How to Manage Migraines

A migraine is a headache with throbbing pain that is usually worse on one side of the head. The pain is often severe enough to hamper daily activities and may last from four hours to three days, if untreated.

If you believe you have migraines, you are not alone. More than one in 10 Americans, including one in 6 women, have migraines, but many have been told mistakenly that they have a sinus or tension headache. Foods, stress, and hormones can be migraine triggers. The tendency to get migraines runs in families. And while you can’t change your relatives, a lot of lifestyle choices determine how disabled you’ll be by a migraine and how often you’ll get one.

These tips can help.

Stick to a routine. Be as consistent as possible in your daily activities. Try and go to bed and wake up around the same time — even on the weekends. Eat your meals on a schedule and try to exercise aerobically every day for at least 20 minutes. These things will help protect you from getting migraines.

Why does routine help? If you get migraines, your brain is sensitive to environmental changes — both external, such as bright lights, and internal, like hormonal changes. Such changes tell your brain that the environment is threatening. The more predictable your lifestyle, the less likely you are to have alarms going off in your brain saying that there’s something wrong here.

Track your triggers. Not everyone has the same migraine triggers. A lot of people get migraines when they eat dark chocolate. For others it’s red wine or cheese, or being dehydrated. Flashing lights, too much stimulation, or flying can even be migraine triggers for some.

Keep a headache diary to find your triggers. Use a smartphone app or a paper diary to track your migraines. Fill it in for 1 to 3 months, recording how severe and frequent your headaches are, and what you ate or did before the migraine. After a while, you should start to notice patterns.

Do you have headaches that you think could be migraines? If you have specific health concerns, such as bad headaches, and would like to get checked, please call Prosperity Internal Medicine at 703-876-9300. Our group uses the latest advances in medicine, offering our patients access to innovative health management technologies, proactive team-based care, and an evidenced-based, patient-centered approach.