Affecting approximately 38 million Americans, migraine is one of the most prevalent and serious primary headache disorders. Despite the fact that migraines can be extremely painful and disabling, migraine awareness is unacceptably low. June was National Migraine Awareness Month, so we want to bring some extra attention to migraines while hopefully providing those who suffer from them with some useful treatment and prevention tips.
What Are Migraines?
Migraines are recurring throbbing headaches, and they often are felt on one side of the head in particular. Unlike normal headaches, migraines are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, and a variety of other disabling symptoms. It’s believed that migraine attacks occur as a result of neurological and vascular changes in the brain; these changes cause nerve-cell activity and the release of neurotransmitters that activate deep-rooted pain structures in the brain.
If you suffer from migraines, a few of the following strategies might help you keep them better controlled:
Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Studies have found that sleep deprivation has the ability to affect migraine-related proteins in the brain. By getting adequate sleep and maintaining a regular sleep schedule, you might be able to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Rapid changes in blood-sugar levels have been shown to influence the body’s migraine response. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar as stable as possible. If you can, try to limit your fat intake as well. Recent studies have shown that low-fat diets helped participants reduce the frequency of their migraines in addition to their duration and severity.
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
While that extra cup of coffee may seem like it makes it easier to get through the day, there’s a good chance it’s having an impact on the frequency and severity of your migraines. Try to limit your caffeine intake to the equivalent of roughly one cup of coffee per day.
Monitor for Alcohol Triggers
For some migraine sufferers, it seems that certain types of alcohol are potential migraine triggers. If you’ve noticed an increase in your migraines’ frequency or severity shortly after consuming certain alcoholic beverages, there’s probably a correlation. While you should avoid drinks that appear to trigger migraine attacks, you might be able to consume other types of alcohol without issue.
Now, while taking steps to prevent your migraines is a great way to start managing them, you should also be prepared to treat them when they occur. The following strategies might help you decrease the length and severity of migraine attacks:
Take Blood-Pressure Medication
Many of the same medications used to treat high blood pressure have been shown to be effective in treating and preventing migraines. The reason for this, doctors think, is that the blood vessels involved in migraine attacks are affected by these medications. To find out if this might work for you, talk with your doctor about your migraines and see what they recommend.
Take a Painkiller at the Onset of an Attack
If you take a painkiller at the onset of a migraine, you’re more likely to experience some relief. If you wait until the pain has gotten bad, it might be too late for a painkiller to do you much good. However, when you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t able to take a painkiller until the middle of a migraine, take a liquid painkiller; it will be absorbed quicker by your body and will start working faster.
Apply an Ice Pack
When you feel a migraine coming on, try placing an ice pack on the affected portion of your head. While an ice pack is unlikely to make the migraine disappear completely, it should provide some relief. This strategy tends to work best when combined with other migraine treatments, like taking an over-the-counter pain medication.
Relax in a Dark, Quiet Room
For many migraine sufferers, light and sound worsen symptoms during an acute attack. If you can, try to find a dark, quiet area to relax in until your migraine starts to subside. In a pinch, a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a dark pair of sunglasses can help you achieve the same result.
Do you suffer from regular migraines? Have you found any effective methods of preventing and/or treating them? If so, be sure to share what works for you with our readers so they have some other methods to experiment with!