It can be hard to describe what a migraine actually feels like. A demolition site in your head, maybe? One thing’s for sure: when a painful migraine hits, you know. Some people deal with chronic headaches and migraines all their lives. Other people experience migraines (and the hallmark pain, nausea, light sensitivity, and vision problems) episodically, as a symptom of an underlying condition. So, how do you know if you are experiencing a “classic” migraine—or a symptom of something else? You may have to do a little detective work to understand why these headaches are happening, and then create a plan of attack that works for you. Migraines can accompany a variety of chronic illnesses. Studies show that people with autoimmune conditions like lupus and Raynaud’s syndrome are more likely than the general population to get migraines. One report finds that about 80% of people with chronic fatigue syndrome also get migraines. When someone with fibromyalgia experiences a migraine, it may be accompanied by widespread pain. Migraines can be triggered by lots of things, including stress, certain foods and drinks, bright lights or glare, loud sounds, lack of sleep, and hormonal cycle and weather changes. Knowing and avoiding your migraine triggers is the best medicine. If migraines are new to your life (or they’ve ratcheted up beyond your typical migraine frequency), you might not even be fully aware of your triggers…which is why a migraine diary can help. Keeping track of your diet, activities, menstrual cycle, the weather, sleep, and stress levels every day might seem tedious at first, but it can be pretty cool to see patterns emerge. And it’s very useful info for both you and your practitioner. Beyond avoiding triggers there are some supplements and vitamins that may help relieve migraines, like magnesium, butterbur, feverfew, coenzyme Q10, riboflavin, and alpha-lipoic acid. There are also many medications that can act as preventives as well as rescue treatments too. Bottom line: Migraines can be really debilitating, but there are a lot of options out there for treatment, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to grit your teeth and bear the pain. Work with your practitioner until you find something that makes a difference (and, if you have an underlying condition, doesn’t interact with your other treatments!). Rest assured, if one treatment doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck!
- American Migraine Foundation. American Migraine Foundation.
- Migraine Research Foundation. About Migraine. Migraine Research Foundation. About Migraine.
- Mayo Clinic. Migraine. Mayo Clinic. Migraine.
- J Headache Pain. Fibromyalgia in migraine: a retrospective cohort study. J Headache Pain. Fibromyalgia in migraine: a retrospective cohort study.
- Healthy Women. Migraines and Lyme Disease. Healthy Women. Migraines and Lyme Disease.
- Ther Adv Neurol Disord. Botulinum toxin in the management of chronic migraine: clinical evidence and experience. Ther Adv Neurol Disord. Botulinum toxin in the management of chronic migraine: clinical evidence and experience.