Saturday, July 11, 2015

5 Things I Wish a Doctor Had Told Me About Migraines

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor. Please consult your doctor; you know the drill.

I've dealt with migraines all my life. Lots of them. My official diagnosis is "chronic daily migraine". Here are some things I never heard from any of the many doctors I've seen, but have picked up along the way other places or just figured out on my own. Maybe some you've heard of, maybe others you haven't and they'll help you, too.

1. Chocolate milk

This is a tip my Mom overheard about a year ago. Where, oh where has it been all my life?!? What she heard was chocolate ice cream, which I started out trying, and soon shortened it to chocolate milk which is quicker, plus easier on the budget and the waistline. The key here is to give yourself an ice cream headache. Sounds weird but it works. The instant you start to feel a headache coming on, drink a whole glass down as quickly as you can. It works great for me, and hopefully will for you, too. In a pinch, a few chocolate chips and ice water will work, too.

Update: A reader commented on facebook to use organic milk only. She says the additives in regular milk cause inflammation. (Inflammation is thought to cause headaches.) So I've switched to organic milk. It's only been a few days, but may be helping. Too soon to say, but I'd never heard this before, and it's definitely worth a try!

2. Crystallized ginger

This doesn't work nearly as well for me as chocolate milk, but it travels a lot better in my purse than chocolate milk does. Lol (Although you can find chocolate milk, or at least Yoo Hoo at almost any convenience store.) Anyway, the person I heard this from said a piece about the size of a quarter works for him. That amount didn't work for me, but several pieces can hold off headache progression for me long enough until I can get to some chocolate milk. The taste is really strong, but of course better than the pain of a headache.

3. Avoid heat

This is a tip from a friend with MS. It's summertime in the south, so this can mean rearranging my schedule, and sometimes just staying in, but if you've ever had a migraine, you know you'll do anything to avoid another one. Staying inside in the heat of the day is a small price to pay to avoid a headache.

4. Sit up in bed

I spent years and years trying to sleep off headaches...lying flat in the bed. A few years ago when I went to a headache clinic, (MHNI, which I highly recommend) for the inpatient part we were in hospital beds which were tilted upright. The connection didn't dawn on me until sometime after that. Do your headaches get worse if you lean forward? If so, then when you're in pain, instead of lying flat in bed, try propping yourself up with pillows, or sit up in a recliner. Also, I've been waking up with headaches, so have started sleeping more propped up instead of flat, and it's helping me wake up with fewer headaches.

5. Avoid eye strain

Avoiding glare from the sun is something I've known about for years. But did you know you shouldn't look at a computer/phone/tv screen in the dark? My sister mentioned this to me a year or two ago and it's been helpful. I've also got my computer and phone brightness settings turned down pretty low.

Here are 2 bonus tips:
Bonus 1. Ice the back of your head, too

This isn't on the list above because I learned it from my doctors at MHNI. You probably feel relief from putting ice on your forehead, or whichever temple is throbbing. Did you know the pain originates in the back of your head? Feel behind your ear, just above your neck. Feel that knob? There's one on each side of the back of your head. Whichever temple hurts, the pain starts in the knob on that side. Put ice on that knob, plus that temple. Be careful though, because too much pressure there can be aggravating. And if I don't have a headache, massaging that area can cause one.

Bonus 2. Flonase

This didn't make the list above because I haven't tried it yet. The other day my dentist told me he saw evidence that I have "airway issues" and said there's some evidence that could be a factor in headaches for some people. He suggested I look into it, and my doctor and pharmacist gave it the green light, so I picked some up today.

Update: It's only been a few days, and the switch to organic milk happened at the same time as trying Flonase, so I don't know whether Flonase or organice milk gets the credit, but I've been better for the last few days. When the Flonase runs out, I'll keep the organic milk and skip the Flonase to test it. I'll keep y'all posted.

You've probably already spent time looking for your triggers, but in case you need a refresher, here's a good article on food triggers, and here's an overview that also covers several environmental triggers.

Do you have any tried and true remedies? And if you find some of my tips helpful, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Try the book "Heal Your Headache" by Dr. David Buchholz. Amazing info.

    1. Thanks, Mindy. I've heard of this book but not read it yet. I'll definitely look into it!