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Migraine Care and Best Practices

If you suffer from migraines, you know that when an attack strikes, it’s nearly impossible to think about anything else. All the more reason to take good care of yourself, learn your triggers, and know what to do at the first warning signs of an oncoming attack. Here, we’ve compiled some pre-emptive measures, as well as best practices for when headaches happen.

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Preventative Do’s and Don’ts

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The Big Do – Keep A Migraine Diary

To avoid your triggers, you need to know what they are. And that first step is keeping a migraine diary. Tracking your patterns and symptoms will help you and your doctor pinpoint your triggers and determine the best treatment options for you. This is key to lessening migraine severity, and it may even help prevent future headaches.

In your diary, be sure to record:

  • When the attack began, including the time and day
  • Any warning signs (prodrome) before the attack
  • Any symptoms other than pain, like nausea, sensitivity to light or noises
  • Any possible triggers, such as foods, the weather, hormones
  • What you were doing and where you were, when the migraine started
  • The length of the migraine
  • The severity of the migraine
  • The progression of the migraine
  • Where you feel the pain and what it feels like
  • How long after the onset of the migraine was medication taken
  • What medication and how much was taken
  • Any other treatments you tried
  • How and if it responded to treatment(s)
  • Any migraine after effects

When migraines happen

You feel a migraine coming on. You’ve taken your medication. But there are a few other things you can try to help the pain subside and speed up your recovery. Remember, because no two headaches are alike, different things may work for different people, or even different attacks. Experiment with these tips to see what may work for you.

  • Try a cold compress. Placing a cold compress on your forehead may help ease some of the throbbing sensation and pain. Try keeping the compress on your head for 10-15 minutes, then take a break for 15 minutes. Tip: keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer – it’s more comfortable than ice cubes, and it will conform to the shape of your head much easier.
  • Try a hot compress. While cold can help numb pain, heat can help ease tension. Use a hot pack or heating pad on your neck and shoulders to help relax tense muscles. Like the cold compress, try 10-15 minutes on, then 10-15 minutes off.
  • Take a shower. Many migraine sufferers swear by a long cool shower to help ease their pain and reduce symptoms. Others say a warm shower helps relax tense muscles.

No two headaches are alike. Experiment with these tips to see what works best for you

  • Have some caffeine. As mentioned above, a moderate amount of caffeine can help ease the pain of a migraine and help your medication work better. Have some tea or coffee or a piece of dark chocolate, which has less sugar and more nutrients and minerals like magnesium, than milk chocolate.
  • Chill out in the dark. Bright lights and migraines don’t mix. Not only can they trigger a migraine, they can exacerbate the pain and symptoms. Step away from the computer screen, close the curtains, turn out the lights and relax in a comfortable room. Lay down, breathe slowly and deeply, and try your best to rest.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Learning how to relax during a migraine attack can help relieve pain. Try some gentle stretching or yoga postures, practice deep breathing and meditation techniques or progressive muscle relaxation. Incorporating these things into your daily routine can not only help ward off migraines, but can better prepare you to deal with your migraines when they do happen.
  • Take some ginger. Some studies have found that taking ginger can help ease migraine pain. It has also been shown to help with nausea, which sometimes accompanies migraines. Try a supplement or brew some ginger tea. If you have fresh ginger, steep a few slices in hot water for a homemade, caffeine-free tisane.