01 02 03 400 Things: Managing Migraines 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Managing Migraines

34 I have been a migraine sufferer for about 28 years now. They occur almost weekly. My headaches tend to hurt on one side of my head, neck, and shoulder and down to the mid-back (but not always the same side). I experience dizziness, eye strain, and nausea with occasional vomiting. They can be triggered by many things, including stress, food, lack of food, heat, sudden movement, etc. I've done food diaries and sleep journals and have not narrowed the causes down to anything particular.

My oldest daughter, now 17, has also suffered from migraines for 4-5 years. 

I have found, over the years, a few ways to manage the pain. Notice I did not say "get rid of" the pain, although that does happen sometimes, too.

I believe that migraines respond to different treatments for different people, so I do not claim to have a cure. However, I have found a few things that shorten the duration of the headache. My daughter Claudia and I actually have different methods that work for us.

Pain Reliever

My go-to pain reliever is Excedrin.  I've tried all OTC and many prescription medications in my life, and this one has the most success. The key for me is to take it at the first sign of pain. I believe the caffeine is what helps, although drinking a caffeinated drink alone does not help. 

Note: Excedrin Migraine and Excedrin are the same. Look at the labels. : ) 

Occasionally, in the midst of a really bad migraine, I will alternate Excedrin with Ibuprofen (Advil). Liqui-Gels are best, as they work quickly.

I do not like to take lots of pain relievers, but a migraine makes me forget all about healthy habits and BEG for relief. Claudia does not find much relief from any pain medicine.

Cold Therapy

There is nothing like COLD to sooth pain. Especially migraine pain. It has a sort of numbing sensation for me. I find this relief in several ways.
Peppermint Oil

My BFF is peppermint oil. We keep a bottle at home, and one in both our purses. I rub it full strength on my temples, scalp, neck, and sometimes my back. We also use it in the shower. My method is to wet the hair, apply the oil to my scalp using fingertips, wait a few minutes, and then let the water run over my head again. The soothing peppermint sensation helps lessen the pain for a time.  

If you're not used to using the straight oil, it can be strong. 

In the 28 years I've had these headaches, ice packs have been my consistent companion. These have taken many forms, but in the last decade I've used this kind the most. The gel pack is also very nice. I wrap it in a cloth and actually lay the painful side of my head on it. 

If you're with me away from home and a headache comes on, you'll see me holding a cold drink to my head or turning the A/C on high. My family and closest friends know I have a headache by the scent of peppermint. Hey, there could be worse smells!

Heat Therapy

Heat relaxes muscles, reduces inflammation, and increases blood flow. These are all beneficial in reducing migraine pain. 

I have always avoided heat therapy because I do not like to be hot! However, in desperation a few months ago, I found that it actually reduced the duration of my migraine by almost half! By lying on an electric blanket (exposing the painful side of my body to the heat), I could fall asleep with muscles relaxed and wake up almost pain free in a short time. This was revolutionary for me! My typical migraine can last 18-24 hours, and this method was reducing them to 6-8! 

Occasionally (because I don't usually want to stand up more than necessary during a migraine) I will take a very hot shower and let the hot water target my head and neck. A hot shower with peppermint oil is a great combination.

Deep Sleep

This used to be the only way I would find relief. And that meant waiting until bedtime and taking Tylenol PM or taking it in the middle of the day and leaving my family to fend for themselves. Again, the muscle relaxer in the PM helped a lot, but deep sleep seems to be necessary for some.

Claudia takes Valerian root with great success. She will take it at anytime of day, get a really good nap (even if only for 1-2 hours), and wake up feeling much better. (If I took Valerian root during the day, you would not see me again til tomorrow! Everybody's different.)

Essential Oils

There are a few things that make me feel good, but don't necessarily get rid of the pain. I love essential oils, and keep several on hand at all times. Rosemary and Lavender are both great for aromatherapy during a migraine. I will pour several drops of both (and peppermint) right on my pillowcase when I lie down.  

I hope these tips will help some of you find new things to try. I'd love to know what works for others! Please share your migraine relief in the comments.


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