3 Tips for Managing Migraines
Tips to help you identify and handle severe headache pain
With migraines affecting 39 million Americans, chances are you have either experienced a migraine or care about someone who has. “Migraines can happen to anyone,” says neurologist Sowmya Lakshminarayanan, MD, with LVPG Neurology.
Migraines produce severe throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. Sometimes a migraine is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, or dizziness. Aura, a visual warning symptom, can appear as floaters, blurring or blind spots before or with migraines.
If you think you have experienced a migraine, Lakshminarayanan says there are several things you can do to help manage them.
1. Keep a headache log
Whether you are having common head-aches or migraines, Lakshminarayanan recommends keeping a headache log. Include date, duration, pain type, intensity, and any associated symptoms. Also include any triggering factors such as certain foods (like chocolate), exposure to perfume, alcohol, and what you took for your headache.
“A patient’s log is usually the most reliable data,” Lakshminarayanan says.
After reviewing headache pattern and relevant details, your health care provider can develop an effective plan of care.
2. See your provider with any changes
Any change with headache pattern is important to share with your health care provider, as it requires prompt evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment, Lakshminarayanan says.
“Seek emergent care if you have headache associated with other concerning symptoms like facial droop, muscle weakness on one side, or difficulty processing or concentrating,” she says. These symptoms can signal either a migraine or stroke.
3. Ease the pain
If you are a frequent headache sufferer, there are many preventive medications that can help reduce the number of headaches you experience. Daily or frequent use of over-the-counter pain medication to manage headaches is not recommended as it can result in rebound headaches or health problems associated with overuse.
“However, if a patient is having a typical breakthrough migraine head-ache, using common over-the-counter analgesic medication on an as-needed basis is the first step to ease pain,” Lakshminarayanan says.
If you are experiencing a migraine attack, she recommends hydrating well with electrolytes, eating easily digestible food, and staying away from greasy, fatty foods. Typically, once the headache intensity eases, vomiting and nausea will go away too.
“Patients need to know that they don’t need to suffer. We are here to help,” Lakshminarayanan says.