Migraines are more than just a headache. They’re a headache on steroids. They’re a headache that was bullied in high school and never got over it. They’re a headache that grew up in a strict, early 19th-century household that was concerned with appearances so they denied themselves the pleasures of life out of shame and it turned them into a sadistic monster who now derives pleasure from others’ pain. As a chiropractor for migraine headaches that is my best assessment and I know to eliminate migraines we have to learn to avoid migraine triggers.
The pulsating, perforating pain of a migraine is accompanied by a slew of other symptoms that are sure to make living a normal life near impossible. And even if one could, what would be the point?
- Difficulty concentrating
- Temporary vision loss
- Seeing shapes, light flashes, or bright spots
- Neck stiffness
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and smell
- Pulsating and throbbing head pain
Because the cause of migraines remains a bit of a mystery many people think they are forced to ride out the terrible experience and pray they make it to the other side. Chronic migraine sufferers, however, often become depressed due to their inability to manage their symptoms. Over many years of caring for patients with migraines and headaches, we’ve identified certain triggers that provoke migraine attacks. Avoiding these triggers, or finding ways to manage them better, has provided my patients with the migraine relief they’ve been so desperate for.
Take a Deep Breath and Relax
No one likes to be told to relax. In fact, it usually has the opposite effect.
Meditate – One of the best ways to reduce stress is through meditation. Meditation takes many forms, it’s not just the stereotypical crunchy, hippy-dippy mediation we’re talking about here. Prayer is a form of meditation, getting out into nature, putting away your phone and just sitting with your thoughts and your breath. It helps you let go of all your worries and focus on one thing at a time–your breathing pattern or thoughts that cross your mind.
Journal – Journaling isn’t just for teenage girls or for writing down things you’re thankful for, though practicing gratitude has a powerful effect on stress. Journaling can also be used as an outlet when dealing with anxiety or anger that can bubble over into a migraine headache.
Stress, physical or psychological, is one of the most popular triggers not just for migraines, but for headaches in general. Stress plays a huge role in our overall health. When our body is under stress it diverts energy from life-sustaining systems like immunity and focuses on surviving the stress, whether that be a bear or a mother-in-law.
My mother asks me about my sleep patterns to this day. I’m starting to think it’s not because she’s a tyrant, but because she understands how important sleep is. She is a nurse, so it would make sense that it’s the latter.
One of the best ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle is through getting eight hours or more of restful sleep every night–especially when you have a migraine condition. This will not only help with migraines but other problems like high blood pressure that often result from chronic fatigue as well.
A lack of sleep can cause agitation and anxiety–both triggers for headaches. Sleep helps to manage our moods and increases our productivity during the day, but it can also help protect against migraines by decreasing our stress levels.
Our body uses sleep to process new information and, most importantly, to heal. If we aren’t getting quality sleep our body is not able to recover from daily wear and tear nor can it battle any bacteria or virus that infiltrates our body. We’re left defenseless. Developing a consistent sleep schedule is the best way to ensure that our body receives adequate time to prepare to dominate tomorrow.
Take A Lotta Water Breaks
Dehydration is a common trigger for headaches because of how it affects blood flow in the brain. Dehydration can also lead to increased sensitivity to many other triggers, like caffeine and alcohol.
Caffeine isn’t bad for everyone; in fact, it’s beneficial if taken at certain times throughout the day–but too much of it (or any stimulant) can cause an increase in headache frequency and severity.
Everything in moderation…except JOY!
Coffee can also hinder healthy sleep patterns. Again…everything is connected. It may take some trial and error to figure out your caffeine sweet spot, right between jitters and withdrawal.
As a doctor who deals with over 100 patients a day, I can confidently say that you are not drinking enough water. We should be consuming half our body weight in ounces of water EACH👏DAY👏.
Eat and Drink Right
Caffeine is a common migraine trigger, but it’s not the only one: food intolerances like gluten and lactose have been shown to cause headaches too. Watch out for these top offenders: wheat products, chocolate, citrus fruits or juices, aged cheese, beer and red wine.
An elimination diet may help identify which foods are safe and which are problematic.
Make sure not to skip meals though. Skipping meals, especially for those pursuing the mythic quick weight loss miracle, can increase the temptation to fill up on sugary snacks. This can trigger migraines because they increase blood sugar levels and disrupt sleep patterns.
Eat brain-healthy foods, like fresh vegetables, leafy greens, and other fruits. Eating right is not rocket science, but it does take self-control.
As much as it pains me to say it, alcohol is one of the most common migraine triggers.
I’m not going to dictate how to live life, but, as my dad always told me, make smart choices.
There may not be time for a full workout after work every day and that’s totally fine, but even simple exercises like going for a walk can reduce headache frequency by up to 40%. It doesn’t take much effort, just try to stay active! Exercise doesn’t require a gym membership or knowledge of Olympic weightlifting.
There’s a reason that animals do it.
When it comes to light, researchers have found that the most important thing is avoiding those bright flashes of light. Avoid using fluorescent lighting and keep your bedroom dark and cool. Finding a way to limit noise is also helpful, especially in urban areas where they love to constantly start new construction projects and compete on which one takes the longest to complete.
If light triggers migraine attacks, wear sunglasses when outside during the day (duh) even during cloudy days. Switch out high wattage bulbs or fluorescents for low wattage bulbs. Everyone looks better in low lighting anyway. It’s a win-win.
There are many more headache triggers than the ones I’ve mentioned here, including weather changes, hormones, and overusing medication. Keeping an inventory of when and why migraines occur will help in making the necessary lifestyle changes to avoid migraines altogether.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the role chiropractic care plays in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines, really any type of headache. The neurological implications of migraines mean that a healthy nervous system is the best weapon. Chiropractors are nervous system specialists who use chiropractic adjustments to remove nerve interference that creates pain and dysfunction throughout the body. Having a healthy nervous system means that our body is more likely to have a normal reaction to stimuli and will be able to process information and heal much faster. Call our office or schedule a time to meet with one of our incredible doctors. Don’t let migraines dictate how you live, your life should be lived on your terms.