I’m sorry… I understand. I really do. And for the first time in probably 25 years, I’ve finally figured out how to find *some* relief. Some. And if you truly get migraines, you are like me and desperate for ANY relief. So read on…
I started getting them in my teens, about every 6 weeks, and consistently for 3 days each time. For 24 years. Yes the dark room, yes nausea and throwing up, yes please crush my head with some metal plates.
Not my finest moment, but I documented my last migraine attack:
Just like everyone’s symptoms and frequencies are different, relief comes in different combinations.
Combinations. There is not one thing to relieve migraines. It’s a lot of factors. I am convinced I get them because my personality is go go GO, so much that I am anxious and stressed all the time, not sleeping enough, not eating regularly, saying yes to everything and then the migraines hit because it is the ONLY way I become forced to do absolutely nothing for 3 days. Well, I do the bare minimum like go to work still and finish my responsibilities (while literally dying inside), then running home and crashing on the bed not because it makes me feel better but because I just need to close my eyes and dig my fists into my temples. Sound familiar to anyone? Oh and you have kids too? Forget about it. Worst mom ever.
Wow that was a lot of venting. Moving on.
Here are 10 tips (or superstitions) that have worked for me:
1) Stay really hydrated. I literally chug a glass of water about every hour. Don’t believe me? This is my water bottle, I mean 64 ounce jug. I put my daughter’s 8 ounce cup on the side for comparison. I don’t care how much you hate water. That’s why I said chug.
2) Goodbye caffeine! When I got pregnant with my first daughter 6 years ago, I gave up caffeine. If you really need coffee, switch to Decaf and just let the flavor convince you that there’s a caffeine kick. Otherwise, tea. Decaf tea has worked for me… but make sure the tannins in tea are not your trigger.
As a side note, if your significant other is like mine and loves wine but now has no one to enjoy it with, you must get them a Coravin. It is a device that allows you to pour out a portion of wine through a little needle without popping open the cork and the wine stays fresh. Pretty innovative!
4) Uh oh. I know you hate me now. I hate this post too. My weakness: chocolate… mmm chocolate. I love chocolate chip cookies. I love chocolate ice cream. I love these chocolate covered caramel macadamia nuts. $&@! Everything comes in moderation and is a trial and error PER PERSON. My solution is everyday I have a whey protein smoothie that uses natural chocolate flavors and it has worked to satisfy my craving without triggering my migraine! Whew!
5) Aspartame: An artificial sweetener used in lots of drinks or foods is a trigger. I used to love having Diet Coke everyday. Or Barq’s root beer. Reach for that glass of water instead. Chug chug chug!!!
6) Eat regularly and eat natural foods more often than not. Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, basically the less processed the better. Opposite of fresh food: hot dogs. Sausages. Those also have nitrates which I know trigger my migraines. Opposite of fresh food. Ramen packages that I grew up on and crave, but also have MSG, another trigger. Natural, fresh, I know where this came from and how it was made or what ingredients it has… and eat regularly, aka let your body have a little bit of nourishment throughout the day.
7) Sleep enough. Like my girls. Strict bedtimes. Full night’s rest. Ha! Guilty guilty guilty. I said I had some ideas for relief… but trust me it’s hard!!! I went to Hawaii and slept in, took naps, felt great, and the first day I get back? 5 hours of sleep. Went straight through teaching 3 intense classes in a row plus 4 loads of laundry, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, catching up on work, all while taking care of my 2 and 5 year olds who were cranky from the time change. Slept 5 hours at the end of that day. How can I not expect to get a Migraine?
8) Bodywork. I knew I always loved deep tissue massages but now I know that regular bodywork actually helps prevent migraine attacks. I carry so much stress (as most people do) in my neck and shoulders. I used to get massages randomly as a special treat, but a year and a half ago, I started seeing my amazing friend Bill Vrabel at Marin Power Yoga regularly as a form of treatment. And he’s not a “follow a sequence I was taught” type person. I don’t have to say anything about where it is hurting and he can follow the energy lines in my body to know where I am tight on any particular day. You need to find someone like that. And see them regularly. My home treatment? Lying on random tennis balls or using this truMedic massager at home. Better than nothing!
9) Medication. I tried meds before and they never worked because I would always take the pills too late. But I kept taking them in hopes of some magic. I stopped meds when I became pregnant and was off meds for the past 5 years… and my migraines were worse than ever. Just last year I was desperate and restarted Sumatriptan. The difference is I know my body better now that I have had migraines for 25 years. I know before the migraine is coming. I know that cloudiness that begins to fog up my brain. I know that general whole body unwell feeling and loss of appetite. If you catch that moment BEFORE your migraine, the medicine is magic. At least it has been for me… and I completely believe my yoga practice has been what has helped me distinguish a deeper level of mind and body awareness. I am more in tune with my body when it starts to drift into migraine mode. On to my final tip: #10.
10) Do you do too much? Are you constantly thinking? Are you running around like a headless chicken most of the day? If so, you need some form of stress relief that lets your brain stop thinking. I recommend yoga. And just like bodywork, you have to find the yoga class and teacher and studio and community that resonates with you. You’ll know if you take a class, and simply feel better afterwards. That’s it. You’ve found something good.
I started yoga 15 years ago in hopes of relieving my migraines. But I still drank coffee, alcohol, didn’t watch what I ate, basically did not follow anything else on this list… so… yup still had chronic migraines. But it’s the combination of all the above. Maybe it’s because I am a mom now and have to take care of others… that I started to really notice what I needed to do to take care of myself. You know, like how they say on an airplane to first put on your oxygen mask before your child’s? All I know is I cannot live with migraines and I cannot take care of my kids when I get an attack. I needed to find relief, so for the past year I have committed to this list above. Not perfectly by all means, but *more often than not.*
And for the first year in 25 years, I had only FOUR migraines in 2016 compared to an average of TEN each year (of 24 years!!!) before. This year, it is April 2017 and boy am I due for one… but *knock on wood,* I haven’t had one yet. I must be doing something right.
And to me, that shows there is HOPE. The only reason I wrote this post spontaneously is because for the very very very first time in my entire life, I found hope with my migraines, and I pray that you do too. I feel you. I understand you. These steps are not fun nor easy, and they do absolutely take commitment, but I wish for your healing. Please leave a comment if any of this has helped.
PS #11) Do NOT do no-handed headstands. They are absolutely a trigger for me!!! Bad Grace BAD!!!