Understanding Your Symptoms
It’s not all in your head. Migraine attacks are often accompanied by a variety of symptoms like throbbing head pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, heightened sensitivity to light, sound, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. And although migraine experiences differ from person to person, many people report similar experiences.
In fact, in a national survey (American Migraine Study II), a large percentage of people with migraine reported the following as their most reoccurring symptoms:
- Throbbing pain (85%)
- Sensitivity to light (80%)
- Sensitivity to sound (76%)
- Nausea (73%)
In the U.S., an estimated 14.8 million people with migraine suffer symptoms severe enough to require bed rest or cause impairment of daily activities. And some people have reported their migraine attack lasting anywhere between four and 72 hours.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, it may be time to talk to your doctor and see if you’re able to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
Talk to your doctor
Identifying and Managing Your Triggers
In the world of migraine, navigating and knowing what causes migraine attacks can be difficult. Everyday actions can trigger migraine. What prompts a migraine attack for one person may not necessarily trigger one for the next, which is why it’s important to understand common triggers and track how they affect you.
Stress often leads to more frequent migraine attacks and is a trigger for almost 70% of people with migraine. Finding ways to reduce stress in your everyday life can be critical to preventing the onset of a migraine.
Common stress-relieving techniques may include:
- Making time for yourself
- Identifying stressful situations and developing alternatives to avoid them
- Eating healthy
- Incorporating daily, low-impact exercise such as walking or yoga
- Practicing relaxation and breathing techniques
Nearly 25% of people living with migraine recognize certain foods as migraine triggers, but not everyone reacts to them in the same way.
Maintaining a balanced diet and keeping a consistent eating schedule are helpful in preventing the onset of migraine. Foods that include an adequate amount of protein are an important part of a daily diet. They help slow down absorption of carbohydrates and help keep blood sugar levels even. Also, those living with migraine should stay well hydrated at all times. Drinking between 9 and 13 cups of water a day helps avoid overheating and dehydration — other potential triggers — and is good for the body.
Common food-related triggers:
- Monosodium glutamate (hydrolyzed yeast extract, natural flavoring, hydrolyzed vegetable protein)
- Nitrites (preservatives found in lunch meats and hot dogs)
- Tyramines (found in wines, vinegars and aged foods like cheeses)
- Phenylethylamine (found in chocolate, garlic, nuts, raw onions and seeds)
- Aspartame (a common artificial sweetener)
- Tannins (occur naturally in the skins of beans, red wine grapes, chocolate, teas and many red-skinned fruits)
- Sulfites (found in dried fruits, like prunes and apricots)
- Chocolate (contains tannins and tyramine)
- Citrus fruits (contain tannins)
- Pickled products (include nitrates)
- Alcohol (wine, beer, whiskey, champagne)
- Caffeine (withdrawal or overuse)
Your environment can play a big role when it comes to provoking migraine attacks. Being aware of and avoiding triggers when possible can help prevent migraine.
Common environmental triggers:
- Bright light
- Loud noises
- Strong smells or odor
According to the National Headache Foundation, 75% of people living with migraine said weather was a migraine trigger. In fact, people with migraine are nearly 30% more likely to have an attack when lightning strikes.
Common weather-related factors:
- Changes in barometric pressure
- Changes in humidity
- Extreme cold or heat
- Altitude changes
- Bright light
- Seasonal allergens
For many women living with migraine, hormonal headaches are common. Changes in estrogen levels, such as those during menstruation or menopause, can be tied to migraine. Studies have shown that as many as 60% of migraine headaches experienced by women are menstrual-related.
Regular and restful sleep can help prevent attacks and lessen migraine severity. Ensure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night to avoid fatigue. Establishing a sleep routine is a good approach. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Some people set an alarm or reminder at night when it’s time to power down and get ready for bed.
While it’s good to have an understanding of common triggers, every individual experience is different. Tracking or recording your triggers is the best way to know how you’re affected and can help you avoid the onset of a migraine attack and allow you to better anticipate when one might strike. It’s also great information to share when talking to your doctor about your migraine management goals.
"Migraine Mode" Your Life
Living with migraine means paying extra attention to your everyday environment, whether you’re at home, out and about or in the office. By taking simple steps and making small changes in your everyday life, you may be able to help prevent the onset of a migraine attack and reduce the severity of its symptoms.
Here, we share helpful tips and tricks to “Migraine Mode” the world around you and make life more migraine-friendly.
Watch: Creating Calming Spaces
Watch: Creating Calming Spaces
Watch: Staying Hydrated All Day
Watch: Blocking Bright Light
Watch: Crafting An Ergonomic Workspace