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The Savvy Gal Spotlight: Managing the Migraine

The Savvy Gal Spotlight: Managing the Migraine

By: Jacqueline Shaprow, J.D. ~

More than 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraines, women being profoundly affected by them.  In fact, approximately 70% of people suffering from migraines are female.  Do you experience pulsating or throbbing pains in your head?  Does this pain lead to nausea and extreme sensitivity to light or sound?  If your answer to these questions is yes, you may be a migraine victim.  In order to avoid the negative effects of migraines, it is essential to identify the factors which trigger your migraines.  This self-awareness will provide you with the ability to modify your behavior and decrease your chances of experiencing a migraine.

1. Keep a Migraine Diary

If you are suffering from severe pain, the first thing most doctors will ask you do is keep a detailed migraine diary. This diary will allow you to track, assess, and understand your pain.  Your diary should include the following information: when the pain started, how long it lasted, the location of the pain, the treatment you used, how much you slept, and what you ate. This diary will allow you to better understand your migraines, and will ultimately enable you to make important lifestyle changes in order to prevent them in the future.

2. Avoid your migraine triggers

Triggers are different for everyone. The following are the most common: stress, changes in sleeping patterns, change of weather, skipping meals, caffeine, red wine, chocolate, and processed foods.  If you observe your behavior over time, patterns should become apparent.  Maybe your symptoms emerge a day after you eat chocolate, or you may notice a pain in your head after getting very little sleep.

3. Protect your eyes from the sun

Exposure to intense sunlight can cause and exacerbate migraines.  Keep a pair of UV protective sunglasses in your car at all times, and if possible, try to wear sunglasses whenever you venture outside.  Even while indoors, it is possible that strong fluorescent lights and working on a computer for an extended period of time can contribute to migraines.  However, while it may be impossible to change the florescent lighting in your office, it is easy to grab a pair of sunglasses whenever you head outdoors.

4. Devise a plan of attack for your menstrual cycles

Migraines and hormones are related.  Changes in the levels of estrogen during your menstrual cycle can cause and worsen migraines and headaches.  Prior to your period, estrogen levels decrease, and migraines often take over when estrogen and progesterone levels drop.  Since a migraine is likely to develop during this time of the month, try to get sleep before your menstrual cycle begins and try to avoid foods that trigger your migraines.  Doctors have recommended meditation as a natural means of reducing stress levels and combating menstrual migraines.

5. Try Natural Remedies

Magnesium and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) are great preventative measures for those who get migraines. Studies have shown that magnesium reduces the frequency and intensity of migraines. High Magnesium foods are almonds, cashews, spinach, and artichokes, and whole grains are a great source of Riboflavin.

6. Use Cold Compresses

When you feel a migraine developing, put a cold compress over your forehead or take a cold shower. This has been shown to alleviate migraine symptoms.

7. Try massage therapy

Tense muscles in the neck and shoulder area may exacerbate migraines.  Massage therapy has been proven to help relieve migraine pain and it has enabled migraine sufferers to sleep more soundly at night.

8. Develop Consistency in your eating and sleeping habits

Skipping meals, dramatic change in diet, and fasting have been shown to cause migraines.  Changes in sleeping patterns may also trigger pain.  For example, if you usually get six hours of sleep every night and then all of a sudden one night you get 10 hours of sleep, you are likely to wake up with a migraine.

9. Avoid overexertion in workouts

Consistency is key!  If you are accustomed to walking three miles every day, and all of a sudden you decide to run six miles one day, this physical overexertion is likely to induce a migraine.

10. Don’t stress!

Life is too short, and emotional stress is a common trigger of migraines.  Stress may induce blood vessel changes, which can lead to migraines. People who suffer from migraines have been found to be very affected by stressful events.  If one is successful at reducing her stress levels, this may prevent her migraines altogether.

About the Author:

Jacqueline Shaprow, J.D., earned a degree in Psychology from Yale University and has published articles in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, California Family Law Monthly, Urban Music Publications, and The Journal of Health Psychology (where her article ranked among the “50 Most Frequently Read Articles” in 2008 and 2009).  Her writing has also been featured in a book by Kaplan Publications about the diversity of experiences among female lawyers and legal scholars in America. Her Psychology Study on Weight Stigma and Discrimination was published in a number of different languages and presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. Her findings on Exercise Motivation and Behavior have been housed in University Libraries around the world, including the Ritsumeikan University in Japan and theUniversidad de Madrid in Spain.