Migraine Methods and Myths

In my journey with migraine headaches, I have come across some helpful tips and some distracting myths (including the myth of caffeine creating relief). I wanted to share some of what I have learned.

Before I start, let it be known that I am not a doctor and have no medical training. I am only speaking from my experiences as a migraine patient. If you suffer from frequent, severe headaches or suspect you are experiencing migraines, keep a log of your headaches and how you treated them, then visit your doctor. If your pain during a migraine is severe, go to the emergency room. 

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What is a migraine?
I hear the word “migraine” thrown around loosely… and often spelled incorrectly. While all headaches are terrible, migraines are a different kind of terrible. Migraines cause extreme pain that are accompanied with symptoms that make them different from regular headaches.

What are signs a migraine is coming?
– changes in vision such as floaters, flashes of light
– tingling in an arm or leg
– neck stiffness

What are migraine symptoms?
– severe head and/or neck pain
– pain on only one side of the head/face
– pain that moves back and forth
– blurred vision
– dizziness
– nausea and vomiting
– extreme sensitivity to light and/or sound
– Feeling exhausted or drained after a migraine

What are some methods used to prevent  migraines?
– balanced nutrition and no skipping meals
– 8-9 hours of sleep per night
– drink plenty of water every day
– replace simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates
– avoid sugar, alcohol, and caffeine (see below)
– regular visits to a chiropractor and/or massage therapist (I have had immense success this way.)

What are some methods used to treat migraines?
– Lay still in a dark, quiet room to reduce sensory stimuli.
– Try using essential oils. Personally, I have tried Deep Blue by dōTERRA. I get mine for a cheaper price by buying from a consultant. I have heard good reports on lavender oil and peppermint oil also.
– I have used Vicks VapoRub on my temples, jaw, and neck and found it to be helpful.
– I have had relief with Aspercreme when applied to my jaw and neck. (I get TMJ related migraines.)
– Thermotherapy (heat) can help relieve tension because it opens up the blood vessels. Use moist heat if you can. Never heat for more than 20 minutes. My favorite way to use thermotherapy is with a lavender rice pack similar to this one.
– Cold therapy can help relieve pain by reducing blood flow, which causes a decrease with inflammation. Use an ice pack on the painful area for 10 minutes and never longer than 20 minutes. Last time I was certified in first aid back in 2010, I was told not to wrap the ice pack in a towel. My favorite way to ice is with an Elasto-Gel Ice Pack and a lavender eye pillow.
– Medications for pain can help. Tylenol can help relieve pain. Advil can help relieve inflammation and pain. Personally, I take 4 Advil Liquigels for a migraine. You can also talk to your doctor about migraine prescription medication, such as Imitrex.
– If your migraines are like mine and involve a lot of tension and TMJ issues, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for Flexeril, which is a muscle relaxer.
– Medications for nausea can help. Emetrol helps stop stomach spasms.  Coke syrup, ginger, and Benedryl will help with nausea. If the nausea is severe, see a doctor about trying Phenergan or Zofran. My favorite way to rehydrate is with Pedialyte.

What can make a migraine worse or more frequent?
– Strong smells such as perfumes. If this is a huge trigger for you, be careful with aromatherapy.
– Sugar is a huge trigger. My headaches are worse around holidays that involve candy and dessert.
– Aged cheese
– Certain food dyes
– Certain food additives, especially aspartame (Artificial sweetener causes a migraine almost instantly for me.)
– Alcohol. I know it is so tempting to have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to relieve that tension, and while alcohol may provide temporary relief, it will make the headaches and migraines so much worse later on.
– Caffeine. American culture tells us that caffeine is a great way to relieve headaches. However, caffeine is addictive, and your body not only wants you to keep up your current caffeine intake, but it wants you to increase it. Because of this, caffeine withdrawal headaches start up and trigger migraines. Limit caffeine – and yes, this includes Excedrin. You may be temporarily miserable, but those constant headaches will decrease in frequency. Every doctor I have seen for migraines has told me to steer clear of caffeine.

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