Departing a bit from the standard posts to speak to you about an issue I deal with regularly and have dealt with a lot in the last few weeks – chronic migraine. I’ll also be discussing SIX non-prescription remedies you can use for even the smallest of headaches!
If you’ve ever had a really bad headache, you know how debilitating they can be. And I’m willing to bet most of you have had a headache at one point or another. For those of us with chronic migraine living a “normal” day to day life can be impossible at times. The International Headache Society defines a condition called chronic migraine as a “headache occurring on 15 or more days per month for more than three months, which, on at least 8 days per month, has the features of migraine headache.” I’ve had chronic migraine since I was 14, and in the early years I had a headache constantly. And before you ask, no I don’t have some sort of brain tumor, cancer or serious neurological condition, thankfully! Having been referred to a specialist for migraines and having dealt with them on a regular basis for almost 13 years, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about how to handle them and even avoid them all together. Of course, there are always prescription options. I myself am on three daily medications and have two pain medications I can take when needed. But, I’m only 26. I like to avoid prescription drugs when I can so I’ve rounded up some of my tried and true migraine/headache remedies for the post today!
Something I should mention before we dive in – If you suffer from frequent headaches or migraines, it’s important to see a doctor to determine the cause (if you can). After that, if you do indeed have chronic migraine, it’s important to document your daily habits (food, hours slept, habits, stress levels, activities, weather etc) to determine your triggers. More on triggers can be found here. But, in short, triggers are things that can “trigger” a headache/migraine. Some of my triggers include – brace yourself – changes in weather systems, very cold temperatures, dehydration, hunger, bright lights, blue light emission, stress, neck tension, sleep deprivation/over-exertion, and the list goes on. Looks like I should live in a bubble, right?! Recognizing my triggers by writing down habits and reflecting on them helps me realize situations that may cause issues and work around them. I try to live my life as anyone would, but I always prepare for my triggers and have a handy toolbox to fight a headache should one arise.
Here are six non-prescription remedies I use on a regular basis to help me prevent and combat migraines:
The American Migraine Foundation recommends getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night to prevent migraines. It also encourages a regular sleeping pattern (i.e. going to bed and getting up at the same time every night). For me, I need closer to 8 hours of sleep to avoid migraines; therefore, a busy time = a migraine time. Sleep is important for your overall health as well and is linked to things such as a longer life. If you have a headache, try to sleep it off – that may be all your body needs!
II. WATER WATER WATER
My migraine doctor always discussed the importance of hydration with me because dehydration can cause temporary brain shrinkage from lack of fluid, effectively pulling the brain from the skull. Gross! I find that I need more than the recommended 50% of your body weight in ounces a day. I need close to about 60%. This helps me prevent headaches like you wouldn’t believe and isn’t something I fully appreciated until recently. Chugging water is also one of the first things I do when I have a headache or migraine. It’s not a bad idea to start your day by drinking 8-10oz of water. It gives you a good start and can give you even more energy than a cup of coffee! And we all know how I love my coffee…
III. BLUE LIGHT EMISSIONS
Most technology we use on a regular basis emits some form of blue light – the phone, tablet, or computer you’re reading this on included. The effects of blue light on migraines are still debated, but I know it negatively affects my headaches. It causes eye stress, which causes an intense headache behind my eyes. I typically keep the night filter on on my iPhone and have a free program called f.lux downloaded on ALL of my computers – including my work ones. Don’t hesitate to ask your work’s IT department for permission to install, mine approved it right away! And I was able to walk out of work almost everyday headache-free.
IV. ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils are my first go-to when I have a headache or migraine. I actually own 4 diffusers, which I keep at my home and work (lol). To top that, I have multiple roller bottles of oils + carrier oils to roll on tense muscles and my temples. Yeah, I’m definitely the poster girl for oils! Eden’s Garden is my favorite essential oil company because they are 100% pure therapeutic grade and 10% of all profits go to charity. They have synergy blends like “Head Ease”, “Muscle Relief” and “Breathe Easier” that all help relieve my headache pain. And, no, Eden’s Garden did not sponsor this post in any way! I’ve purchased their products for years and would happily vouch for their quality!
Stress is one of my biggest triggers. Whether it’s emotional or physical stress, my body always reacts with a days-long headache. If you watched my insta-stories this past week, you know I was suffering from a bad cycle of headaches. This is the first day in almost two weeks I haven’t woken up with a headache because I’ve forced myself to catch up on sleep and cut down the screen time. It doesn’t hurt that my 9-5 is slowing down after an extremely crazy 2 weeks as well. During high stress times, I often turn to Yoga to help me release mental stress and give my neck/shoulders a good stretch, as that’s where I store my stress on my body. I try to practice Yoga once a week even when I’m not in a headache cycle to feel balanced and less stressed.
Acupuncture may not always be your first thought when it comes to relieving or preventing migraines, but it has been a life-changer for me. When I first tried Acupuncture in Spring 2016, I was suffering from a 3 weeklong migraine. Seriously. Acupuncture broke the migraine within a few visits and had me mostly headache free in a few weeks. Even now with monthly visits, it takes quite a bit of exposure to one trigger to give me a bad cycle of headaches. And acupuncture helps me get through my worst time (October-November, March) a lot quicker than I had in previous years. If you’re at your wits end, acupuncture is something to try!
So there you have it! Six things I do to both prevent and treat migraines, and I can personally attest to their effectiveness. Do you have anything you use to treat headaches or migraines? Let me know!