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.
Preventative Do’s and Don’ts
Get The Sleep You Need
- Sleep can be a tricky spiral – not getting enough can cause migraines, yet migraines can prevent you from getting the rest you need.
- Establish a sleep routine: go to bed and get up at the same time every day, take time to relax and unwind at the end of the day, and watch what you eat and drink in the evening – heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol can interfere with a good night’s rest.
- Keep meal and snack times consistent, eat nutritious foods, don’t skip meals, and avoid foods that trigger migraines.
- Dehydration is a common migraine trigger, fortunately one that is easy to control.
- How can you tell if you’re drinking enough water? One easy way is to keep tabs on your urine colour: dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration.
- Aim to drink enough water to keep your urine pale yellow.
Curb Your Caffeine
- Caffeine can be both a treatment and a trigger.
- Moderate amounts of caffeine can help relieve a migraine – it’s even an ingredient in many migraine meds – but too much can actually cause an attack.
- Have your morning coffee, but do keep it healthy and avoid sugary, dessert-like coffee treats.
Watch The Weather
- Changes in the weather can cause an attack.
- Learn your weather triggers, check the forecast regularly, and keep your medication on hand in case you need it.
- If you are prone to migraines, constant worry and tension can bring them on.
- Strategies to combat stress include regular exercise and stretching, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, deep breathing and meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Be especially aware of tension in your jaw, neck and shoulders.
Have A Period Plan
- Changes in hormones are another common migraine trigger.
- If you get headaches around your menstrual period, pre-emptively taking medication around this time can help relieve pressure or even an attack.
Try To Head Off The Headache
- Take an over-the-counter ibuprofen medication, like fast-acting Advil® Liqui-Gels®, to relieve migraines with mild to moderate pain.
- Hunger and the resulting blood sugar drops are common triggers.
- Ensuring your body gets the fuel it needs throughout the day can help keep your brain from rebelling.
- Too much or too intense exercise can bring on a migraine.
- Aim for regular, moderate activity. If you are just beginning an exercise routine, start slowly and gradually increase your activity level.
Spend Hours In Front Of Screens
- Computer or TV screens can cause eyestrain, which is a trigger for some migraine sufferers.
- Take regular breaks, stretch, close your eyes, and move to get your blood flowing.
- Consider wearing blue light blocking glasses to reduce eyestrain.
Clench Your Jaw
- Clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth are classic signs of stress, and migraine triggers.
- If this is a problem, especially while you sleep, consult your dentist.
- Try to pinpoint the cause of stress and take actions to manage it.
Forget About Your Surroundings
- Loud noises, flashing lights, strong smells – migraine triggers are all around.
- Be aware of what is happening around you and minimize these triggers as much as possible.
Take Medications Your Doctor Didn’t Prescribe
- Follow your treatment plan, and consult your doctor if it isn’t working, or if there are any changes to your symptoms or attacks.
- That glass of wine will help relax you, right? Not necessarily.
- Alcohol can be a trigger for some people, so watch for any reactions when you drink and record it in your headache diary.
- A glass every now and then may be fine, or you may need to eliminate your alcohol intake altogether.
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: