March 13, 2012

Managing Your Migraines. ~ Lindsay Friedman

Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick)

Migraines are the worst.

They take over your day, get in the way of anything you had planned and are hard to get rid of. As someone who has had cronic migraines since the the age of 12, I’d like to share some advice.

Are you bothered by the weather, light, sound, food, and or smell? I am. I know it will rain later in the day when I get a migraine in the morning. I know I will have a migraine if I am in an office or space with florescent lighting for too long. If I do not drink enough water after working out I get a migraine. It is unbelievable how many things can trigger my migraines, but over the years and many appointments with my neurologist, physical therapist and general physician, I have learned to manage my migraines.

So, what do I do?

I plan. I recognize the things that trigger my migraines and take all preventative measures.

Weather Triggered Migraines

It can be too sunny or too gloomy, but every time the weather is too much, I am sure to get a migraine. If you do not look up the weather forecast for the week or at least for the day, you should. Checking out the weather will not only help you plan for the day or week, but will change your attitude going into the week.

If you see that it will be sunny for the next few days and then a chance of rain, you will be happy about the sun and not shocked when it goes away. You will take full advantage of those sunny days and be ready for the rain or bad weather. Migraines triggered by weather can at times be how we deal with change. The temperature and the weather affect our moods, and when we do not plan for the changes, migraines can be triggered more easily.

Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity is the most common reason why individuals get migraines. The unnatural lighting in your building, home, office, school, restaurant—you name it—is one of the most difficult things to get away from. It seems that florescent lighting is everywhere, but you can manage your migraines. If you have florescent lighting in your home or office, change that now. Buy natural light bulbs or sun bulbs that are not painfully bright.

If you cannot change the light bulbs in your office or if you are out to dinner with the onset of a migraine, try this: sit straight up, relax your shoulders, place your hands palms up on your upper thighs and breath with your eyes closed. Do this for a minute or so. This takes off the tension from muscles surrounding your head and breathing allows for more oxygen to circulate through your blood vessels.

Stress Migraines

Life is complicated. School, work, parenting and etc. can trigger your migraines. So, plan, plan, plan. I used to get stressed out very easily and then would not be able to do what I needed to do because of my migraines. I have learned to plan ahead. I still get the occasional stress migraine, but I have reduced the amount by a lot.

1. Relax. If you know something will be stressful, go into open minded and clear headed.

2. Always have a plan b. If you cannot get your work done today be sure to have another time to get it done and do it over a few days instead of cramming it for the last minute.

3. Step outside or at least stretch. This helps you get away for a moment.

4. Drink lots of water or tea while doing your work.

Easy Tips:

Vapor Rub or Peppermint Oil—The cold sensation and strong smell is really soothing when rubbed onto your temples, cheeks, or neck. I always carry vapor rub in my backpack. It helps me relax and opens up my sinuses.

Beta-Blockers—Relax your blood vessels. When your vessels are relaxed, there is less tension and pressure in your head. Try Toprol.

Lavender—I like to mist my body with lavender because it has a calming effect. The more clam and the less stressed you are, the less likely you are to get a migraine.

Sunglasses—Never ever leave your house with them. They are a life saver. You are already in horrible lighting all day long, so do not strain your eyes with the sun.

Shoulder & Neck Exercises—We put so much pressure on our shoulder, neck and back, which really take a toll on our heads. Be mindful of the ways in which you treat those areas. Roll your shoulders a few times, then your neck, while you sit up straight.

Don’t Smoke.

Other Options: Yoga, acupuncture and massages—they work wonders.


Lindsay Friedman is a senior studying environmental science and sustainable development at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is an intern at elephant journal and has a part time job at The Fitter. She is also a leader of a local food campaign on campus called CU Going Local. She is a true Chicagoan turned mountain girl. Follow her on twitter, Laine0315.

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