Hi there everyone!
Having chronic migraine can be frustrating, to say the least. I personally feel that the unpredictability of migraine attacks is one of the most difficult aspects parts. Although, there are a few ways we can try to reduce the number of attacks we have. I find that identifying triggers, and then finding ways to avoid them, helps me reduce the number of attacks I have, or at least reduce their severity. Below I have listed an assortment of coping methods I have devised personally, or learned about from others, that manage common migraine triggers.
Get the Right Equipment
I spend quite a bit of time outside lately. I walk 2-4 miles a day around my neighborhood, and I don’t do well early in the morning or after sundown. This means I’ve been getting a lot of direct sunlight. I am not huge on sunglasses because I struggle to find frames that fit my small face! My boyfriend, however, is constantly in a hat and sunglasses whenever he’s outside. One day when I had a migraine, he lent me both and let me just say it was life-changing. I realize this is probably common sense, but in case anyone else out there is a holdout like me, hats and sunglasses can seriously help prevent a migraine attack, or manage the pain from one.
Going along with the theme of spending time outside, I have been drinking tons of water lately. Not only does it prevent migraine attacks, but water is also amazing for your overall health, your skin, etc. I always make sure to take a water bottle with me on my walk, and drink one when I get back. I will sometimes indulge in a miniature Gatorade as well if I really feel dehydrated.Another tip to remember is that if you have caffeine, make sure you’re also drinking extra water. Caffeinated beverages can be incredibly dehydrating, and you might not realize it. When I was younger, I would feel super thirsty and would grab a coke out of the fridge. While I had temporarily quenched my thirst, I was actually further dehydrating myself. Now, if I order a soft drink at a restaurant, I always order a water as well to try and stay hydrated.
Eat regular meals
My first full-time job out of college was in a hospital setting. I worked in and around the OR. In case you didn’t know, this means no food or water in my work area. Most of my colleagues wouldn’t even take a lunch break. The first few weeks I suffered horribly with attacks, getting one almost every day when I got home from work. Going too long between meals has always been one of my BIGGEST triggers. To remedy this, I often don’t even go three hours without at least having a snack and a drink. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to eat regular meals. If your work permits it, bring snacks to your desk or keep them in your pockets. Even if you have to eat lunch at your desk while you work, I truly believe this is better than skipping a meal.
I personally have not had success with an elimination diet, but I know many people that have. I have, at separate times, gone on the Heal Your Headache diet, gone gluten-free, dairy-free, cut out caffeine, etc. I have not seen much success with any of these, but many people use an elimination diet to discover their dietary triggers. First, choose an elimination diet, such as this one. After a week or so, slowly start to reintroduce foods, one at a time, and see how your body reacts. If you notice that certain foods cause an attack, you have your answer! Avoiding foods that cause migraines can be incredibly beneficial for some people.
Caffeine is a Slippery Slope
Some people claim that without their daily coffee, they are sure to get a headache. I personally notice that caffeine can, at least temporarily, reduce the pain of an attack until my medication kicks in. However, I think caffeine is a slippery slope. Many doctors argue that caffeine can make migraines worse over time, and advocate the reduction in caffeinated beverages per day. I used to have one soda per day, but these past few months I have reduced that number to 2-3 per week. I love a good Coca-Cola as a treat every now and then, and this is definitely one of those “at your own risk” things (there are also caffeine-free soda options!). I limit my intake, but for quality of life purposes, I refuse to eliminate it completely. For me personally, having only 2 or so a week is infrequent enough that it doesn’t seem to effect my migraines. I advise limiting caffeine, and observing what your magic number of drinks per week is that doesn’t cause your migraines to worsen. It’s all about what works best for you!
Get Enough Sleep
I have always been a bit of an insomniac, and getting diagnosed with chronic migraine certainly didn’t help. I definitely noticed in college that the days I didn’t get enough sleep were bad- pain wise. I advise getting at least 8 hours to try and prevent migraines from exhaustion. One of the biggest things I’ve noticed since doing research on my condition, is that consistency is KEY. Try and go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. Migraine brains crave consistency, and are sensitive to change. Making a good sleep routine and sticking to it is essential.
Track Your Migraines
Whether you use a physical diary, an online calendar, or an app (my personal fav method), an essential method of identifying triggers is tracking your migraines, and recording the possible triggers to figure out potential patterns. I realized through tracking that I always got the most severe migraines at the beginning of my menstrual cycle. Down the line I ended up going on continuous birth control, and this was helpful in eliminating this trigger. I personally use Migraine Buddy to track mine, and I love that there is a thorough questionnaire you fill out when you have an attack, to help you try and figure out what may have caused it. They also give you a “Remind me later” option for when you’re in too much pain and don’t want to complete the entire entry right then.
These are some of my personal tips, and I hope they help you manage your triggers a little better. Some of them (most of them) might seem like common sense, but I mentioned them for a reason. Many of these I heard for ages before I took them to heart. So I hope you are working to identify and manage your triggers. Good luck!