Practical steps to rule your migraine
Do migraines rule your life?
Perhaps you feel like a hostage to all that pain, nausea, and sensory overload. You’ve given up making plans because they always seem to be thwarted by a migraine attack. House-bound — you’re doing good to crawl out of bed, shower, and get dressed each day. There have been more failed treatments than you can count and you’re almost out of hope.
You’re probably skeptical of this year’s theme.
How in the world are you suppose to “rule” something that has such a stranglehold on your life?
Are you really ready to admit defeat? I doubt it, but I bet you’re exhausted. If only someone would just toss you a lifeline. Most patients aren’t ready to give in, but they certainly fantasize about someone else coming along to rescue them. The sad fact is that no one is coming to save you from migraine. No one else — not even the best headache doctor in the country — can do the work for you. Staging the coup to overthrow migraine’s control over your life will not be easy. It may take more strength than you think you have right now. Most likely, it will take a lot longer than you’d like, too.
Yet it can be done.
You’ve already heard that you need to see a headache specialist, even if you have to travel. You’ve also been told to expect a long wait for your first appointment. While you are waiting, there are a few things you can do to start taking back control. These four strategies will help you take charge of migraine, no matter how frequent the attacks.
Keep a headache diary
It may seem pointless to track your migraine attacks if you’re getting hit nearly every day, but that’s not so. Start by tracking the intensity and any temporary breaks in the pain. Note any weather changes, your menstrual cycle, periods of unusually high or low stress, nights of insomnia, anytime you miss a meal or don’t drink enough fluids. By comparing your attack intensity to your environment, you will likely start noticing patterns that you can discuss with your doctor. This data will also help you prepare for the next vulnerable time so that you are not caught off guard by an increase in symptoms.
Build a toolkit
In addition to medications, there are probably items you use to help you cope with the symptoms of an attack. Think about the times you were hit by an attack when away from home. What would have helped you cope? Were you craving an ice pack, sunglasses, a cold drink, or maybe even a light blanket. It really doesn’t matter what it is. Anything that helps you stay relaxed or eases your pain can be included. Simply pack a bag with everything you think you might need in the event of an attack. Then never leave home without it.
Create trigger avoidance & mitigation plans
Are you sensitive to hot or cold weather? What about bright lights (sunshine, emergency lights, etc.)? Are there certain smells, sounds, or other stimuli that set off or worsen attacks? Make a plan for how you will avoid these triggers, or at least reduce their impact. Maybe you need a pair of sunglasses or FL-41 tinted “migraine” glasses, a wide-brimmed hat, umbrella, instant cold packs, high-protein snacks, or any number of items to increase your comfort.
Create an attack plan
Decide ahead of time how you will respond to an attack, regardless of where you are when it starts. No one treatment will work every time. Some days the nausea is overwhelming. Another day it feels like someone turned up the volume high enough to burst eardrums. On the worst days, nothing seems to help. The best you can do is hide in the dark until it passes. Without a plan, it will be easy to forget all of your available options.
Share with your team.
Once you have it all prepared, share it with your loved ones, supportive friends, and even your doctor. Having healthy people on your support team will help keep you on target. No matter how severe your migraines are, there is no reason to be at their mercy. You do have options. Having a plan of attack can mean the difference between living as victim of migraine or running the show.