What I’ve Learnt: Coping with and Preventing Migraines

I’ve suffered from migraines for a very long time – the earliest I can remember being told I was having a migraine as I lay writhing in agony in bed was at the age of 11 but when I think about it, I was having them for many years before that but they didn’t have a name. My migraines are particularly severe – they start with the aura and progress to blinding headaches, aching muscles, numbness down my left hand side, nausea and light sensitivity. They can last for up to four days. Until I eventually went to the doctors many many years later and was prescribed Zomitriptan, migraines were a seemingly unavoidable part of my life. They happened on average once a week and normally manifested themselves as first the aura, then the nagging headache behind the eyes and sometime (about once a month) they would then progress.

I have learned since then that a lot of migraine prevention comes down to lifestyle. Below I’ve compiled a list of things of things I do every day that have worked for me in controlling my migraines; although they may not work for everybody. Since implimenting these basic lifestyle changes that everybody can do I have been getting markedly less migraines so I thought I would share my experiences; I am not a doctor, I am a Geography undergraduate and Women’s Empowerment blogger so of course, consult a physician if your symptoms are making life very very difficult!

When I wake up I drink two big glasses of water.
This is an important one: dehydration is a very common cause of migraines and is one that is often overlooked. Simply by drinking plenty of liquids when I wake up, I have found that my migraines happen far far less often. I use my dads pint glass, so I drink around 2 pints in the morning and then repeat before I go to bed.

Carrying a bottle of water in my handbag at all times
Same as above really. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. I buy one of the 500ml bottles of Evian on my way to the train station in the morning and refill it during my lunch break.

Regulating my sleep pattern
I know, I know. Easier said than done and all that. For just one week, try to make sure you get a reasonable number of hours sleep every night. I find that when I’m particularly exhausted, they strike!

Avoiding the Three C’s
Another one that’s easier said than done. The Three C’s of migraine prevention are Chocolate, Cheese and Citrus. It’s not fun and it’s not easy but the big one for me is chocolate, particular chocolates with high cocoa content. Dark chocolate can give me a migraine with 10 minutes of eating it.

Try not to stare at a screen all day
I have no reasoning for this. I just don’t think it helps. Maybe because your eyes get tired? I dunno, I’m not a doctor. When I stare at my screen all day I get migraines.

Alcohol.
This is a tough one. Basically, alcohol dehydrates you. Dehydration causes migraines. If you really want to get hammered, I suggest that old trick of having one boozy beverage followed by one glass of water. I used to think I just got hideously awful hangovers or that I was allergic to alcohol. Turns out they just cause enormous, world haltingly awful migraines. Try to stay hydrated, especially if “drink goes straight through you” as they say.

Carry painkillers with me!
This seems like a no brainer. If you’re prone to headaches, carry some pain killers. I tend to go for the “easy on the tummy” ones as migraines often make me nauseous.

Avoid too much sugar
This is another one I have no reasonable basis for. I used to eat a hella lot of chocolate digestives, have  2 sugars in my tea and have a real penchant for flapjacks. I also got a hell of a lot of migraines. Since cutting down on sugar, they have dramatically reduced. I think it’s something to do with heightened blood sugar levels, but as I say I’m not a doctor; just sharing my personal experience.

Regulating my body temperature
I know humans are warm blooded but sometimes when the temperature changes very quickly from hot to cold or vice versa people can get migraines – something to do with changes in air pressure or something. Not much we can do about that but I found when I went on safari that by ensuring I stayed hydrated (I know, I’m repeating myself) and kept cool during the day I avoided anything to horrible.

Stress
This is a tricky one. Nobody wants to be stressed so you’d like to think we all actively avoid it anyway. I go swimming when I’m stressed to help me chill out. I also shout at misogynists online, but that’s besides the point.

I hope that this has been instructive and that at least one person is helped by this post. As I say, these are just tips that worked for me; everybody has different triggers and it may be a case of cutting things out and trying different things until you find yours. I have also been prescribed Zomitriptan for when they DO strike and if you feel that nothing is working, speak to your doctor. There is a plethora of options. Good luck!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “What I’ve Learnt: Coping with and Preventing Migraines

  1. I started getting migraines a few years ago, luckily they’re not too frequent and usually last less than a day, but I understand how awful they are. I get an aura first too, and if I don’t take a sumatriptan tablet within a matter of seconds I know I’ll be in bed for at least half the day.

    Good tips – dehydration is definitely a key cause of mine. I’ve also read that magnesium helps, so if I feel headachey and like I haven’t been drinking enough I sometimes try to increase my intake of foods with high levels of magnesium.

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