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How To Counteract That Nasty Migraine

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Migraine Tips how to avoid them and make them go away

My mom has suffered debilitating migraines since she was five years old. I’m lucky. I only started getting migraines about five or six years ago, and mine aren’t as intense as hers.

Even so, I have days when all I can do it hang out in my bedroom in the dark, hoping I can function again soon.

My kids are old enough that they often help out when I get migraines, but there are times I miss out on their lives because of a migraine. With them in cross country this fall, this is the first time they’ve both had regular sports competitions in…forever.

My goal was to make it to every meet, which is a challenge as I tend to get more migraines in the fall than any other season.

Mister Man running cross country

As I get more experience with my migraines, I’ve figured out what works and helps and what doesn’t. More importantly, I’ve figured out some of the triggers that bring on migraines, and I do my best to avoid or minimize them.

While everyone is different, many of my triggers are common ones, so if you suffer from migraines, it’s worth seeing if you benefit from these avoidance tips, too. Of course, always consult your doctor if you think you are suffering from migraines.

I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice.

Migraine Tips: How to Avoid Them

For me, headache triggers tend to act like water in a bucket. A little here and there flows out of the bucket naturally.

But add one factor on top of another (am I allergic to certain foods? Barometric pressure issues? Seasonal allergies?) and suddenly, that bucket is too full and – poof! – I’m down with a headache. I can’t control the pollen count or barometric pressure, but there definitely are some factors I can control.

Avoid too much sun

I have light colored eyes so always need to wear sunglasses, even when it’s cloudy. I’ve learned to wear a hat if I’m going to be in the sun for more than a half hour or so.

I don’t know if it’s the glare or the reflection or the heat or something else entirely. Simply wearing a hat makes a huge difference in reducing migraines that I otherwise would get.

Think about getting a daith piercing

I know. It sounds woo woo, but sometimes woo woo works, so I’m including this in my migraine tips

I got a daith piercing in the cartilage of my ear just above my inner ear several years ago. I did it via a piercer who has extensive experience doing daith piercings, but they’ll tell you it isn’t a medical procedure, nor can they promise results.

And I know it doesn’t work for everyone.

That said, both the frequency and the intensity of my migraines declined significantly after my daith. I can sometimes go a full week without a migraine.

When I do get migraines, I can often continue with what I need to do for a few hours rather than collapsing immediately. They tend to make me less nauseated, and I haven’t vomited once since I got mine.

Whether it works for you or not, it may be an avenue worth exploring.

Drink enough water

Dehydration is a major trigger for me. Unfortunately, I don’t often realize that I’m not drinking enough when I get busy.

There are times when I sit with my water bottles in front of me and just don’t think to actually drink it and refill.

Pro tip: Make sure you drink enough water by using rubber bands or an app to track how much you’ve drunk.

My favorite water bottle now has a gallon of water and “yells” at me when I’m not drinking enough water fast enough.

Avoid chemical scents

I can’t wear perfume. Actually, I can’t even walk through the perfume section of a department store.

I can’t even clean with most commercial products or use fabric softener. Those are just a few of the scents that I know set me off.

Lavender is usually a good scent for those who suffer migraines, but for me, it’s a trigger. Figure out what smells bother you – and know artificial fragrances tend to be the biggest offenders – and avoid them when you can.

I’ve actually had to ask a teacher at my kids’ middle school to have our conference in another room because her classroom has a diffuser with a scent that I knew would set me off if we stayed.

Don’t skip meals

Yeah, I’m a mom and I work and I’m PTO president and my kids have activities and I am in charge of the house and… you know how it goes.

Or I’m just not hungry or I’m busy when I’m hungry and then go past hungry until I’m not. Regardless of the cause, when I start skipping meals, my migraine frequency increases.

Migraines also tend to make me nauseous, which means I don’t (or can’t) eat, which only reinforces the negative cycle.

Another tip? Frozen cherries, especially tart ones, are one of the few foods I tolerate well when I’m feeling nauseated from a migraine.

Get enough sleep

This seems like a no brainer, right? Except that it’s not. Again, I can go without much sleep for a night, but even my husband knows that a significant sleep deficit causes issues.

He didn’t want me to book the cheapest flight home from my last trip because he knew a 5am flight after all day travel and the trip itself was likely to throw me over the edge. I have to remind myself sometimes to get enough sleep.

Sometimes that means I need to compromise my schedule and take a nap for an hour or two to stave off a migraine. Losing an hour or two is better than losing an entire day!

Be careful with exercise

I finally figured out that there are some gym classes that will bring on a headache for me that can turn into a migraine. Anything where I have to hold my head off the ground (I’m looking at you, Pilates, especially) tends to really tense up my already tense shoulders and neck and bring on a tension headache that can turn into a full blown migraine.

As soon as I feel my neck getting tight and sore, I now take Excedrin Tension Headache immediately. For some reason, this works far better for me than Excedrin Migraine, though it seems counterintuitive.

It’s great aspirin-free headache relief that helps to keep headaches at bay. Make sure you use as directed and don’t take too many in too short a period, of course. 

Excedrin headache products

Migraine Tips: How To Attack When You Feel One Coming On

Sometimes, you just can’t avoid it. But I have more migraine tips to help you out once you feel that pressure build or start seeing the auras.

Take action fast

I can feel a migraine coming on before I start seeing auras and really get knocked out. I finally learned that if I take Excedrin as soon as I feel the migraine coming on, I have a good chance at stopping the train before the migraine takes hold.

If I do it fast enough, I can avoid taking my prescription meds, since I get only nine pills to last a month. And I get far more than nine migraines a month….

In addition to taking an meds with plenty of water (I try to always drink at least an eight ounce glass with it), I lay down in a dark room for 30 minutes. The dark, quiet room and lack of movement helps quiet my head and allows the headache to go away instead of expanding into a full migraine.

Drink peppermint tea

Unfortunately, I generally get nauseous when I have a migraine. I don’t want to eat anything, and the roiling stomach just gets worse if I don’t eat.

I finally figured out that peppermint tea is soothing enough to calm my stomach to allow me to eat a little something that helps avoid escalating the problem.

Interestingly, frozen tart cherries are one of the few foods I can eat when I have a migraine. I have no idea why, but I keep a stock in my freezer at all times, just in case.

Apply a diluted peppermint essential oil

Peppermint oil works for me. I first heard about it at a conference where I had a migraine come on in a session and had run out of my meds already.

A friend lent me her peppermint roller to apply just over my brow line and under my eyes along my cheekbone. It’s fascinating to me that it makes my eyes water only on the side where I have a migraine.

That part isn’t any fun, but it makes such a difference in reducing the pressure and pain of a migraine. The scent of peppermint also helps my stomach, so it’s a win all around.

Just make sure to dilute it, as essential oils should never be applied in full concentration.

Apply a peppermint oil roller

Use a migraine hypnosis app

They exist. Really. And they help.

While this doesn’t eliminate a migraine on its own, it makes a big difference. I play this as soon as I lie down after taking my meds.

It works well with my other tricks and tips. I love that listening to it proactively also may help reduce my migraine frequency and severity.

Apply ice packs

Ice helps to reduce swelling, which allows blood to flow more easily. I have many ice packs at the ready in my freezer at all times.

Wrap an ice pack in a towel and lay it across your forehead. Use a second wrapped ice pack at the back of your neck.

They work well to reduce the immediate severity of a migraine. While this isn’t the solution, it gives other tactics time to take effect.

Create a Migraine Prep Kit

I can’t tell you how many times I have had a migraine and it’s gotten bad fast. When I have a migraine, my brain doesn’t work so well.

I forget that I can do something to stop it. There are times I’ve been lying in the dark all day before my husband gets home and asks if I’ve done X, Y, or Z. Oh yeah!

I finally got smart and created a migraine prep kit. Now I have everything I need (or the reminders) in one place so I just have to pick it up and remember my migraine tips.

You will need:

  • A small container (I used an old fruit pint basket)
  • Excedrin Migraine and Excedrin Tension Headache plus any prescription meds you take
  • A roller with diluted peppermint oil
  • Bags of peppermint tea
  • A towel for the ice packCreate a headache prep kit

Place all items in the basket, and set it on your nightstand so it’s ready the next time you have a migraine.

Headache prep kit

That allows me to remember that if I start feeling one, I apply peppermint and often drink peppermint tea. I remember to take meds then take thirty minutes to allow it to take effect.

The only thing I remember on my own is the dark room and laying in quiet.

Use my migraine tips I’ve learned over time, and do it as SOON as you feel it coming, and you can save yourself. After the 30 minutes, you’re ready to live life again.

Just like me, you won’t miss your child’s cross country meet or other big event!

Little Miss running cross country

Do you have any migraine tips I’ve missed?

Migraine tips: How to avoid a migraine and what to do if you get one.

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Cristi Comes

Tuesday 24th of January 2017

These are some really helpful tips. Getting enough sleep and avoiding weird scents is so important for me. I've tired peppermint too and it really does help. {client}


Thursday 26th of January 2017

Thanks, Cristi! I'm failing on the sleep part right now - I've been up since 2:30 for no good reason and about to give up and go to bed now!

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