I have been living with migraine pain for all of my adult life. Like everyone else, I try to avoid pain, including these intense headaches. When a migraine strikes, I’ve developed a number of methods that help ease the skull-crushing pain. (I am not offering medical advice, but sharing my experiences on how to lessen my own migraine pain.)
If you think you’re experiencing migraines, it’s essential that you check with your doctor. There are certain symptoms that indicate different types of headaches, including “classic” migraine attacks, from which I experience. Your doctor can diagnose your headaches, and help you find solutions to your pain. It’s also important to contact your doctor if you’re experience any kind of new headache pain.
Everyone has different migraine symptoms, but many people (myself included) experience a prodromal phase, which can occur hours or even days before the actual migraine arrives. This phase is characterized by mood swings, depression, fatigue, sleepiness, and neck sore muscles.
If I’m feeling “out of touch”, this is a good indication that a migraine might be on the way. Reducing my schedule and stress level is very helpful at this stage. I get plenty of rest, put a heating pad around my neck, and stay away from any foods that may trigger a headache. (For me, this includes highly processed foods that include preservatives or coloring, foods with MSG, and lunch meats. I’ve long given up chocolate, caffeine and refined sugar, which made migraines worse.) When I was younger, a dose of caffeine actually helped during this phase.
I stay away from areas with fluorescent lighting, as the flickering sometimes brings on an episode. I also continue exercising, even if I don’t feel like it. A good massage has actually stopped a migraine at this point, especially with work around the neck and head area.
Some migraine sufferers than experience a visual, auditory, or sensory “aura” before an actual headache. This phase occurs about an hour before migraine pain begins. Some medications are helpful at this time, when you know a migraine is coming but hasn’t hit yet. Talk to your doctor about a migraine medication that might work for you.
If all my preventive methods have not worked, the pain phase begins. Anyone with migraine pain is familiar with the throbbing headache, which sometimes feels like an ice pick is being inserted through your skull. The length of a migraine headache can vary anywhere from a few hours to three days.
My most effective way of easing this pain phase is to isolate myself in a dark, quiet room. Placing a cold washcloth or ice pack on my head offers relief, especially at night. Like many others, I experience extreme sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells during this phase. In a perfect world, we could retreat to a dark room until the migraine retreats. Unfortunately the real world always intrudes, and life goes on even during a migraine episode. I wear dark sunglasses when I venture outside, to minimize the sun’s bright rays. I’ll also wear them if I have to go to the grocery store, which is filled with bright fluorescent lights.
I always experience nausea during a migraine, so I avoid food until my symptoms subside. I do drink water, to avoid getting dehydrated. A natural ginger ale helps my stomach immensely — try Reed’s Original Ginger Brew. When the headache pain starts to lessen, saltine crackers a good bet until I’m ready for more substantial food. To feed the rest of my family during a migraine, a quick trip through the drive through or a call to the local pizza joint is a God-send.
It also helps to know that I’m not the only migraine sufferer, especially when I’m knee-deep in pain. The migraine will eventually move on, as does life.