Migraine Headache Tips

Self-treatment will not always work, but here are few tips that may prevent attack and reduce the severity of a migraine headache.

Tips For Migraine Prevention

  • Educate yourself. Read books, articles, etc. about migraine. And then there is the Net. There is a lot of good information out there provided by physicians and more importantly by actual people with migraine who freely share their experiences relative to medication, doctors, alternative treatments, etc. The Internet is a valuable resource for anyone with a chronic medical problem.
  • Keep a diary. A diary can help you determine what triggers your migraines. Note when your headaches start, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief. Be sure to record your response to any headache medications you take. Also pay special attention on wnat you ate in the 24 hours preceding attacks, any unusual events, and how you feel and what you're doing when headaches strike.
  • Avoid triggers. Once you have identified triggers, you can try to eliminate them. Its important not to become obsessive about trigger factors though and recognise that there are some triggers that are outside your control, such as your menstrual cycle or the weather. Remember that you may have more than one trigger; so concentrate on those over which you can have some influence; this may be sufficient to keep you below your personal threshold. Also, don't forget you may have a combination of triggers, which may be more difficult to find, and which is even more reason to keep the diary religiously.
  • Relaxation technics. Progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, deep breathing and yoga don't require any equipment. You can learn them in classes or at home using books or tapes. Or spend at least a half-hour each day doing something you find relaxing - listening to music, gardening, taking a hot bath or reading. Relaxation techniques can reduce stress.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise reduces tension and can help prevent migraines. Take regular exercise, but make sure it is something you enjoy or you will be unlikely to stick to it. Get plenty of fresh air. Consider walking to work in the morning instead of taking the car or taking a walk in the park at lunchtime. Don't overdo the exercise as this can act as a trigger. Warm up slowly, however, because sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches.
  • Sleep. A lack of sleep or too much sleep can trigger a migraine. Try to avoid naps or oversleeping. Research has shown that it is especially important to maintain a regular sleep pattern. Go to bed around the same time every night and start each day at approximately the same time, even on weekends.
  • Meals. Fasting or skipping a meal can cause a drop of blood sugar. Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) can trigger attacks, so try not to go longer than five waking hours without eating. To keep your blood sugar constant and minimize the impact of a missed meal, try eating frequent mini-meals and snacks throughout the day.
  • Drink. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. The average person needs between one and two litres of water per day. In warm weather or when exercising, you may need more.
  • Routine. The "migraine brain" likes routine, so it is a good idea to maintain regular schedules. Some people note a rise in migraine occurrence at weekends or when on holiday, often due to a break with daily routine. In general, sticking to eating, resting, exercise and sleep routines is a good idea for migraineurs, even at weekends.
  • Reduce the effects of estrogen. If you're a woman with migraines and estrogen seems to trigger or make your headaches worse, or if you have a family history of stroke or high blood pressure, you may want to avoid or reduce the amount of medications you take that contain estrogen. These medications include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Talk with your doctor about the best alternatives or dosages for you.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. Smoking can trigger headaches or make headaches worse.
  • Magnesium. Studies have shown that many migraine sufferers have diminished amounts of magnesium in their brains and since this mineral is necessary for the proper performance of serotonin this might show a connection between headaches and magnesium levels. As well, magnesium affects the arteries. People with low magnesium levels find that their arties constrict more. This can be another cause of headache pain. Because of its safety, magnesium supplement can be recommended to a majority of migraine sufferers. One study showed that migraine attack frequency was reduced by 41.6% in those who participated in regular magnesium supplementation.
  • Calcium. Calcium is known to benefit menstrual headaches. You cannot take calcium supplements and magnesium supplements at the same time of day as the calcium can block the body's ability to properly absorb the magnesium. It's therefore better to take one in the morning and the other at night.
  • Vitamin B complex. Vitamin B2, which is often called riboflavin, when taken in hefty doses has been proven to minimize the number of migraines a person has. Vitamin B6 also works well in keeping migraines away, having its best results with menstrual migraines. Research has shown that some people prefer to take a B complex supplement, but these same studies have shown that taking the other B vitamins does not improve the headache control. Though it does seem to lessen stroke risk.
  • Sunglasses. If you spend a lot of time in bright environments or if you drive a lot, a good pair of sunglasses is a must. Wrap-arounds keep out more light than ordinary glasses, while high UV resistance and polarised lenses are other features that might help.
  • Working conditions. If screen flicker is a trigger, make sure to take regular breaks. Use screens of 100Hz or above. Even better are plasma screens, which have no flicker at all.
    Avoid large reflective surfaces (e.g. plain white walls) - break them up with plants, pictures etc.
    Take care with your posture at work especially to avoid tension in the neck and shoulders. Ensure that your working environment is as ergonomically designed as possible to avoid unnecessary twisting, stretching and bending.
  • Eyes examine. Various eye problems from glaucoma to eyestrain can cause headaches and it's important to rule out any serious eye disorders. General eye exams should be performed every 1-2 years depending on your age. If you are experiencing specific symptoms that your doctor believes are related to your eyes, you may be referred to an eye specialist. Don't put off an eye test because the sooner you can address any potential problems, the sooner you can obtain headache relief.

Tips For Relieving Migraine Headache

  • Be Prepared. If your attacks follow a regular pattern e.g they are associated with menstruation, be prepared. Have your medication to hand and try to schedule work commitments around the expected 'migraine days'. Always have a Plan B at this time.
  • Quiet dark room. If you have an attack try lying in a darkened room and place an ice pack at the back of your neck. Lying motionless in a quiet dark room for a period is normally helpful.
    Apply gentle pressure to painful areas on your scalp. General pressure, perhaps in the form of a bandage has also been shown to be effective, especially if applied to the temporal artery.
    Put a cold compress or pillow over your head.
  • Hot & Cold. Heat works for some people's migraines and cold for others.
    Migraine pain is often linked to the swelling of blood vessels around the brain. Cold makes blood vessels tighten. Putting an ice pack on your head where you feel pain may help to reduce migraine pain.
    Others find that heat can be very beneficial, whether in the form of a hot wet towel, a warm bath or even through heating other parts of the body.
  • Hydrotherapy. HydroTherapy if often effective for migraine. Soaking your hands in hot water at the first sign of a migraine helps to regulate circulation and can avert a fullblown migraine episode. Relax, breathe deeply, and soak your hands in the water for 15 minutes.
  • Massage. Massage helps the body relax. Acupressure and massage are simple techniques that you can learn which may be very helpful. Some find that massage is one of the best ways to get migraine headache relief. Massage may also help prevent migraines because it eases tension and helps you to relax.
    You can actually combine massage with aromatherapy by using peppermint or lavender oil while receiving a massage. Try having your spouse or friend massage your shoulders and neck. From there, move to the base of the skull as these places help bring relief for a migraine headache. If you are alone, you can rotate your fingers over your scalp. Also, a foot massage can help relieve migraines.
  • Aromatherapy. Certain smells, such as peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus, tend to relieve the pain of headaches. Many people swear by drops of lavender oil on the head or neck to relive the pain of a migraine.

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