There are some effective medications -- ranging from over-the-counter migraine pain relievers to prescription class drugs like triptans (Imitrex, Zomig, Amerge), which work to abort acute migraine headaches by narrowing blood vessels and reducing blood flow in the brain.
But excessive use of both over-the-counter treatments and prescription medicines can actually lead to drug dependency, and even cause chronic headaches that persist despite the use of medication. So in addition to drugs, most migraine experts recommend making lifestyle changes to help prevent migraines and minimize pain when migraines strike. Here are some tips.
Keep track of possible causes. Classic migraine triggers include all of the following:
- Aged cheeses, red wines, certain nuts, and an overall high-fat diet are common migraine inducers. "Keep a food diary every day and log in every time you get a migraine," says Cindy Moore, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Doing this will help you draw a link between migraine episodes and problem foods.
- Suddenly changing your caffeine intake, either increasing or decreasing. If you're trying to cut back on coffee or caffeinated beverages, do it gradually.
- Skipping meals or fasting.
- Changes in the environment: weather or time zones; inadequate, fluorescent, glaring, or flickering lights (including your computer screen); strong odors; loud noises; or high altitudes.
- Tobacco, including secondhand smoke.
- Not drinking enough water, especially if you do drink a lot of caffeinated beverages, which are dehydrating.
- Too much or too little sleep. Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
- Take time for you. Stress is a well-known migraine trigger. Make time for exercise, even if it's a quiet, brisk 20-minute walk every day. Explore other stress-reducing options, such as yoga, biofeedback, and therapies that promote relaxation. They can reduce frequency and severity of migraines.
Continued on page 4: Kids Get Migraines, Too