A migraine is much more than your typical headache. It can cause extreme pain, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The throbbing pain can quickly ruin your day and interfere with your life.
But you don’t have to sit back and wait for a migraine to end. As long as you know how to deal with it, you can tackle it from all sides and get back to your daily life.
Take note of these simple steps, and you’ll be prepared the next time a migraine strikes.
Step 1: Have a treatment plan
A solid plan can give you the power to relieve a migraine before the pain becomes severe. This may be the most important weapon you have against future migraine attacks.
Your plan will likely include taking medications when you feel a migraine coming on. Knowing which medication to take can lower your stress level because it removes some of the guesswork of what you should do. Your plan may include over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, or some combination of the two. You should work with your doctor to develop a migraine treatment plan that’s right for you.
Step 2: Treat it early
Timing is everything when it comes to relieving a migraine. Take your medication as early as possible. The American Headache Society recommends taking your medication during the prodromal phase of the attack. A prodrome is a warning sign that a painful migraine is coming next. This gives you the best chance of getting relief. Don’t wait and see if you’re getting a full-blown migraine.
The key is to recognize your prodrome quickly so you can take action. Prodromal signs can vary widely between people, but they often include symptoms such as:
- sensitivity to light or sound
- mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, or euphoria
- trouble concentrating
- food cravings, usually carbohydrates
- fatigue or yawning
If you’ve had migraines for a while, you may be able to easily spot your prodromal symptoms. This allows you to be proactive, not reactive, in treating the pain. You may need to keep your migraine medications with you at all times so you can take them as soon as you recognize the early stages of your attack.
Step 3: Consider what caused it
If you can determine the cause of your migraine, you may be able to take additional steps to find relief. For instance, are you getting a migraine because you haven’t had enough to eat today? Some migraines can be triggered by a lack of food, which can cause low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. If you think your headache is triggered by hunger, eat something that’s easy on the stomach such as saltine crackers. This, in combination with your medications, may give you additional relief. The National Headache Foundation says some people may crave carbohydrates just before a migraine hits. If this is the case, listen to your body and have a snack.
Dehydration can cause headaches too, and may make your migraine worse. If you haven’t had enough fluids today, get a drink of water. Sip slowly to avoid triggering nausea or vomiting.
Step 4: Find a quiet, dark place to relax
Sensitivity to light and sound is one of the most common migraine symptoms. Get away from these things if you can. This can help you find relief from your pain and can alleviate stress. Lie down and pay attention to your breathing. Try taking slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm. Feel your stomach rise with the inhale and fall with the exhale. This can help you relax.
Step 5: Caffeine can help (sometimes)
A cup of coffee may help stop a migraine. Many over-the-counter pain relievers contain caffeine because it can enhance the effects of the medication.
Just make sure you don’t drink toomuch. Drinking more than one cup of coffee could set you up for a caffeine withdrawal headache later. People with migraines who use caffeine more than three days per week may develop a dependency on the caffeine. This can lead to more headaches. Moderation is key with caffeine, but it helps many people find relief.
Step 6: Try hot or cold therapy
If you’ve ever put an ice pack on an injury or a heating pad on a sore back, you know the power of temperature therapy. This can also help when you have a migraine. You may need to experiment to decide what feels best for you. Some people find that an ice pack applied to the head offers soothing, numbing relief. This is particularly helpful if sun or heat brought on your migraine.
Other people find a heating pad or hot shower to be therapeutic during an attack. It’s worth trying hot or cold therapy when your next migraine hits. It can safely and effectively complement your medication.
Choose your tools to fight migraines
All of the steps laid out in this article can help. Support from others is another powerful coping tool. You can find a diverse community of real people who experience migraines in our free app, Migraine Healthline. Ask questions, seek advice, and access expert resources on managing migraines. Download the app for iPhone or Android.