headaches http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/13982/all en-US Dealing With and Understanding Migraine Headaches http://www.wisebread.com/dealing-with-and-understanding-migraine-headaches <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dealing-with-and-understanding-migraine-headaches" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000016137767Small.jpg" alt="Woman with a headache" title="Woman with a headache" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I have suffered from migraines for about twenty years now. They are less frequent and of lower intensity than they were in my 30s, but I still dread them. Unfortunately, my daughter also occasionally has them. How much do they hurt? Well, I have gone through natural childbirth, surgery, wisdom tooth removal...I&rsquo;d rate the migraines right below childbirth on the pain scale. They are <em>severely</em> painful. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-ways-to-beat-a-killer-headache-with-stuff-you-have-around-the-house">9 Ways to Beat a Killer Headache</a>)</p> <p>I must preface any &ldquo;home remedy advice&rdquo; that I am giving here with this &mdash; if you are having severe headaches, you should see your doctor. Never assume you have figured out what you have from the internet. Make an appointment.</p> <p>In fact, that was what I did after I had my first migraine. After a thorough examination, my doctor explained what a migraine was. My genes or environmental factors could be the cause, as could the trigeminal nerve (a pain pathway) and/or imbalances in serotonin levels. Interestingly, she also told me, &ldquo;God isn&rsquo;t punishing you.&rdquo; That hadn&rsquo;t occurred to me at all, but she explained that because the pain so severe, it is not uncommon for people to think that.</p> <h2>Migraine Triggers</h2> <p>People who suffer from migraines talk about their &ldquo;triggers.&rdquo; Triggers are factors that they have found set off their migraines. Before I could figure out what my triggers were, I needed medication so that I could cope. My doctor prescribed Cafergot tablets, which were only somewhat effective. Later, I also had a prescription for Imitrex tablets, which were more effective. Unfortunately, Imitrex left me listless and groggy, so I was pretty worthless long after the headache was gone; and it was expensive, so I knew I had to figure out my triggers.</p> <p>Basically, figuring out your triggers entails retracing your steps prior to the migraine. To prevent migraines, you need to know what factors contributed to them. I found that it helped to keep a &ldquo;migraine journal&rdquo; recording when I had one, what I had to eat or drink, how my stress level leading up to the episode was, whether I was on my period, and how much sleep I had gotten. If you share this information with your doctor, they can help you to connect the dots. Here are some common triggers:</p> <ul> <li>For women, your hormones. Fluctuations in estrogen can be a culprit.</li> <li>Sleep patterns</li> <li>MSG</li> <li>Stress</li> <li>Light. Bright or fluorescent lights can trigger migraines, as can &ldquo;gray&rdquo; weather.</li> <li>Chocolate (how sad is that?)</li> <li>Weather (changes in barometric pressure)</li> <li>Tannins in red wine</li> <li>Beer</li> <li>Altering caffeine intake or excessive caffeine intake</li> <li>Aspartame</li> <li>Skipping meals or fasting</li> <li>Stress</li> <li>Loud noises</li> <li>Unusual smells</li> <li>Intense physical activity</li> <li>Some medications</li> </ul> <h2>How to Avoid Common Migraine Triggers</h2> <p>Once you have figured out your triggers, you have won half the battle, because many migraine-inducing things can be eliminated. Here are some ways to handle your triggers.</p> <h3>Hormones</h3> <p>Use of the pill may help you to stay more regulated. Your doctor may have you experiment with different dosages.</p> <h3>Sleep</h3> <p>I have to get at least seven and a half hours of sleep each night, and it&rsquo;s best if I get it at the same time. However, if I have to work during a night shift, I know that I need to compensate by sleeping in the next day. I have found that I can successfully adjust the sleep times, so long as I get that amount of sleep.</p> <h3>MSG</h3> <p>I found this one out the hard way. Early in my marriage, I used prepared foods (like noodle mixes, canned soups, etc.). Many, many prepared foods (even including snack foods like chips) contain MSG. Unfortunately, a lot of restaurants also use it, so you have to learn to ask about it when you eat out. I think having an intolerance to MSG is sort of a mixed blessing, though &mdash; it lead to learning how to cook healthier meals, more economically.</p> <h3>Stress</h3> <p>Figure out how to control your stress levels. Try <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/half-moon-full-wallet-free-online-yoga-videos">yoga</a>, meditation, biofeedback, exercise, counseling, etc. There are many methods of controlling stress, and even if you don&rsquo;t suffer from migraines, you should learn how to deal.</p> <h3>Light</h3> <p>This is a tough one, especially if you work in an office environment that uses fluorescent light bulbs. If you know this to be a trigger, perhaps your employer can accommodate your work area so that you have different lighting. Your physician can help you in this respect.</p> <h3>Chocolate</h3> <p>I have found that if I am really dying for chocolate, I can get away with it. I have to just have a small piece. If you make that piece a really high-quality type of chocolate, that helps, too.</p> <h3>Weather</h3> <p>There isn&rsquo;t much you can do about this one. Sometimes, if the outside light seems to &ldquo;glare,&rdquo; sunglasses help.</p> <h2>Home Migraine Remedies</h2> <p>Unfortunately, sometimes I just blow it.&nbsp;I&rsquo;m human. For me, I can usually get away with one thing &mdash; but if I combine a couple of triggers (say, I eat too much chocolate, and then I don&rsquo;t get enough sleep) I may get a migraine. Here are ways to cope.</p> <h3>Ibuprofen</h3> <p>I have tried various types of pain relievers, but ibuprofen works best for me. At the first onset of an aura or tunnel vision, I pop two. Some report that Excedrin is helpful.</p> <h3>Get in a Dark Room</h3> <p>Unfortunately, that&rsquo;s hard to do at work. If I feel a migraine coming on, and it feels like a bad one, I have to go home, at least until it passes. From experience, I know it isn&rsquo;t just going to pass without employing more coping mechanisms.&nbsp;Close your curtains, turn out the lights, and lie down.</p> <h3>Coca-Cola</h3> <p>I don&rsquo;t even like soda, but we always have <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/51-uses-for-coca-cola-the-ultimate-list">Coke</a> on hand. Caffeine is really helpful in alleviating migraine headache pain (&ldquo;Cafergot&rdquo; has caffeine in it). I slam down a can of it, sometimes using it to wash down the ibuprofen.</p> <h3>Coffee</h3> <p>Same principle as Coke, but the Coke settles my stomach more than coffee does.</p> <h3>Quiet</h3> <p>For me, having the TV on during a migraine just makes it worse.</p> <h3>Cold Compress</h3> <p>It feels great to have a really cold washcloth on my forehead or neck.</p> <h3>Vomiting</h3> <p>I saved the best for last. For me (and for my daughter) the migraines are usually accompanied with severe nausea. We have both found that if we just &ldquo;let it go&rdquo; (toss your cookies, puke, drive the porcelain bus), we feel better almost instantly. So quit fighting it.</p> <p>After years of dealing with migraines, I have concluded that, painful as they are, their &ldquo;blessing&rdquo; is that they are a signal to employ a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, they aren&rsquo;t so much a tap-on-the-shoulder reminder as a slam-you-in-the head reminder.</p> <p>Again, if you are having severe headaches, see your doctor. That is the appropriate starting place. Secondly, figure out your triggers, and try to avoid them. Lastly, if you do have a migraine, some of the above suggestions just might help.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/marla-walters">Marla Walters</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dealing-with-and-understanding-migraine-headaches">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. 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