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Taking a Proactive Approach to Migraine Relief That Works

Taking a Proactive Approach to Migraine Relief That Works

Migraine Relief Before Symptoms Wreck Your Day

When I first experienced the head-splitting pain of a migraine I wanted to curl up in a ball and reach for immediate migraine relief. I wasn’t focused on what I was putting into my body. I just wanted the pain to stop. It never occured to me to be proactive before a migraine wrecked my day or what natural deterrents could do for my migraine. I know I’m far from the only one. Did you know that migraines are the most common neurological disorder? According to a study published in 2017, migraines disrupted the lives of 38 million Americans.

The problem is widespread. Are you like the one in eight American adults who are affected by migraines? That’s twenty percent of women and twelve to fifteen percent of men in the US. The symptoms are easy to spot but rarely broken down by those who suffer from migraines on a regular basis.

Let’s walk through the four recognized stages of a migraine together; prodrome, aura, attack and post-drome. We’re going to relay several ways to fortify your body against migraines. But first, before a migraine attack have you ever felt the following symptoms? A day or two before the onset of a migraine you might feel:

Five Main ‘Prodrome’ Migraine Symptoms

  • Constipation
  • Food cravings
  • Increased tiredness (yawning, stretching)
  • Neck stiffness
  • Sudden high to low mood swings

It’s normal to expect that you’d want to avoid the onset of the painful ‘aura’ phase of a migraine present just before or during a full attack. Your body is brilliant at drawing your attention to the likelihood of a migraine. Here’s a heads up of the danger signs that you might be headed into in the ‘Aura’ phase of a migraine:  

Seven Symptoms of the ‘Aura’ Phase

  • Hearing faint noises or music
  • Jerking or involuntary movement
  • Loss of vision
  • Numbness in the face and body
  • Pins and needles in your arms and legs
  • Slow speech
  • Visual distortion - shapes, bright spots, flashes of light

Look for familiar patterns; if you pick up on these symptoms regularly it likely means you are headed for a full blown migraine attack. Obviously you are going to want relief before these ‘prodrome’ and ‘aura’ phases.

The convenient, knee-jerk reaction to migraine is to reach for synthetic drugs. Are you really only interested in masking symptoms of a migraine? I know I’ve pounded an energy drink to boost my mood through a migraine attack. Energy drinks can be great crutches for pushing through the pain short-term. But, when I finished the project I wanted to accomplish I crashed. My body hadn’t resolved the issues that caused my migraine.

Ultimately, I realized a migraine attack is a serious health problem. If you’re having more than four migraines a month you should see a physician. In the next section we’re going to consider some of the situations you might consider ‘migraine triggers’ and what can be done to avoid them.  

Recognizing Migraine Triggers

Migraine triggers aren’t random events. When you track the patterns you’ll see that there are sets of situations that can be planned for well in advance. Getting an intimate understanding of your migraine triggers can help you to know when you are at risk. In the next section we’re going to take a deeper dive into some of those situations and what you can do about them:

Seven Migraine Triggers and What You Can Do to Avoid Them

  • LOUD NOISES & BRIGHT LIGHTS - Everything is dialed up a notch when you have sensitivity to migraines. So called ‘sensory overstimulation’ can be a key trigger that sends you into a migraine spiral. Driving at night could be risky. Also, movie theaters, clubs and direct or glaring sunlight.
  • FOOD CHOICES - Have you recognized certain foods act as migraine triggers? Try to avoid chocolate, red wine, cheese and highly processed or sugary foods. Foods with high levels of caffeine or alcohol are normally triggers to be aware of when fighting migraines. 
  • HORMONAL CHANGES - You may not realise but hormonal changes often trigger migraines. Many women experience migraines at points before, during and after the menstrual cycle. Certain hormone-based contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy can also trigger migraines.
  • WEATHER - humidity and hot weather can be a migraine trigger as can rain and wind for some people. Try to minimise your time outside when the weather is most triggering. 
  • BROKEN ROUTINES - Your body loves a schedule whether you realize it or not. A tired body is prone to migraines so make sure you get seven or eight hours of sleep a night most nights. Avoid skipping meals and makes sure you drink plenty of water so that your body has the fuel it needs. 
  • STRESS - An obvious one but stressful situations can often trigger migraines. You can’t avoid stress altogether but you can embrace relaxation techniques to bring yourself back down to earth (without a bump).
  • INTENSE EXERCISE - Exercise is great for your body and the increased circulation can often reduce the likelihood of a migraine. Not all exercises are created equal, though. Intense exercise that dehydrates you quickly can be a trigger for migraines. Take note of how your body feels when you do this kind of exercise.  If it’s too taxing and threatens to trigger a migraine consider making it part of a circuit or an interval or reducing the time you spend on that particular exercise. 

If you feel the burden of migraine triggers constantly there are some proactive steps you can take:

Three Steps to Tracking Your Migraine Triggers

  • JOURNAL - Keeping a diary can help you record the situation that led to a migraine. You can then trace common locations, factors and times to become better informed. Some migraine triggers might be worse than others because of a combination of factors that you can actually control. Knowledge is power!
  • PLANNING - Once your journal has taught you about how your migraine triggers affect your life you can plan days around avoiding key triggers. You can then tailor practical solutions like avoiding travel at certain times, not driving at night or drinking more water at noon.
  • SPACE - We have a lot more control over the spaces we occupy than we think. Even a space that seems hostile like the office or DMV can be softened if we try. Think about how migraine triggers from the spaces you move through can be controlled. Lower the blinds on too much light, turn down the sound in your carpool. You’ll be amazed at the impact of speaking up for your health, even in shared spaces. 

Now you have the tools to track and get to grips with the various migraine triggers that you’ll face. In the next section we’ll take a look at an integrated approach to migraine medicine and find a course of action that’s perfect for you. 

Migraine Medicine and Course of Action

When a migraine attack sets in it’s vital to understand migraine medicine and set a course of action through the attack. The reality is that however hard you try to control migraine triggers in your life there will still be circumstances where migraines occur.

More than 90 percent of people who have regular migraines say that they don’t feel well enough to work during an attack. There’s no doubt that migraines are hard to deal with as they happen. That’s why advanced planning and taking a holistic approach is so vital. Let’s dive deeper into what you can do before, during and after a migraine attack:

Planning a Course of Action for Migraine Attacks

BEFORE - If you are experiencing regular migraine attacks see a doctor. This can help you build a preventative plan and explore a range of prescription drugs that might be right for you. A doctor can also write you a note that explains how serious your migraine attacks are and any workplace accommodations you might need. This will help you share your health needs in a professional setting. Plan a quiet room that you can go to in order to have more control of your environment. Have a supportive buddy who’s aware of your situation who can explain and step in for you if things get overwhelming.

DURING - Keep an anti-migraine kit at your desk or around where you spend most of your time. Items could include water, cold or hot pads/presses, anti-nausea or pain relief meds and magnets for your pressure points. Take five minutes to meditate or do breathing exercises. The period during an attack might seem like a funny time for mindfulness but stress could actually be making your attack worse. Taking a five minute break for yourself can actually help break the cycle.

AFTER - record key facts about the migraine attack in your journal. Time, duration, place and any particular stress that might have contributed are good to record. Consider key takeaways to try and change future migraine responses. Could your workspace be more efficient in avoiding eye strain or poor posture that trigger migraines?

The other important factor to consider for migraine relief is how you prepare your body. You should consider the physical medicine you consume just as carefully what you do with your body during an attack. Here are some key ‘don’ts’ as you plan your course of action:

Three Nutritional Pitfalls to Avoid

CAFFEINE - We’ve all reached for the coffee or an energy drink in a time of crisis. However,unless a lack of caffeine caused the migraine it’s unlikely to be able to solve it. Feeling bad with slightly more energy is not a solution. In fact, upping your caffeine intake might trigger a migraine.

SUGARY AND PROCESSED FOODS - You feel badly, it’s only natural to want to binge on things that make you feel good (even in the short term). Try to swap candy bars for your favorite fruit or even a little honey. You’ll feel the benefit through increased energy and calm to fight your migraine attack.

SYNTHETIC DRUGS - If you have a really bad migraine that’s gone on for a long time there’s no doubt that a pain management drug might offer some relief. But you want to avoid that place. Also, adverse side-effects and building up a reliance on synthetic drugs can be hard on the body. Try to leave these kinds of drugs as a last resort.

So, those are some clear courses of action to avoid if you suffer a migraine trigger. So what can you lean into instead? Let’s dive deeper into some of the main recommendations:

Three Options for Migraine Relief

  • NEUROMODULATION - These are wearable devices that provide a modern replacement to prescription medication. So far the FDA has approved three devices. The most common is ‘Cefaly’ which stimulates nerves in the forehead for twenty minutes a day. One study showed a fifty percent downswing in migraine for those who use the device daily.
  • SURGERY - This might seem extreme but same-day procedures are available for those with ongoing chronic migraines. Talk to your doctor to see if relieving nerve pressure through surgery might be a good long-term option for you.
  • MEDITATION - Having a strong foundation in calming techniques can help better center you and help alleviate the stress that often exacerbates the pain associated with migraines.

Final Thoughts

Migraines are debilitating but they don't have to be what prevents you from living a full and productive life. Research and consult with medical professionals to determine which course of action is best for you. 


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