A migraine is more than just a simple headache—it’s an inherent instability in the way your brain handles incoming sensory information, and that instability can give rise to intense, pulsing head pain, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting, among other symptoms.
Migraines may last as little as four hours or as long as three days. They’re often so debilitating that all you can do is lie still until they pass; when the pain finally does subside, it’s not unusual to experience lingering weakness, dizziness, or even confusion.
Migraine headaches are extreme, to be sure, but they’re not uncommon. As the most prevalent neurological disorder in the world, migraine affects some 39 million people in the United States—or one in four American households—and an astonishing one billion people worldwide.
While chronic migraines can have a major impact on your life, understanding your condition and taking proactive steps to adapt can go a long way in helping you control your symptoms or even prevent them in the first place. Here are some concrete ways to reduce your migraine risk and head off pain before it starts.
1. Keep a migraine journal
Keeping a detailed record of your migraines is the best way to determine the association between your lifestyle, potential triggers, and the onset of symptoms. Each time you have a migraine, note when it started, what you were doing or eating at the time, how it progressed, how long it lasted, what (if anything) provided relief, and if there were any aftereffects.
Before long, you may start to notice a pattern in the timing of your migraines or their potential triggers. Besides helping us here at Vulcan Pain Management map an optimal course of treatment, this information can help you establish your migraine triggers, or at least give you an idea of what your triggers may be.
2. Maintain a balanced, consistent lifestyle
Nothing ruffles the feathers of a migraine disorder quite like inconsistency or change. That’s why creating a steady, balanced routine is one of the best steps you can take to reduce your migraine risk.
Remember, a migraine is the result of a problem between your brain and your environment. Going to bed at the same time every night, waking up at the same time every morning, eating your meals at about the same time each day, and getting regular exercise reassures your brain that all is as it should be.
3. Eat a wholesome diet
Just as eating the wrong foods can trigger a migraine in some people, eating the right foods can help you avoid a migraine. As is the case with most other chronic health conditions, it’s best to choose natural, wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
It’s also best to avoid or strictly limit caffeine, alcohol, and most processed foods—particularly those that are high in sugar, sodium, or chemical additives like MSG or nitrites.
When you eat is also as important as what you eat; letting yourself get too hungry between meals can also trigger a migraine. To prevent this problem, never skip meals and keep healthy snacks on hand at home, in the office, or when you’re on the go.
4. Keep your body moving
Engaging in moderate exercise most days of the week can be a potent anti-migraine activity. Not only does regular exercise stimulate the release of feel-good endorphins in your brain, but it also reduces your risk of anxiety, depression, and obesity, all of which can exacerbate your brain disorder and give rise to more frequent headaches.
If you’re currently inactive or have other health issues, begin slowly (walking, cycling, and swimming are great endorphin-releasing workouts for beginners), progress gradually, and avoid intense workouts—overly vigorous exercise can actually trigger a migraine too.
5. Manage your stress levels
Migraines and stress are strongly linked; in fact, they often go hand-in-hand. You can’t avoid stress completely, but learning how to manage it can help you experience fewer migraines.
Simplify your to-do list and your life by only taking on what you can actually handle in a given day. Getting enough sleep each night, knowing when to take breaks during the day, learning how to relax in the moment, and finding things you enjoy doing can also help you keep your stress levels in check.
When these lifestyle strategies don’t go far enough, your treatment plan may also include pain medications you can take during an attack, or preventive medications that aim to reduce the frequency or severity of your headaches.
To learn more, call the nearest Vulcan Pain Management office in Birmingham or Montgomery, Alabama today, or use the easy online tool to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mendoza any time.