If you suffer from migraines, heed some advice from the sports world: The best defense is a good offense. That means identifying and then avoiding your migraine triggers.
Migraines are the second most common type of headache (tension headache is the first), and are usually associated with pulsating or throbbing pain that can last for hours or days. Migraines are often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light, or perhaps nausea and vomiting.
Identify Your Triggers
Migraines can be associated with a number of common triggers, so the first step toward managing migraines is to keep a headache diary. Here are some things to note:
- When your headaches occur.
- Activities you are doing (eating, exercising) when your headaches occur.
- Weather changes.
- Your symptoms.
- The treatment you use and how well it works.
Your particular triggers could be food—what you eat and your eating habits—or food additives, such as nitrates and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Alcohol, especially wine, could trigger migraines, as could too much caffeine. So could some medications like oral contraceptives.
You could be sensitive to bright lights and sun glare. If you’re a woman, fluctuations in your estrogen levels may be a factor. Menstruation may be linked to migraines. In some cases, taking hormone replacement therapy can worsen migraines; in other cases, it can help lessen symptoms.
Stress is a common trigger. Overusing headache medication, known as rebound headaches, can also cause migraine.
Lifestyle Changes to Consider
Whatever your individual triggers, there are some common lifestyle modifications that all migraine sufferers should consider. Having a daily routine that includes regular meal times, exercise, and sleep time is important to your well-being, and to your ability to notice a pattern to your headaches and to manage them.
- Eat regularly and don’t skip meals. Being hungry, skipping meals, or fasting can trigger migraines.
- Exercise to increase your body’s natural pain control chemicals. Start low and go slow.
- Establish regular sleep habits as sleep is very important to the body’s ability to control pain.
- Manage stress, don’t let it manage you.
Some triggers, such as weather changes and changes in your hormones, just can’t be avoided. For these, you may need to develop ways to cope to minimize the trigger’s effect.