your diet to find out what’s going on. During physical activity, your body releases some chemicals that block pain signals to your mind. These chemicals also help relieve anxiety and depression, which may worsen migraines.
Obesity also raises the risk of chronic headaches, so maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and diet can provide additional benefits in treating migraines.
If your doctor agrees, choose any exercise you want. Walking, swimming and biking are often good options. But it is important to start slowly. Exercising a lot can lead to migraines. Tension and migraines often go hand in hand. You can’t avoid daily stress, but you can keep it under control to help manage migraines. Take a break. If you feel overwhelmed, a few slow stretches or a brisk walk can refresh your energy for the task you do.
If you feel anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking advice. Believe in your ability to control pain!