Recovering from a migraine can often come with a different set of challenging symptoms that could last for up to 2 days. But there are steps you can take to prevent or reduce the duration of those symptoms.
Migraine is a complex condition that involves four phases and corresponding symptoms. According to the American Migraine Foundation, these includes the following:
|Phases of Migraine
|up to a few days
sensitivity to light and sound
fatigue and yawning
|up to 1 hour
temporary vision loss
numbness and tingling
|up to 3 days
|throbbing, drilling, burning, or sharp head pain
nausea or vomiting
feelings of anxiety or depression
sensitivity to light, sound, and smell
|up to 2 days
difficulty concentrating or comprehending
stiffness in the neck or shoulders
residual discomfort in your head or scalp tenderness
euphoric or depressed moods
Take a moment to learn more about phase four, known as postdrome, and get tips to manage the symptoms during migraine recovery.
After you recover from phase three, the headache phase, you might experience the fourth and final phase of a migraine: postdrome. This phase is sometimes known as a “migraine hangover” as symptoms tend to resemble those felt after a long night of heavy drinking.
For some people, the transition from the headache phase into postdrome isn’t always obvious. Key signs you’re experiencing a migraine hangover are when symptoms shift beyond head pain to things like neck or shoulder stiffness, scalp tenderness, brain fog, or dizziness.
Symptoms of postdrome typically resolve within a day or 2. Though for some, a migraine hangover can be as debilitating as the headache phase of a migraine.
Everyone who experiences migraine is different. Some people don’t go through the postdrome phase at all. Even if you’ve experienced a migraine hangover in the past, it doesn’t always happen with each migraine attack.
There’s no exact known cause of postdrome. It’s possible that this phase occurs as a result of irregular blood flow to the brain during previous migraine phases. There’s no established link between migraine severity and postdrome occurrence.
The same steps you take to avoid a migraine altogether can also help prevent a migraine hangover or reduce its severity and intensity.
Start by creating and sticking to a normal day-to-day routine that incorporates good headache hygiene. Consider these steps:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat regular, nutritious meals.
- Take steps to reduce stress.
- Avoid other known triggers.
Keep a migraine diary to track your day-to-day habits and any symptoms experienced during each migraine phase. This can help you pinpoint which types of migraine triggers to avoid.
If you still get a migraine despite these efforts, taking these steps in earlier phases can help prevent a migraine hangover:
- Stay hydrated.
- Do gentle stretches.
- Avoid overstimulation.
There’s no cure for migraine. Certain medications can help treat symptoms that crop up during each phase, including postdrome.
Ask your healthcare provider which options may best address the symptoms you experience with postdrome. This may include:
- Pain relievers. Available over the counter or by prescription, these medications can help relieve body aches, neck stiffness, or head discomfort.
- Triptans. These prescription drugs can help alleviate more severe migraine symptoms, including pain.
- Ergot alkaloids. These work best against migraine symptoms if taken at the start of a migraine. They aren’t as commonly prescribed as they can lead to overuse headaches and bring on nausea.
If you experience frequent, severe, or long-lasting migraine attacks, your doctor may also recommend preventative migraine treatment. Seeking out care from a headache specialist can help you determine the right treatment plan for you.
The postdrome phase doesn’t last long — it typically resolves within 2 days. There’s plenty you can do in the meantime to help alleviate discomfort.
Migraine hangover symptoms are sometimes managed with cold compresses or heating pads, depending on what works best for you. Some people find that a gentle massage helps to relieve stiff or aching areas.
Try these other strategies to help manage the symptoms of postdrome and get back to your regular routine while recovering from an episode of migraine.
Get plenty of rest
When you’re recovering from migraine, try to give yourself time to rest and recuperate. If possible, gradually ease back into your regular schedule.
For example, if you’re returning to work after taking time off due to migraine, it might help to continue with limited work hours for a couple of days.
Consider starting your workday a little later than usual or wrapping up early, if you can. Try to focus on relatively easy tasks on your first day back.
It might also help to:
- Cancel or reschedule nonessential appointments and social commitments.
- Ask a friend, family member, or babysitter to keep your kids for a couple of hours.
- Schedule time for a nap, massage, or other relaxing activities.
- Take a leisurely walk, while you’re refraining from more vigorous exercise.
Limit exposure to bright lights
If you experience light sensitivity as a symptom of migraine, consider limiting your exposure to computer screens and other sources of bright light while you recover.
If you need to use a computer for work, school, or other responsibilities, it might help to adjust the monitor settings to reduce the brightness or increase the refresh rate. It might also help to take regular breaks to give your eyes and mind a rest.
When you wrap up your responsibilities for the day, consider going for a gentle walk, taking a bath, or enjoying other restful activities. Unwinding in front of your television, computer, tablet, or phone screen might make lingering symptoms worse.
Nourish your body with sleep, food, and fluids
To promote healing, it’s important to give your body the rest, fluids, and nutrients it needs. For example, try to:
- Get enough sleep. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help hydrate your body. This is especially important if you’ve vomited during an episode of migraine.
- Eat nutrient-rich foods, including a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. If you’re feeling nauseous, it might help to stick to bland foods for a day or 2.
For some people, certain foods seem to trigger migraine symptoms. For example, common triggers include alcohol, caffeinated beverages, smoked meats, and aged cheeses.
Aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) may also trigger symptoms in some cases. Try to avoid anything that triggers your symptoms.
Ask for help and support
When you’re getting back on track after a migraine, consider asking others for help.
If you’re struggling to meet a deadline while coping with migraine symptoms or their aftermath, your supervisor might be willing to give you an extension. Your co-workers or classmates might be able to help you catch up, too.
When it comes to your responsibilities at home, your friends or family members may be willing to pitch in.
For example, see if they could help with child care, chores, or errands. If you can hire someone to help with such tasks, that may also give you more time to rest or catch up on other responsibilities.
Your doctor might also be able to help. If you experience symptoms of migraine, let them know. Ask about treatments you can take to help prevent and ease symptoms, including symptoms of postdrome.
It can take some time to recover from migraine symptoms. If possible, try to ease back into your regular routine. Take as much time as you can to rest and recover. Consider asking your friends, family members, and others for help.