How to cope with migraines
I’ve suffered with migraines for most of my adult life. When they hit, they can be absolutely horrific and my whole world gets thrown out of sync for a few days. Now, at the age of 38, I’ve suffered for nearly two decades, so I’ve come up with a few ways to cope with migraines. Obviously, we are all different, so what works for me might not work for you. But, if you’re struggling as I have, then you’ll be willing to give anything a go by now.
How to cope with migraines
Everyone is different, so what works for one person might not work for another. But when a migraine hits, it has a tendency to take over your life. When I get a migraine, I’m unable to function at all. As a Mum of three, this makes life very difficult as you can imagine. My older two children have learned to look after themselves a little during these times, but my four year old needs me to be there to take care of him. Whilst these strategies aren’t foolproof, they really do help.
Know the warning signs
I first started to suffer with migraines in my early twenties, meaning I’ve had almost two decades with them – lucky me! I only really get one subtle sign that a migraine may be imminent (frequent yawning), but here are some that others have reported:
- Mood changes, from depression to euphoria
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Increased thirst and urination
- Frequent yawning
Auras are also a common warning sign.
Examples of migraine aura include:
- Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
- Vision loss
- Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
- Weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking
- Hearing noises or music
- Uncontrollable jerking or other movements
If you do get a warning sign, then it means you can act before the migraine takes hold. This might mean that you can take a precautionary tablet to try to stop the migraine altogether. Or it might mean that you know you need to get some sleep.
Even if there’s nothing you can do to stop the migraine landing, at least you have some time to prepare. You might want to organise childcare, get some easy meals in and let work now. That warning gives you valuable time to get things organised.
Know the triggers
Most migraine sufferers will have some triggers that set off their migraines. For me, they’re stress, lack of sleep, excess junk food and alcohol.
Here are some common triggers:
- Hormonal changes in women. Fluctuations in estrogen, such as before or during menstrual periods, pregnancy and menopause, seem to trigger headaches in many women.
Hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, also can worsen migraines. Some women, however, find their migraines occurring less often when taking these medications.
- Drinks. These include alcohol, especially wine, and too much caffeine, such as coffee.
- Stress. Stress at work or home can cause migraines.
- Sensory stimuli. Bright lights and sun glare can induce migraines, as can loud sounds. Strong smells — including perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke and others — trigger migraines in some people.
- Sleep changes. Missing sleep, getting too much sleep or jet lag can trigger migraines in some people.
- Physical factors. Intense physical exertion, including sexual activity, might provoke migraines.
- Weather changes. A change of weather or barometric pressure can prompt a migraine.
- Medications. Oral contraceptives and vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin, can aggravate migraines.
- Foods. Aged cheeses and salty and processed foods might trigger migraines. So might skipping meals or fasting.
- Food additives. These include the sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in many foods.
Some of these are easier to control than others. If you know that specific foods trigger migraines, then you can avoid those. Stress and lack of sleep are more difficult to manage, but not impossible. Sleeping tablets can help in the short term whilst you get through a difficult period.
How to cope when migraine strikes
In an ideal world, you’ll be able to lock yourself away in a dark room and sleep until the migraine passes. But I know that life’s not always like that. I have to get up with the kids, get them organised, feed them and work too. There have been times when I’ve taken time off work with migraine but working from home means it’s easier for me to get through the day than if I had to leave the house.
When migraine strikes, here are my main tips for coping:
- Sleep if you can
- Take prescribed medication – see your doctor, you may need to try a few different medications to find one that works for you
- Drink plenty of water
- If sickness is an issue, take an anti-sickness medicine
- Avoid bright lights
- Get some fresh air
- Use Tiger Balm
- Get help – don’t be afraid to ask family & friends to help with the kids
As I said, what works for me might not work for you, but anything is worth a shot. Do you have any top tips for how to cope with migraines?