More than medicine: managing migraines with lifestyle

July 16, 2019

migrainesYou eat dark chocolate, and you get a really bad headache. You drink a glass of wine, and you get a really bad headache. You have an extremely stressful day at work, you get a headache. You don’t drink enough water, and — you guessed it — you get a headache.

These headaches for some could actually be migraines, a very common condition. There are more than three million migraine cases reported each year in the U.S. alone. Migraines can last for several hours, and they vary in intensity, often accompanied by throbbing, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. But migraines are treatable by a medical professional using medication, lifestyle changes, or the most effective approach: a combination of both.

Tips for managing migraine headaches

It’s true that medication is a proven way to treat and prevent migraines, and this is the first step many people think about when it comes to managing migraines. But we also know that this should only be part of the equation.

The same lifestyle choices that promote overall good health can also reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Knowing how to manage migraine pain with lifestyle and behavioral methods, as well as medication, is often the most effective way to handle migraines.

There’s a lot to this, so let’s dig in to some of the best lifestyle tips we can offer to help manage migraines.

  • Think about your environment. When you start to feel a migraine coming on, stop and think about where you are and where you can go. Remove yourself from your usual activities, if possible. Find a quiet room, and turn off the lights. You can also try applying hot or cold compresses to your head or neck to help dull the pain. Warm showers or baths may have a similar effect and may also be relaxing.
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage. Be careful with this one since drinking too much caffeine too often can lead to withdrawal headaches. But in small amounts, caffeine can relieve migraine pain in the early stages or enhance the pain-reducing effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.) and aspirin. 
  • Try to get enough sleep. This one can be hard since migraines can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. But migraines can also be triggered by a poor night’s sleep. The key is to do your best to establish a regular sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
  • Relax before bed. One thing that may help is trying to avoid distractions right before bed. Anything that helps you relax can promote better sleep, so do what works for you — listen to soothing music, take a warm bath, or read. Remember that watching TV, intense exercise, heavy meals, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can interfere with sleep. 
  • Check your eating habits. For many, what they eat affects their migraines. Eating at about the same time every day can help, and don’t skip meals. Tracking what you eat and any resulting migraines can help you pinpoint specific foods to avoid. 
  • Get plenty of exercise. During physical activity, your body releases certain chemicals that block pain signals to your brain. This can help alleviate anxiety and depression, both of which can make migraines worse. Obesity also increases the risk of chronic headaches, so maintaining a healthy weight can provide additional benefits in managing migraines.
  • Reduce stress as much as possible. We know this is much easier said than done, but stress and migraines often go hand in hand. We know you can’t avoid all daily stress, but try to do what you can to manage it. Simplify where you can, and manage your time wisely. Delegate what you can to others as well if that’s helpful. 
  • Keep a migraine diary. This is very similar to a pain journal. It can be an important tool in helping you find triggers for your migraines and what helps in managing them. You should note when and where your migraines start, what you were doing at the time, how long they last, specific symptoms of the migraine, and anything that provides relief. 

Living with migraines is a daily challenge for some, but it’s also a daily choice. By making a healthy lifestyle a priority and committing to doing all you can to manage your migraines, symptoms and severity can improve. For those who need help finding the right medication to use in conjunction with lifestyle, and for lifestyle recommendations, the physicians at Southside Pain Specialists are here to help.

Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop shop for pain management

With a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.