The 36 million Americans who suffer from migraine headaches can tell you that a migraine headache is serious business. For many people, the best way to manage a migraine is a combination of prevention strategies and acute treatment.
Develop strategies that help you manage a migraine. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/5740x3840%2B19%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fd4%2F33%2F5f83d877452e90a84611a2f00eca%2Fimage-gettyimages-518338875.jpg
Keeping a migraine diary and tracking what you’re doing prior to developing a migraine can help you determine what might be triggering or exacerbating your headaches. You’ll get a better sense of what foods or activities to avoid, if those are your triggers, or if high levels of stress at work or certain physical activities are preceding your migraines. You might also start to recognize symptoms that occur in the day or two before a migraine develops—this is called the prodrome period. This can help you plan out the best prevention strategies for avoiding a migraine, if possible. Your doctor may also suggest that you adopt some behavioral management tools to help you cope with triggers that are impossible to avoid.
1. Write it down. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Ff4%2F6d%2Fbb9fb09f4c4e9edd1291ede9068c%2F8-tips-for-coping-with-ms-symptoms-9.jpg
You really can’t expect yourself to power through a migraine. When you notice the warning signs of an impending headache, give yourself permission to find a quiet, dark space where you can relax and avoid the stimulation of light and sound that can worsen the pain.
Some people find that a cool compress placed on their head or neck can reduce the full impact of the migraine. Others like warmth, choosing a warm compress instead. You might also try sipping on a caffeinated beverage—but don’t overdo it, since too much caffeine can make you feel worse later.
3. Care for yourself in the early stage. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Ffb%2F0d%2F51f8129548c6896dae9a95076026%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-cold-compress.jpg
It seems like almost everything can be improved by drinking more water, doesn’t it? Dehydration can contribute to a migraine. Conversely, staying hydrated can help you recover from one, especially if the pain has caused you to vomit.
Your doctor may choose to try you on a prescription drug to stave off future migraines. The most commonly used prophylactics fall into three categories: antidepressants, antihypertensive medication, and antiepileptic drugs. If your doctor prescribes one of these meds for you, take them as prescribed. Don’t give up if you don’t immediate relief, as it may take several weeks for the medications to work.
5. Master your medications. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F62%2F6d%2F2d4e29344a9ca49b151b74aa00ce%2F10-steps-to-bipolar-disorder-treatment-4.jpg
If you’ve noticed that certain foods tend to trigger a migraine, plan to avoid them. Common trigger foods include fermented or pickled foods, foods containing the flavor enhancer MSG, red wine, aged cheeses, cured meats and other meats containing sodium nitrate, and sometimes citrus fruit and bananas.
6. Avoid your trigger foods. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F63%2Fc6%2F93f0eb5c40f6a8a13087525a0f5e%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-56294480.jpg
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can help reduce the pain of a mild migraine. But if you’re popping the OTC pain meds like candy or you’re taking too much of a prescription med, you could be unintentionally contributing to the problem. You may wind up with a rebound headache.
7. Monitor your meds. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F2e%2Ff0%2Ff8c951cd477581cbc79cd010dedc%2Fcough-SS-pills.jpg
If your current medication isn’t effective enough, talk to your doctor about trying something else. Treatment options abound! Also, if any of your symptoms change, that’s another reason to put in a call, especially if you start experiencing a stiff neck, seizures, confusion, or double vision with your headache. Unexplained weakness or numbness with a headache could also be a sign of a more serious medical problem. Some women also find that their birth control pills make their migraines worse, so again, this is another issue to discuss with your doctor.