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.
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.