Are you one of the more than 29 million people who cope with migraine headaches? If you often find yourself waiting for the incessant throbbing in your head to disappear, the answer may be yes.
A migraine is no ordinary headache. It may trigger pain in your temples or behind one of your eyes, leaving you nauseated, vomiting or sensitive to light and sound. The headache may not go away for hours or even days. Some women have migraines as frequently as twice a week, while others may only be sidelined once a year.
Your healthcare provider can diagnose your condition based on an exam and your symptoms: where your pain is, how often you have the headaches, how long they last, when they occur, whether there are coexisting symptoms and if there’s a family history of migraine.
If you’re diagnosed with migraines, your healthcare provider will take a two-pronged approach: Prevent the headaches from happening and take the edge off of the pain when they do.
You can help ward off a painful attack by:
- Avoiding or limiting dietary triggers. Common culprits include red wine; caffeinated beverages; nitrate-rich foods such as deli meat and hot dogs; and foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) such as broths and fast foods; the artificial sweetener aspartame; and tyramine, a chemical found in foods such as aged cheese and soy products.
- De-stressing. Try acupuncture, meditation and relaxing physical activity, such as tai chi.
- Getting plenty of sleep. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
- Eating regularly. Don’t skip meals.
- Exercising religiously. Aim for a minimum of three days a week.
- Taking your medicine. Your healthcare provider can help prevent attacks by prescribing medications normally used to treat conditions such as epilepsy and depression. Hormone therapy may help some women.
If you feel an attack coming on, over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may relieve mild pain. Your provider may also prescribe triptans, drugs that balance chemicals in the brain, or ergot derivatives, which also work on brain chemicals.