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I have spent nearly 3 decades learning to manage chronic migraine.
While I love and appreciate the knowledge my doctor has about medication and treatment options, those of us with chronic migraine have lifestyle and symptom management down to an art form.
Over the years, I’ve found some essentials that help me when it feels like my brain is leaking from my ears and the sun is so bright it feels loud.
Here are nine products for easing everything from light, scent, and sound sensitivity, to nausea, restlessness, and pain.
I know what you are thinking: “If one more person recommends essential oils to treat my migraine attack, I will scream!”
This recommendation really comes down to distraction. While I won’t tell you that essential oils can treat your migraine attacks, they can distract us from the pain and help us to refocus on a different sensation.
The cooling sensation of peppermint oil (sold in convenient pre-diluted roll-on applicators) on my temples and neck can do wonders for reducing the hyperfixation I have on the pain. Breathing in the scent can help settle my upset stomach as well as calm my mood.
It is always one of the first reliefs I reach for when an attack has a grip on my brain.
If you’re sensitive to scents, approach this with caution. You don’t want to slather a trigger all over your head and then have to take a shower to get rid of it.
A comfortable ice pack is worth its weight in gold during an attack.
Some are gel-filled and can be worn on the head, making tasks easier when mobility is key (parents chasing after kids, I see you).
These ice pack hats are perfect if you love to try to freeze that pain away.
There are also packs filled with weighted ceramic balls and wrapped in fun fabric designs. The cold lasts for hours and it doesn’t border on too cold or not cold enough.
I recommend having more than one of your favorites so that you can rotate them in and out of the freezer.
On the other end of the spectrum are those of us that can’t imagine making it through an attack without heat — and lots of it.
I have tremendous neck pain during an attack and having a heating pad that can reach the lava setting is perfect for me.
If being mobile is key for you during an attack, try a microwaveable neck wrap. They come in both scented and unscented varieties.
I have an unscented one because many of them are scented with lavender, which I only like in small quantities.
Our beds should be an oasis. The reality is that many of us use them as a hideaway to try to manage the pain we’re feeling.
Ensuring that you have an incredibly comfortable bed with soft sheets, warm blankets, and the best lighting for you is key.
The other key is a comfortable pillow. What is the best pillow? This conversation comes up a lot on social media. The answer is whatever feels good for you.
I am currently trying a pillow that allows me to take some of the fill from inside and store it in a bag while I am deciding the correct level of firmness for my pillow. It’s still in the adjustment stage, but I like having the option of having a slightly firm pillow on some days and soft on others.
I never thought I would use a weighted blanket, but I’ve found they really can provide comforting pressure against the anxiety that can go hand-in-hand with pain.
I also sometimes feel really restless and fidgety when my pain level spikes. A weighted blanket helps me to feel a bit more comfortable in my skin.
I live in a very cold climate and my house seems to be cold all year long. A heated blanket helps me to warm up during winter and fight the cold during the air conditioning season.
With the cold hands and feet that
Have you seen the green light therapy lamp designed to help treat migraine light sensitivity? I thought it was a total scam until I read the
I was amazed by how quickly this little lamp could help lessen my symptoms.
It also lets me work when I don’t have a super painful attack by reducing the annoying symptoms like nausea and light sensitivity.
I use it as a bedside lamp, and it’s very calming before I go to sleep.
Another useful item for my light sensitivity is migraine glasses. These glasses come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes.
The idea is the lenses on the glasses will filter out the irritating blue light from devices that so many of us just can’t tolerate.
Some of the lenses will have a pink or orangish tint and others will be mostly clear with just a hint of brown. Some you can add a prescription to and others you can’t.
These have been a great equalizer for me when I have long days on the computer and on days when I have multiple Zoom meetings.
When I slide them on my face, it’s almost as if my brain just sighs with relief. My eyes, too!
I was super skeptical, but after trying it, ginger is now a go-to when I feel an attack coming on. It doesn’t seem to matter which kind I take — crystallized ginger, ginger capsules, ginger candies, ginger tea — they all help to lessen or even stop an attack.
Ginger can also help with nausea.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure a ginger supplement is compatible with your other medications.
While none of these products will “cure” me of migraine attacks, I find they are comforts I reach for again and again to help make migraine just slightly easier to handle.
I hope you find a few that help you, too.
Eileen Zollinger is one of three women owners of Migraine Strong, a migraine education and lifestyle website. She helped start the website and private Facebook support group after she experienced decades of migraine with very little patient information available. She wanted to create an educational and upbeat community that was full of hope and resources. She’s also the guide for the Migraine Healthline app, hosting live chats 5 nights a week. You can find Migraine Strong on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.