Migraine mitigation tips include blue light blockers and a quieter workspace


In the beginning of October, we discussed the increase and tenacity of migraines since quarantine began. I’ve talked to a few folks who are having migraines for the first time and it can be pretty scary, so I’m posting this for them. To start, for the sake of general discussion, let’s work with the definition that a migraine is “characterized by intense, debilitating headaches.” Among the symptoms are sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, vomiting, neck and ear pain and disorientation. Migraines are also commonly genetic and chronic. They are also generally managed, not cured. That management/treatment may need to be through medication, and you should consult a medical professional to discuss a plan. What we’re discussing today are some possible preventative measures from People that might lessen or keep them away.

Filter Blue Light: Experts know certain kinds of light can be a headache trigger for migraine sufferers—and right now blue light is in the spotlight. Explains Dr. Jennifer McVige, a neurologist and director of the Concussion Center at the Dent Neurologic Institute, light sensitivity has been a major challenge in the era of COVID-19 thanks to all the increased screen time.

Load Up Your Phone: Tech types have answered the headache community’s call for on-the-go support with a few little smart helpers. Dr. McVige’s picks: Migraine Buddy and Health Log, which help with tracking headaches and identifying triggers to avoid (like alcohol and food sensitivities), and Headspace and Calm for managing stress.

Sit Up Tall: One thing you can do right now to potentially help thwart a migraine episode, according to Dr. Stephen Silberstein, MD, director of the Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University: Correct your posture, as “pain and discomfort in the upper back and neck can trigger migraine.” He suggests switching out your uncomfortable chair for an ergonomic one. Or you could try a wearable electronic trainer, which could give you the nudge you need to sit straight.

Go Fragrance Free: Dr. Parham Yashar, MD, the stroke medical director at Dignity Health Northridge Hospital, recommends skipping perfumes and fragrances. so zero in on unscented options for laundry detergents, cleaning supplies and so on. Dr. Yashar also suggests considering adding an in door air filter at home to filter out other unwanted odors.

Destress Daily: Prioritizing soothing activities over stressful ones may offer some relief. “You can use mindfulness and meditation or going outside for fresh air, take 10 minutes to exercise or stretch, or just give yourself a break and unplug,” says Dr. McVige.

Prioritize Sleep: Setting yourself up for a proper rest can help keep you functioning at your best. “The key switches to make in your bedroom are to try to minimize the various triggers that patients with migraines may have in the first place,” says Dr. Yashar.

Consider Your Workspace: “Keep the office or room well-lit, but without very bright lights like fluorescent lights, if possible.” Minimizing surrounding environmental or neighborhood noises is also a good goal, he says, and suggests moving your home office as far back in your home as possible to prioritize quiet.

Have a Plan for Bad Days: “It is hard to always avoid migraine triggers, especially when it comes to weather,” says Dr. McVige. “Pressure changes like rainy days are hard.” On those days when you know you may experience a migraine trigger – stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes like menstruation – be extra on top of hydrating, de-stressing and eating right, and possibly block some time on your calendar to sneak 15 minutes of shut-eye.

[From People]

CB has talked about the blue light blockers before and she’s recommended glasses for that. I don’t know much about them, but I intend to ask my doctor when I see him this week. We talked about the app Migraine Buddy last time. I started using it. There’s a whole community to it and I haven’t done due diligence in finding out all it has to offer. The important thing is to track your headaches, what led up to them, the triggers, the situations, what you did and took (medication) and the results of all that. The more information you can give your doctor the better, so these apps are good for logging the information. But you can also get yourself a migraine journal and write it all down too, just make sure you know what information your doctor wants. One advantage to the app is that it will remind you if you forgot something. The other note I have is about the chair and the ergonomic office space – it is very important. Also important, using them the way they were intended. I had all the right stuff, and sat in my fancy chair hunched over, with my keyboard shelf at the wrong height and my monitor too far away – so read the manual! And again, I recommend the Migraine Stick CB suggested, it’s wonderful.

Also, if you are new to migraines, this is a good article about how they affect your relationships, especially with non-migraine sufferers.

You can always hit me up on Twitter @HecateAtCB to talk about migraines if you’d like. I’d love to get a CB migraine support group going.



Photo credit: Photo by Usman Yousaf, Anh Nguyen and Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase we get a small percentage.

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30 Responses to “Migraine mitigation tips include blue light blockers and a quieter workspace”

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  1. Liz version 700 says:

    Also, if you are seeking treatment for the first time, look for a neurologist who is a headache specialist rather than general neurologist. The number of those has markedly increased over the last 20 years. My first neurologist sent me to a headache specialist and it made a world of difference. The medications that came on the market this year have really helped add to the treatment available. There is much better treatment available now. You don’t have to be in pain. If you have chronic migraines you can take preventatives which reduce the number of migraine days also. I have migraines mixed with neck damage from multiple rear end car accidents. I was the dummy who actually stopped at stop lights. Over time I went from 20 migraine days a month to 6 or so depending on the season.

    • Noodle says:

      Yes! Yes! Yes! I am a chronic migraine sufferer who is seeing a leading expert on headaches and migraines. The new medications on the market this year – the preventatives Aimovig, Emgality, and Ajovy, and – the new abortives – Nurtec and Reyvow – have changed my life. Most people end up going to a general practitioner who prescribes Imitrex or Maxalt, and while those are fine, there are better meds available now. Botox for migraine has been a lifesaver for me, as well as muscle relaxers since every one of my migraines starts in my neck. I’m not on Migraine Buddy because I have a migraine basically every day and I don’t need a reminder of that, but I am on the r/migraine sub on Reddit, which has been extremely helpful. One thing they pointed out to me is that nutritional deficiencies, like magnesium or vitamin D, can contribute to migraines. I now take Migrelief, which is a Magnesium supplement, and it really helps. I also take Iron because I’m anemic, and an iron deficiency is linked to migraines. Finding a supportive community to discuss medications, nutrition, or just to vent, has been so important for me. Migraines isolate you and while many in my life are compassionate, it’s not the same as someone who’s going through it too.

      • Liz version 700 says:

        💯 agree on everything you just so eloquently said! Botox has been wonderful for me as well since it helps he neck. Migraines are isolating. I can’t imagine dealing with one every single day! Shero!

      • Mrs Robinson says:

        oh this is so interesting! I’ve had migraines since I was a kid, but only in the last couple of years have I been feeling the pain so much more in my neck. I didn’t realize that was a thing.

  2. manda says:

    But not all bad headaches are migraines. Migraines are vascular (according to my rheumatologist, who was trying to figure out why I developed raynaud’s all of a sudden; she thought she could tie that vascular problem to headaches, but not with me bc mine aren’t migraines), and can be treated with high blood pressure medicine. If you get tension headaches, those medicines don’t do jack. I’ve had bad stress and tension headaches my whole life, starting in kindergarten. I’ve tried topomax and other preventatives and abortifacents (topomax is the only one I can think of), and unfortunately, the only thing that really works for me is a muscle relaxer. Things that help are icy hot, heating pad, massages, hot showers, posture correctors, a bite guard (on my fourth or fifth since I was 12 years old), and therapy to try to mitigate my stress reaction. Sometimes I will just shoot the hairdryer onto my face or neck or shoulders. I have a cherapy pillow (for moist heat).

    Any other tension headache people out there? Tell me what you do to help!

    • Lou says:

      Migraines aren’t vascular, though, that’s an old idea. It’s more commonly thought now that migraines are hormonal.

      • manda says:

        well that’s interesting! Whatever causes them, the meds for them don’t help me. It’s just frustrating because so many people think that all bad headaches are migraines, and they simply aren’t

      • Noodle says:

        @lou, this is so timely. My neurologist is referring me to a gyno-endocrinologist to see if my hormones (I’m peri-menopausal) could be a major trigger. I’m fairly certain they are, but from what he said, it’s a pretty new field.

      • Mrs Robinson says:

        A little bit of hope–my migraines improved significantly with menopause. Not great during peri–menopause, but much better now.

    • Nina says:

      My headaches tend to be mostly tension headaches that radiate down into my shoulders often, with the occasional migraine thrown in for fun. I’ve started seeing a chiropractor. After my first visit, I went 6 days without any head pain. He also took several x-rays and they show that the curvature of my spine is backwards in my neck. My top vertebrae is also too close to the base of my skull which he thinks is causing problems. I don’t think I realized how much I was suffering until I had a stretch of headache free days. I’ve only been twice at this point, but on the first visit I walked in with a migraine that was completely alleviated and on my second visit I had the starting of a headache that he also fixed. I will continue to seek chiropractic treatment and have started telling everyone else to do it too!

    • Noodle says:

      Tension headaches and migraines are very different. I get Botox for my migraines, but they do inject the pressure points in my neck which has been really helpful. I also take Reyvow, which is one of the new migraine abortives, but it also works on tension headaches in me. I take Flexoril/Cyclobenzaprine and Tizanidine to relax my neck and prevent migraines, but those prescriptions are hard to get from a normal PCP. My neurologist is wonderful and happily offers me all the peripheral meds to prevent migraines, rather than just an abortive to treat one.

      • manda says:

        I am prescribed fiorinal, which is old school. I tried flexoril and didn’t think it was as effective. I will talk to my doctor about the new drugs you mention! Since I’ve had them for years, I kind of don’t bother really talking about them anymore to the doctor, nor have I sought new opinions. Maybe I should try a neurologist. I have chronic tension in my shoulders right at the base of my neck (it’s just so super tight there ALL the time) but I never considered getting botox, so I will talk to her about that too. Thank you for the advice!

  3. Aven Sharp says:

    Weather migraine sufferer here, with a mother and a child who have the same kind. Fortunately mine resolves with acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and caffeine if I catch it early enough. I haven’t had to get anything stronger although there are a handful of times I have ignored the warning signs and ended up crawling into bed sobbing with pain. In my child it started as stomachaches when they were five. We were lucky to have a pediatrician who made the connection to migraines, and so we tried the same meds (minus the caffeine) and that did the trick. I have started using a weather app to track barometric pressure and see if I can judge by numbers whether I will get a migraine, but no luck with that so far.

    • Noodle says:

      My 15 yo daughter is the same. She’s had vertigo from a young age and no one ever made the connection to migraines. Turns out her vertigo was actually the aura. I felt so stupid once we figured it out. I’ve had migraines for 4 years and it didn’t dawn on me that an aura is similar to vertigo. Her Dr did, however, and now she’s being treated. Sigh. Parenting fail!

  4. LadyMTL says:

    I’ve had chronic headaches pretty much since I hit puberty; some weeks if I’m unlucky I’ll have a headache that lasts 4-5 days in a row, though thankfully I rarely get full-fledged migraines.
    I’ve found that mine are often triggered by the weather, rainy and damp especially, and by certain foods…I can’t eat dry-roasted peanuts or drink more than sip of red wine without developing a bad headache. I also sometimes get hormonal headaches when I’m on my period, though not every month.

    The suggestions in this post are great, I’d add if you’re using birth control pills check to see if perhaps the migraines / headaches aren’t linked to those, as they often can be. I’ve also gotten more creative with my caffeine intake, because if I ‘just’ have a bad headache sometimes having a Coke or a coffee can help, I also use acetaminophen with caffeine though I’m careful not to overdo it so as not to potentially damage my liver.

  5. CooCoo Catchoo says:

    I have had migraines since childhood, but they really ramped up after I had my first baby. Nothing I took worked consistently. I developed pre-eclampsia at the end of my second pregnancy, and my blood pressure never went back to normal, so I was prescribed a beta blocker post-partum. Bam – I never had another migraine again.
    I would HIGHLY suggest that anyone with chronic migraines ask their doctor about beta blocker therapy.

  6. sa says:

    I get migraines and I get cluster headaches. What I have found to be the most effective is a combo of Excedrin, pseudoephedrine, and coffee. It doesn’t necessarily eliminate my headache, but it works much better than anything I’ve gotten from a doctor.

  7. Joan Callamezzo says:

    As I got older I realized most of my migraine triggers: sunlight without sunglasses, alcohol, high amounts of stress, not enough sleep, heavy scents, being hungry and the latest addition-salt. Caffeine can help quell a migraine if I catch it early enough, or chugging water or putting ice on the back of my neck.

  8. Sof says:

    I’ve had migraines with aura for a short period of time when I was 20, the first one was super scary as it was really strong and it took me a few days to recover. Ever since I’m more prone to headaches and sensitive to light, particularly the reflection of the sun on cars. It only takes a two second flash to blind me for a while, so I can’t leave the house in summer without sunglasses, just in case.
    I got my eyes checked and I don’t have photophobia, the only advice my neurologist gave me was to take an ibuprofen when I “saw” the aura, but that was it. It’s very frustrating because no one knows exactly what causes migraines and you have to put up with people saying “it’s just a headache, right?”.

  9. Leni says:

    I’ve had terrible chronic migraines since I was 5. Sof- with an aura, make sure you are not taking oral birth control – it greatly increases your stroke risk if you have migraines with aura (it can and does make others worse as well but without the increased risk). I take beta blockers, have started one of the injectables and get the Botox migraine protocol – all of which help some but don’t make them go away.
    The best thing that has ever helped was really good acupuncture – that is the only time in my life I have gone for several months without many. I’ve tried 5 or so others since this one woman and none of them have helped, but if you can find a really good one it’s so worth it. Would love to have a group – it’s hard for people going through it for the first time – sometimes it seems impossible to be in that much pain and not dead, but my drs assure me that it is. There are so many options now – hoping you can all find something that works!

  10. Guest with Cat says:

    Longtime migraine sufferer. One of my worst triggers is pulse width modulation. If you don’t know what that means, it is the technology that is used to regulate the brightness on the LED lights that we use as light bulbs and in the displays of some TV’s, computer monitors and phone displays.

    I can’t use the new iphones. I can’t use a lot of Android phones. I can’t use my computer monitors at all anymore and I have to give away a lot of the light bulbs we buy and find out will trigger me. I worry this will be the next thing that marginalizes a lot of people, especially women, in the workplace, since women are generally more prone to migraines. I didn’t have many problems unless I was on the birth control pill and then when I went through menopause.

    Most people have never heard of pulse width modulation and aren’t aware their technology may be triggering their migraines. I found out through a friend who is a fellow migraine sufferer and gave up her smart phone for a flip phone because of it. I definitely noticed an uptick in my migraines when we migrated from incandescent lighting to fluorescent and led bulbs.

    • Bread and Circuses says:

      Oh, that’s really interesting!

      To give a more tech-y explanation, with digital devices, if you want to lower the brightness of the screen, it makes more sense to turn the display off and on so fast that the human eye can’t detect it, rather than to bleed energy away by some other means. It helps the battery last longer.

      So for example, you might turn the screen on for 100 milliseconds and off for 50 milliseconds, and then repeat that blinking pattern indefinitely to reduce the apparent brightness of the screen by 1/3. The human eye won’t see the blinking; it will only see that the screen appears dimmer.

      The “on” period of this on-off cycle is the pulse, and the “width” of the pulse is how long it is on for (compared to the entire length of the on-off cycle). Hence this technique is called “pulse width modulation”.

      What’s neat to me is we know that some people have epilepsy that can be triggered by flashing lights such as strobe lights. Now it turns out some people have migraines that are triggered by lights flashing at a much faster rate.

  11. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    I never ever had a migraine until I had my two mini strokes. That first migraine??? I honestly thought I was having the “big” stroke and wound up in ER where the Doc told me what was happening. I have been very fortunate to only have had 2 more since then and I know when one is coming so I do everything I can to either head it off or minimize the fall out.
    I have nothing but love and sympathy for those of you who are chronic. I can’t imagine the struggle just to function.

    • Noodle says:

      That’s so scary, @merlinsmom1018. Sometimes my migraines are hemiplegic, where half my body will go limp and it’s stroke-like. I go to the ER each time because I’m so freaked out, and they’re like, “No, just migraine.” The hemiplegia seems to come at the end of a multi-day intractable migraine, so the ER is the place where I’d end up anyways, since all my meds aren’t working. I can imagine though, that after two mini-strokes, a migraine would be terrifying. I hope you’re doing better now!

      • MerlinsMom1018 says:

        @Noodle I just don’t know what to say other than I know exactly how you feel on the limpness and stroke like symptoms. Ugh. I don’t wish that for you or anybody. I am actually doing well, no strokes or symptoms since 2014 so I count my blessings, but now I have been diagnosed with allergy induced asthma🙄 so just add the inhaler to the mix. I tell you my 60’s are taking me on a journey…
        You have my deepest prayers Noodle, I wish you nothing but healing and good days going forward.

  12. ChloeCat says:

    I’ve had migraines since I was 8, I’m over 50 now. I believe mine are triggered by hormones & changes in barometric pressure. A lot of the new migraine medications are extremely cost prohibitive & not accessible to a lot of people. I get regular Botox injections; they worked for the first nine months but now that I’ve entered menopause seem to be not working as well as they had. I would give anything to be rid of these headaches; I feel like my head is in a vise for half of the month.

  13. ClaireB says:

    I found that Vitamin B2 and magnesium glycinate supplements helped of all the supplements and over-the-counter meds I tried. I also started stretching everyday, especially my neck and upper back and that has helped a great deal. My chronic migraine improved after I got treatment for the PTSD that was causing depression and anxiety, so there can be lots of triggers that affect each person. I still can’t get through weather changes without a migraine, but they’re less painful now and I don’t have one every day anymore, which is a huge relief. I also noticed that if I don’t eat enough, skip snacks, or delay meals, I’m more likely to get a migraine.

    Best wishes to anyone struggling with migraines. Definitely give each of the suggestions in the article a try, because you never know what might help you.

  14. Alice says:

    I’ve suffered migraines since I was a teenager, the aura, the explosion in my brain, ugh. Recently I’ve started acupuncture and holy bananas folks, it has worked wonders. That and craniosacral therapy are really great for helping, if your health insurance covers them or you can afford it. Wishing you all good luck, because migraines SUCK!!!

  15. Keira says:

    I have cut out virtually all gluten and alcohol, improved self-care and hardly ever have a tension headache; used to get them all the time. Lots of good recs here for migraines and other types of headaches. https://www.marksdailyapple.com/3-common-types-of-headache-and-how-to-treat-them-naturally/