June is National Migraine Awareness Month, and that means it’s time to start thinking about migraine prevention and migraine treatment for all those who are afflicted by these intense headaches. Anyone who has ever endured one, especially a particularly severe headache, will understand the importance of taking steps to prevent them. However, sometimes despite your best efforts you still detect the onset of a migraine and are forced to react quickly to it, so as to lessen the severity. If you do nothing and take no steps to reduce the severity, you could be in for a long, painful day. In this article, we’ll describe some of the best ways to prevent migraines and reduce their impact when you do have one.
What exactly is a migraine headache?
For those who’ve never experienced a migraine headache, it is recognizable as an intense, throbbing kind of pain that generally affects one side of your head. It is generally accompanied by an extreme sensitivity to light and sound, and may also trigger nausea and vomiting. They can last for just a few hours or for an entire day, and quite often will interfere with your daily activities in a major way. In fact, a really severe migraine can make you retreat into a silent, darkened room and just want to lay down and do nothing, perhaps for the entire day. Sometimes a warning that a migraine is imminent occurs when they see an aura before the headache strikes. This aura might be a flash of light or some other kind of noticeable disturbance, and may also include tingling in the arms or face, sometimes also causing difficulty with speech.
Retreat to a quiet environment
When you feel a migraine coming on, the best thing you can do is retreat to a darkened, quiet environment. If you can relax here, or better yet, fall asleep, you’ll be able to avoid some of the worst of the symptoms. Cold compresses applied to your neck may help, since cold tends to deaden pain. A heating pad might also work because it tends to relax muscles and that will work against any tightness that develops as a result of the headache. In that same vein, taking a hot or cold shower may do some good, for the same reasons that hot and cold compresses work. If the migraine strikes earlier in the day, sometimes sipping coffee or some other caffeinated drink helps, and it might also enhance the effects of taking acetaminophen for pain reduction.
Have a sensible, healthy diet
Your habits with regard to eating can have a big impact on handling migraines, so to start with, be consistent about meal times. If you’re fasting to try and lose weight, this will probably increase the severity of your migraines, so it’s best to suspend the weight loss program until migraines are under control. It might be worth your while to maintain a food journal, identifying the specific foods you eat to detect any pattern that indicates a relationship between foods eaten and migraines triggered. If you do find any foods that you suspect of triggering migraines, make a point of avoiding these in the future. Many people have found certain foods that act as triggers for migraines, especially chocolate, alcohol, and aged cheeses.
Get regular exercise
When exercising, the body releases certain chemicals that block pain signals normally sent to the brain. That means regular exercise will have an ongoing effect on managing the severity of any migraine you might experience. You’ll get an extra benefit from exercise because those same pain-blocking chemicals also help to manage depression and anxiety, both of which would otherwise increase the severity of a migraine. You should be aware that being overweight or obese increases your risk of having migraines, and that managing your weight will bring benefits in terms of controlling any migraines you have. One thing to be cautious about is plunging into an extreme workout – that can actually trigger a migraine, so it’s best to keep your workouts in the moderate range.
Try to manage stress
Scientists and doctors have noted a direct correlation between stress levels and migraines, so you’ll be well-served if you can keep your stress level under control for the most part. Of course, it’s impossible to avoid all aspects of stress in your life, so do your best to avoid stressful situations and it will definitely help with migraine management. Each day, don’t try cramming in all the activities you have time for. You should do just the opposite, and try to lighten your activity load each day, so stress doesn’t mount up. Break up large tasks and take breaks often, so stress doesn’t accumulate. Keep a positive attitude so the difficulty of a particular task doesn’t make you anxious or put you in a self-defeating attitude. Find something enjoyable to do throughout the day, so you can remain upbeat. Lastly, try to periodically relax by doing deep-breathing exercises, watching a favorite TV show, listening to calming music, or whatever tends to relax you. All these things will help to minimize migraines and will reduce their severity when they do come on.