There is no dread quite like realising I’m about to enter the horrible world of migraine. What can often start as a dull ache transforms itself into excruciating pain in my forehead which spreads itself out like a dark fog to make my eyes ache, my ears pierce, and my teeth throb. Sometimes, if I’m extra lucky, there’s also the accompanying nausea and vomiting which are not fun things to experience at the best of times, let alone when you feel like your head is going to shatter into a million pieces. Then, when the pain subsides, I’m often left with two or three days worth of postdrome; a groggy, hangover-like sensation which causes tiredness, loss of appetite, and brain fog.
If you’re nodding your head in understanding because you’re also a person who experiences migraines, then this post is for you. Having dealt with these beasties for approximately ten years now, I’ve accumulated some tips along the way and I thought I’d share them with my fellow sufferers in the hope that they may help someone. Obviously, I need to say that I am a blogger, not a qualified doctor, so this advice is based purely on my own life experience and contains absolutely no medical fact so please don’t treat it as such!
1. Tell people you suffer from migraines:
No, I don’t mean just wander round telling all and sundry about your medical ailments. What I mean is tell people who may be affected by the fact that you suffer from migraines, for example your co-workers, your boss, and anybody who might need to be notified should you have to shut yourself in a dark room. If people are prepared for how quickly migraines can hit because you’ve warned them beforehand, you can implement a previously agreed plan. That way, you can simply let somebody know that a migraine is happening and they will understand that you need to go home/go to sleep/can’t work at the computer etc. I’ve slept through a migraine in my car at work before now!
2. Stay hydrated:
Prevention is always better than cure and, if you’re a regular migraine sufferer, allowing yourself to become dehydrated is a cardinal sin. Dehydration often manifests itself as a headache and a headache can simply be one step away from a migraine. Drink plenty of water every day to ensure that you’re not doing yourself a disservice by letting your body go without.
3. Know your triggers and warning signs:
I don’t actually have any particular triggers where migraines are concerned (aside from copious amounts of camembert which I learned the hard way). However, I’ll occasionally know to expect one based on the things around me and the way I’m feeling, such as the weather, allergies, dehydration or strong smells. If you can spot the beginnings of a migraine early, you’ll obviously be in a much better position to tackle it before it has chance to ruin your day. So, keep your senses alert to the type of headaches that can develop into migraines, know whether certain foods or eating habits can be a factor, identify any unusual fatigue or alertness/depression or giddiness… anything that normally precedes a migraine for you should be remembered so that you can attempt to mitigate it next time.
4. Use a migraine tracker or diary:
When you’re floored by a migraine, the last thing you want to do is think about how you got to that point so it can be difficult to remember triggers for future reference. A migraine tracker or diary will definitely help you do this. There are some great online templates, you could use your normal diary or bullet journal, or there are some brilliant apps out there too. Using such a tool will help you to identify triggers, find out what relief methods work for you, and discover patterns in headache and migraine occurrences. You can also look at whether migraines are occurring too frequently and whether you might need to visit your GP.
5. Know the relief methods that work for you and keep them handy:
There’s nothing worse than starting with a migraine and then being hit with the horrible realisation that you’re stuck without any form of relief. So that’s you, caught in a migraine trap and you’ve no choice but to stand by and wait until it gets to the point where you’re forced to stop what you’re doing. Keeping your relief methods handy (as far as practicable, obviously) is essential if you’re going to have any sort of life outside of a darkened room. For example, I know that only certain painkillers work for me so it makes sense to always be carrying some in my handbag. If a heat-pack is you go-to solution, buy one of the small beanbags and keep it in your desk drawer so you can throw it in the microwave when your headache kicks off. The more you can surround yourself with solutions, the less likely it is that a migraine will ruin your entire day.
6. If you get migraine related aura, keep yourself safe:
Thankfully I don’t get aura but I know that it can be an extremely frightening migraine symptom. Often, an aura is the first alert that somebody will get before the migraine strikes so it’s really important to acknowledge this as something that affects you. For example, if you know you’re going on a long journey, ensure you’ve got places to stop along the way should an aura occur, ensure somebody knows where you’re going and the route you’re taking so they can collect you if necessary, and don’t travel at night when visibility is already deteriorated etc. Be sensible and be aware that aura can happen at any time.
7. Be kind to your stomach:
It’s not exactly a newsflash that painkillers aren’t good for you. They can be really harsh on your stomach which, if you get migraine nausea, is definitely not helpful. Be kind to your stomach by being prepared, recognising your warning signs and taking the right painkillers straight away rather than having paracetamol, followed by ibuprofen, followed by the only tablets that actually work once you eventually managed to get hold of some. You could also consider medication free substitutes; I adore the 4Head stick and migraine strips for relieving migraine pressure, and I’d really like to try a Sea-Band to combat the nausea element.
8. Exercise caution and know your limits:
I find it incredibly difficult to drive when I’m in the midst of a migraine because the combination of not being able to concentrate, my vision being off and of course the bombardment of lights and sounds makes for a very aggravating situation. So, for me to knowingly drive during a migraine would be extremely dangerous (not to mention daft). The pain of a migraine can seriously affect your ability to function properly so it’s prudent to be extremely cautious when you’re in the midst of an attack and know what your limits are. Drive carefully (or not at all), take your time, don’t get into a crane, you know the kind of thing I mean.
9. Know when to admit defeat:
If you’ve done everything you can to be prepared and you’ve taken painkillers but you’re still migraining (not a verb, I know), then sometimes you’ve got no choice but to surrender. The worst migraine I’ve ever experienced happened because I’d failed all of the above steps and still continued to struggle on at work for another five hours so you can imagine the state I was in when I got home. I know it’s not always easy to just down tools but powering on will only make things worse in the long run.
10. Treat postdrome seriously:
Postdrome is the description for the after effects of a migraine, kind of like a migraine hangover if you will. For me, this manifests as soon as the pain ceases and presents as fatigue, muscle weakness, a lack of energy, brain fog, and sometimes bloodshot eyes. If you suffer from postdrome, it’s important to acknowledge that your body has experienced a traumatic upheaval through attempting to combat extreme pain, vomiting, and all of the other joys that come with migraine. You need to be kind to yourself on these couple of days and don’t expect yourself to simply bounce back to normal. Treat yourself as if you’ve got a cold: eat nourishing food, drink plenty, and get lots of rest.
So there are just a few hints which may help to prevent migraines from ruling your life. As I said, I am not a medical expert so if you’d like some factual opinion to accompany this very non-factual account, then please check out the NHS Migraine Page.
Do you suffer from migraines? How do you deal with them? Share your tips below!
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