According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is the sixth most disabling disease in the world, and the third most common. But when you’re in the throes of migraine pain, knowing you have company isn’t much comfort. Though researchers still debate what causes migraine, discovering your personal triggers and trying to control them through lifestyle changes is one of your best options for minimizing pain and disability.
The migraine experts at Apple Medical Centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, work with you to help you identify your personal triggers and also manage pain when a migraine headache attacks. If you have migraines, see if the following steps help reduce the number or severity of your headaches:
Optimize your sleep
In today’s 24/7 world — when your phone’s constantly distracting you with upsetting events or requests from your boss, spouse, or kids — you need to be sure you’re giving your brain and body enough restorative rest. Being overly tired increases your risk for a migraine attack. Adopt the following habits to help you rest fully and well:
- Establish a set bedtime and rise time and stick to them — even on weekends
- Stop using blue lights — especially phones, tablets, and TVs — 2-3 hours before bed
- Wear amber-tinted glasses starting at sundown to block out blue light
- Set your device screens to shift to yellow light at sundown with apps like f.lux
- Block light with blackout curtains and by masking LEDs so your bedroom is completely dark
- Keep the temperature around 65 degrees
- Stop caffeine by 2pm, and have your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime
Get plenty of exercise
Regular exercise is great for your overall health, and it helps you get the restorative sleep you need. Just be sure not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime. Aerobic exercise, especially, raises your heart rate and makes it difficult to wind down.
If exercise tends to trigger your migraines, talk to our doctors about healthy activities that help your body stay strong without risking an attack. Some types of exercise that aren’t overly strenuous but still strengthen your body include:
- Tai chi
We work with you to find the routines that are best for your current fitness level, your fitness goals, and your migraine triggers.
Be careful with caffeine
You may have noticed that drinking a cup of coffee eases the pain of a migraine attack. Caffeine blocks a substance in your brain called adenosine, which you need but which also increases during a migraine attack. But too much caffeine can actually trigger migraines.
If you have to drink more and more caffeinated beverages to stay alert, you’ve probably developed a tolerance. Talk with us about gradually withdrawing from caffeine; withdrawing too quickly can trigger a migraine.
Once you’ve withdrawn, you may be able to re-introduce caffeine gradually, but probably shouldn’t have more than one or two cups of coffee per day (about 200 mg). If you have daily headaches, you may have to avoid caffeine altogether.
Eat and drink regularly
Some of the most common triggers for migraines are being hungry and being dehydrated, so drink plenty of water and don’t skip meals or fast.
You might also consider minimizing the foods and beverages that tend to trigger migraines, such as:
- Red wine
- Coffee, tea, and colas
- Aged cheeses
- Cured meats
- Smoked fish
- Yeast extract
- MSG and food additives
If you think a food might be one of the culprits behind your migraines, eliminate it from your diet for a month and see if your symptoms improve. You can then re-introduce it and track your reaction.
Stress drains your body of the energy it needs to function optimally. Find ways to manage stress, including exercise, mindfulness, and meditation.
Make sure you spend time every day taking care of yourself with a few moments of silence or prayer, a walk in nature, or just a nice warm bath before bed.
Keep a diary
Keeping a daily journal helps you track your migraine triggers, and also allows you a place to de-stress by expressing your thoughts. Everyone’s migraines are different, and it’s important for you to see the patterns that occur before your attack so you can begin modifying your lifestyle to minimize your pain.
When you want to take control of your migraines with lifestyle adjustments, or if you’re experiencing migraine pain now and want relief, contact us today. You can reach our team by phone or by clicking the “Free Consult” button and scheduling an appointment online.