10 Tips for Managing Migraine Headaches

Pain Management Steward Health Care

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.

What is a migraine?

Migraines are a type of recurring headache that affect approximately 17 percent of the population in the U.S.  They are the fifth leading cause of annual Emergency Department visits, and are often so severe that they interfere with one’s ability to work and carry on normal activities.

While they are most common in women between the ages of 18 and 45, men and women of all ages can suffer from migraine headaches that impact their overall quality of life.  Family history of migraines can also put individuals at greater risk.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms typically include a headache which is throbbing, pulsating or pounding in nature, starting in one area of the head and sometimes spreading to other areas.  The headache may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and/or extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

At times, these headaches are either preceded by and/or accompanied by sensory symptoms called “aura.”  Auras often serve as warning signs that a migraine is coming, and may present in the form of flashes of light, blind spots, shimmering spots, zig zag lines, temporary or partial loss of vision, or changes in taste or smell.

10 tips to manage a migraine

If you or a loved one suffers from migraines, there are a variety of lifestyle modifications that can help you manage their frequency and severity.

Here are 10 helpful tips:

  1. Avoid caffeine-containing beverages and foods, including energy drinks.
  2. Avoid alcohol (especially red wine) and tobacco.
  3. Avoid aged cheeses (including cheddar, blue cheese, brie, parmesan, Gouda and Swiss), as well as salty, processed foods, such as bacon, chips and pretzels, sauces, salad dressings, instant soups and fast foods.
  4. Avoid food additives, especially sweeteners such as aspartame, and preservatives such as mono sodium glutamate.
  5. Avoid or minimize extreme physical exertion.  While light to moderate exercise can sometimes have a therapeutic effect on migraine headaches, exercise that is strenuous, intense or rushed into without the proper warm up can often be a trigger for the headaches.
  6. Increase your daily fluid intake (I recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day).
  7. Increase your protein intake.  Studies show a relationship between migraines and protein.  Patients who substituted their high carbohydrates diet with a high protein and sugar-free diet saw an improvement in migraines.  Try to include a good protein source at each meal, such as chicken, fish or milk.
  8. Minimize exposure to bright lights, loud sounds, second-hand smoke and substances like perfume and paint thinner.
  9. Reduce your stress levels.  Consider meditation, Yoga, or psychological counseling.
  10. Improve your sleep quality and get at least eight hours of sleep per night.  Maintaining a regular sleep pattern (going to sleep and waking at regular times) may also help prevent headaches.

A diary can also be a helpful tool.  Documenting the details of your headaches can help you identify potential patterns, as well as what triggers and relieves them.

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.