It’s no surprise that in the ancient days, migraines were considered a curse of the gods. I get migraines frequently. It’s a painful nuissance and disruption. I have been working on kicking those migraines to the curb. My first migraine developed at the age of 27. Most people start to develop migraines at the 25-40s range. My neurologist diagnosed me with confusion migraines. It’s called a confusion migraines because on top of the typical migraine symptoms of pounding headaches on one side, upset stomach, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, exhaustion; I feel dizzy, disoriented, stutter, and act as if someone threw a brick at the back of my head. That is only the most extreme migraine I had where I had to be hospitalized. Most of my migraines are milder than that but it still hurts.
My doctor prescribed me Imitrex, which I take as soon as I recognize a migraine. He suggested avoiding stress and that magnesium supplements helped 60% of patients diagnosed with migraines. From my doctor and my own research and experimenting, I discovered ways to tame that migraine and keep it from taking over my life. Here’s something I have to say since I’m living in sue-happy America. First of all, I’m not a doctor and not trained in the field of medicine.* I’m sharing my own experience in a public blog hoping that my post may be helpful to another migraine sufferer or those in the internet world may listen to my pity party. If you think you have migraines, please don’t self-diagnose yourself. You need to see a doctor to rule out other possibilities. For myself, the cause is a concoction of genetic, prolonged stress from several traumatic life events, and another illness.
My migraines made me seek out ways to improve my life. I thought that there has to be ways out there to make the migraines less frequent or intense. I tried a few things. So here we go:
Taking supplement: My doctor suggested Magnesium and B12. I take a women’s multivitamin that has both of these vitamins. Vitamins act like an insurance and doesn’t replace healthy eating or healthy habits. Vitamins are not an instant fix or miraculous cure all.
Avoid foods that trigger migraines. Mine is milk and most dairy products, nitrates from processed lunch meats, and certain tomato dishes. I don’t look at this as culinary punishment. Look at this as a way to discover new foods. Almond milk was something I would have never tried till I had to give up milk. Coconut icecream is delicious and creamier than regular icecream. I use coconut cream in curries and recipes that ask for cream, and other fruits. And I can whip coconut cream to make dairy-free whipped cream. For most people other common food triggers are: caffeine (or for some individuals no caffeine), red wine, aged cheeses, oranges, bananas, msg, chocolate, spicy foods, and artificial sweeteners.
Eating Healthy means avoiding empty calories. Do not go on fad dieting and be vary of food trends. My rule of thumb is to eat a balanced meal (protein, carbs, fats), 2, eat a variety of foods, 3, avoid or cut back on processed foods.
Water, water, water everywhere. Hydrate yourself. This is certainly true for those living in hot climates. My goal to drink at least 2-3 bottles of water by the end of my workday. Hate water? Put a slice of lemon or cucumber in it. It’ll taste better. Or get yourself a water filter.
Sleep as if your life depends on it. Look who’s talking. I’m a night owl. I try to read a book, take a bath, draw, read, journal, or do something relaxing for sometime before bed. Finding a ritual to do rather than crashing into bed after studying or working helps a person fall asleep. Sip a tea before bedtime or try melatonin. Getting regular sleep is important for overall health.
Add yoga, Pilates, meditation to your workout routine. For some workouts, you strive and push yourself to attain your goals. Then, there’s the type where you let go. This is the time to unwind, let go, surrender, and calm down your body and mind. Yoga has nothing to do with religion even though yoga has an association with the crowd of new age junkies, hippies and spiritual junkies. Some maybe more spiritual focused. Others are focused on relaxation and a good stretch. People of all religions, faith, backgrounds do yoga. I have even seen the macho men and serious athletes of both genders take yoga for relaxation. Yoga is for anyone. You have to find out about the place, learn about the instructors, and try a class. Some studios may offer free class to first timers. I’ve been to some places where I felt it was commercialized new ageish stuff more than a stretch. I’m more interested in a good stretch.
I suggest restorative yoga such as the types that emphasize alignment, posture, and emphasizes meditation such as hatha yoga. Hatha is where you hold postures for a few breaths. Avoid hot yoga, vinyasa, or any kind of power yoga. Vinyasa moves too quickly from one movement to another. Power yoga or yoga in a heated room is more like yoga aerobics. There is no emphasis on posture and alignment. I personally think the trendy heated yoga is unsafe and can aggravate migraines. When picking a style, make sure you find an instructor who corrects posture and emphasizes on breathing techniques. Some do not. If yoga isn’t for you, try Pilates or any kind of meditation. Pilates was originally used by dancers to condition their bodies. Pilates developed these techniques to help himself recover from pain. Pilates focused on the power house which is your core for strength, and generally good for strengthening the back.
Check your desk. If you work all day in front of a computer like me or an office worker, it is vital to check your desk. Are you comfortable? Is the monitor close to eye level? There should be no strain on your neck, back, shoulders. Get a headset if possible and avoid holding the phone between your shoulder and ear while typing. Don’t hunch your neck forward and roll your shoulders forward. Make sure the chair is aligned. I got a lower back support insert that helps make sure my lower back is in a good posture. While sitting down, I sit back and elongate my spine. Oh….and there’s the wrist. Make sure your wrists are not strained or get a wrist support. This is unrelated to migraines but you want to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
Get your eyes tested. When was the last time you had an eye exam? Make sure you are current on your eyeglass or contacts prescription. Eye strain can be also a trigger.
Relaxing activities. When was the last time you did something for yourself for pleasure, play, and pure enjoyment. It isn’t tied to your career goals. It’s because you simply enjoy doing so. As adults we forget how to play. Schedule time for relaxing activities. My favorite activities are: Netflix, painting, baking, journaling, hanging out with friends, and hiking.
Massage. Schedule regular massages. I always find good deals on Groupon. At first, I didn’t like the idea of laying naked in front of a stranger. But you undress to your comfort level and request the gender of your therapist. Massages are relaxing and help get rid of the pain. I get them once a month or once every two months. It’s really a nice preventative tool.
Acupuncture. In 2 weeks, I will be going in for my first acupuncture treatment. I heard good things about acupuncture from many people. It is no longer considered “weird” or “new age.” In fact, some insurance companies will cover the costs.
Get it on. Sex is good for you. Orgasms play a part in relieving migraines. As if you even need an excuse to have sex with your significant other. I’m sure your partner would be happy to help you out. Having a regular sex life is healthy for your body and relationship.
Scents are a killer. Avoid candles and strong perfumes and cologne. Even the good smells can be a potential trigger. I generally don’t use candles. Candles do not mask a dirty house. Clean your home regularly by vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, or mopping. If you want to use candles or any kind of scents, stick to the light, barely there scents. A little goes a long way. I prefer to use the candles from the organic store that does not use harsh chemicals or get a plug-in diffuser and use essential oils.
Menstrual period migraines. Now the men reading this will probably be glad that they are not women. Some women get migraines from hormonal fluctuations of periods. It usually happens when there’s a drop in estrogen just before the period. I’m not sure if birth control pills may help. I also heard that some birth control pills trigger migraines. Only your doc will tell you for sure. For period related migraines, there’s anti-inflammatory pain killers. Also if it’s PMS related, you have to learn to manage PMS symtoms but relaxation and cutting back on sugar.
Here’s a couple of things I learned about periods. 1, if you are constantly craving chocolate and having the munchies, you maybe deficient in magnesium. Go have one slice of chocolate cake and don’t beat yourself up. But constant cravings could also indicate magnesium deficiency. Eat healthy. 2, when I get cramps, I find that Midol helps. Tylenol, Advil, and the alike don’t come close.
I hope this helped. Arm yourself with healthy living of nutrition and relaxation. I think the problem with our modern society is that people need to relax and not attempt to do it all. We are not miracle workers or superhumans. Taking care of yourself is just as important as any other obligation. As a side note, my migraines helped me figure out how to take care of myself better. It also reveals the fact that I have my limitations. In some ways, illnessnes can be a blessing. Despite the pain, It taught me that I need to take care of myself and the value of rest.