Finding relief from your frequent migraines: Know your options
[4 MIN READ]
In this article:
Migraines can cause many more symptoms than a headache.
Avoiding your migraine triggers can help you have more pain-free days.
Providence Neuroscience Institute neurologists offer many migraine treatments to help you find pain relief.
Around 1 in 10 people across the globe experience migraines, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Most people think of migraines as severe headaches, but they can cause other symptoms besides head pain. Migraine symptoms can include:
- Severe headache
- Neck pain
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble with your vision, such as double vision
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
While you might be able to go about your day with a headache, frequent migraines can be debilitating. They can keep you from attending work or school or even leaving your bed. That’s why finding the right migraine treatment is so important to your health.
Types of migraine headaches
Migraines don’t just occur in your head; in fact, you might not have headache pain at all during a migraine attack. Your specific symptoms can help discover what kind of migraine you have and what treatments will work best.
Types of migraines include:
- Migraine with aura, which means you may have patterns, flashing lights or zigzags in your vision before experiencing any pain
- Hemiplegic migraine, a rare form of migraine that causes weakness and tingling on one side of the body
- Retinal migraine that can cause loss of vision in one eye
- Chronic migraine which causes symptoms for 15 days out of each month
- Episodic migraines (or acute migraines) that happen less frequently than chronic migraines
- Abdominal migraine which can cause stomach pain, nausea and paleness
- Medication overuse headache or migraine that results from using over-the-counter pain medicines too much
If you ever experience weakness, tingling or vision loss with your headache, you should seek medical attention right away. While it may be a migraine, it could also be a more serious problem such as a stroke.
Common migraine triggers
Sometimes migraines happen with no known cause or are related to other health conditions you have. But sometimes they are caused or “triggered” by how you feel, your environment, hormones or illnesses. These are some of the common things that trigger migraines:
- Poor sleep or changes in sleep
- Hormone changes, such as those during the menstrual cycle or menopause
- Drinking caffeine or alcohol
- Weather changes, such as severe storms or extreme heat or cold
- Certain types of light, such as bright natural light or fluorescent lights
- Strong smells
- Using too much pain medicine
- Certain foods, such as dairy or chocolate
You can start to learn about your triggers by keeping a headache journal. In this journal, you’ll write down when you have a headache, what you’ve eaten that day, if you slept well, what the weather is like or other facts about your day. This journal will help you see patterns that might indicate a migraine trigger. For instance, you might have a migraine a few days before your period or after bad night’s sleep.
Once you know your triggers, you can do your best to avoid them and avoid migraine pain.
Preventive treatments to stop migraine attacks
Headache specialists at the Providence Neuroscience Institute can teach you about your migraines, your triggers and strategies for managing migraine pain. Our health care providers often recommend lifestyle changes and home remedies for migraines, such as:
- Ensuring you receive eight hours of sleep each night
- Increasing physical activity when you don’t have a migraine
- Drinking plenty of water
- Staying in a quiet, dim room while you have migraine pain
- Using a cold compress or ice pack on your head to help ease pain
- Taking over-the-counter pain medicines like naproxen, ibuprofen or acetaminophen
While home remedies can help, our experts may also recommend medical treatments for migraines. Some migraine medications, such as triptans, help stop active migraines. These medicines are available as sprays or pills. They constrict blood vessels that may be causing migraine pain.
But we also use preventive medications to lessen the impact that migraines have on your day-to-day life. We often recommend treatment options such as:
- Blood pressure medicines (beta blockers or calcium channel blockers), antidepressants and/or anti-seizure medicines that can prevent migraines
- Behavioral therapy to reduce stress and help prevent migraines
- Botox injections to relax muscles and reduce your number of migraines
- Hormone medications to control hormone levels that affect migraines
We will work with you to find migraine pain relief. With the right treatment plan and prevention strategies, you can enjoy more headache-free days and get back to living your life the way you want.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.