A Practical Guide to Happiness: Easing Migraines

I get migraines. It’s a thing. I have for years. I get them at lot sometimes (usually when I’m stressed) and not at all for weeks. On average, I probably get four or five a month. Not bad. Definitely manageable.

Then there are those weeks with whatever quirk of nature, change in air pressure, or phase of the moon throwing my body out of alignment, and I get them all the time. A couple of weeks ago was bad. Like almost every other day for 14 days bad. It was awful. And there was not apparent trigger. Still running every day, still eating my regular diet. I even got some awesome news that week (which I will tell all you about later when it’s official official), so it wasn’t stress.

Migraines are madness. Once upon a time I was determined to figure these migraines out for real, so I went to tons of specialists, had a spinal tap and MRI (both of which I fell asleep during the procedures), all to hear it summed up with: “We really don’t know why you’re getting migraines.” Thanks. And I’m not special here; this is generally what people with migraines hear.

So, before my trip down memory lane, I was going to tell you about how I spent my days working and my afternoons napping, which temporarily nipped the migraine in the bud, before flaring up again at night. I felt best in the morning after running. I’m back to my normal now.

But this got me to thinking: how can I ease my migraines when I get them insomuch that I can actually work and do those things that I need to get done? Surely bearing through the pain on pure grit and determination isn’t the best solution. First off, there are behind the eye migraines and neck migraines. The former are harder to manage, the latter are a little easier. Here are some tips from somebody who knows:

  • Lie down if you can, especially if you notice yourself getting an aura or spotted vision. Even a few minutes in a dark, quiet place can help.
  • Avoid cloying smells, bright lights, or loud noises. All three can trigger a migraine. Driving west in the afternoon is my own personal killer. I need sunglasses at least to help avoid that hell.
  • Limit your intake of moldy cheeses, such as bleu and gorgonzola. I don’t know the logic, but mold makes you more prone to getting a migraine.
  • Don’t crick your neck. If you get tension migraines (neck-based), then keeping your neck in a natural position is important.
  • Limit device use. Whether it’s the bright artificial light or the way I look at it, if I use my iPhone too long at one time, I start to get a migraine or make getting a migraine more likely. Obviously peering at those tiny screens is not natural.
  • Have caffeine on hand. I swear that drinking a caffeinated beverage when a migraine begins helps quite a lot. Caffeine might not be your thing, and that’s fine, but I’ve personally noticed a difference.
  • Drink water. If you’re dehydrated, you could very likely get a headache, and once you have that, the transition to migraine is easy and almost inevitable.
  • Eat something. If you haven’t eaten in a while or have low blood sugar, this can trigger a migraine.
  • Take a nap, or don’t. Honestly, this depends on you. Some people find napping helps, but some people finds that it can make it worse. Just know your body.
  • Use a good pillow. It’s that neck factor.
  • Exercise. Exercise (and running) tends to ease tension from your muscles, which is what you need.
  • Massage. I’ve never had a professional massage me when I had a migraine, but easing those muscles can make all the difference.
  • Heat compresses and cool packs. Moist heat and cold also helps ease the muscles and your pain. Like right at this moment, I’m getting a migraine, and I’m daydreaming about heat across the back of my neck.
  • Take some Tylenol. Taking pain relievers before it turns into a full-fledged migraine is important. It’s much harder to get rid of once you have it.

If all else fails, endure through the pain. I promise it won’t last. But there are things you can do that might help. That’s not saying much, I know, but even a little relief can lead to a little more happiness. If these measures don’t work, know that you’re not alone, and sometimes you just need to know that there are others out there who understand and empathize with you.

Choose Joy.

—A

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