Women's Wellness

5 Lifestyle Changes to Manage Chronic Migraines

Migraines can be extremely challenging to deal with, especially when you suffer from them frequently. Here are lifestyle changes that can help make them more manageable for you.

By Aditi Mudgal
27 July 2022

Headache disorders are one of the most common nervous system disorders. According to a WHO 2016 factsheet on headache disorders, 30 per cent or more adults globally have reported suffering from a migraine at some point. Migraines can be painful and prevent you from going about your daily life. When you don’t want your lifestyle to be disrupted by unexpected migraines, making slight adjustments to your daily habits becomes necessary. A 2020 Frontiers in Neurology study revealed that a change in lifestyle is an important component of preventative measures for migraines.

 

The American Migraine Foundation states that there are over 100 different genes that can be associated with migraine risk, and each individual has a different combination. According to a 2021 study published in the National Library of Medicine (USA), women are three times more likely than men to experience migraines. Here is what you should know about chronic migraines and lifestyle changes that can help alleviate the symptoms while reducing the occurrence of migraines.

 

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When Do You Know It’s A Migraine?

While you might think that a migraine is just a severe headache, that’s not all it is. A migraine is a neurological disease that can cause throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head. According to Cleveland Clinic, migraines can get worse with physical activity, lights, sounds, or smells. It can last for a few hours or go on for days.

 

Many individuals may also have an aura (warning signals in the form of various sensory, motor, and speech alterations). An aura can also occur while or after a migraine as well. Chronic migraine is when migraines occur for at least 15 days per month (according to Cleveland Clinic). The symptoms of these migraines can change, which can lead to differing levels of pain. Some types of pain medication that is meant to be taken for migraines can end up causing rebound headaches. If you think your medication may be the source of recurring migraines, it’s crucial to consult a doctor.

 

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5 Lifestyle Changes to Tackle Chronic Migraines

According to The American Migraine Foundation, strategies like SEEDS (sleep, exercise, eating, diary and stress) can help mitigate the occurrence of migraines. Here are some lifestyle changes you can introduce to help prevent migraines.

 

Find the Ideal Environment

When you are determined to put an end to your chronic migraines for good, it might be best to consider whether your lifestyle is the source of migraines. While chronic migraines can be genetic, many lifestyle choices can tend to make them more painful and worse for you to bear.

 

If you feel a migraine coming on, it’s important to find a calm environment. Many people tend to have specific triggers that can make their migraine worse, like bright, blinking lights or loud sounds. Being in a dark and cool room where you can allow your brain and eyes to relax might be the best option for your migraine.

 

Once you’re situated in a room that you can control, it would be best to turn off any lights or make the room as dark as possible. You shouldn’t be using electronic devices (if you can help it) during this time.

 

Maintain A Consistent Sleeping Schedule

While migraines can have a significant impact on your sleeping cycle, you should still try to be as consistent as possible when it comes to your sleep schedule. According to a 2016 study published in the National Library of Medicine, individuals with migraines have a higher probability of poor sleeping patterns. Another 2020 study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain shows that poor sleeping patterns can lead to migraines, or vice versa. When looking to prevent triggering your migraine, consider a solid sleep schedule you can stick to.

 

Having a proper sleep routine that helps prepare you for bed is ideal because it can signal your body to start producing more melatonin. Since melatonin promotes relaxation and enables better sleep, it can ensure that you are sleeping throughout the night. It might be best to do a quiet activity like meditating right before bed, so you get into the mindset needed for optimal sleep.

 

If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, it might be best to cut down on caffeine for a few days and exercise early in the morning so you can be tired at night.

 

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Consider Your Eating Habits

When you eat and what you eat can also have a significant impact on migraines. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Head and Face Pain shows that diet interventions such as a high folate diet, Atkins diet, ketogenic diets can reduce migraines to some extent. A 2011 Harvard Education study shows that the relationship between food and migraines is individualistic. What may work for you won’t work for someone else, so understanding your triggers is crucial to preventing migraines.

 

Many people have reported increasing instances of migraines (according to Harvard Education) when they consume:

  • Chocolate
  • Cultured dairy products
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Caffeine
  • Broad beans (like fava beans)

 

It might be helpful to keep a food journal so you can see what you’re eating and drinking. Whenever you have a migraine, you can check if you’re eating something that might be causing it. Try eliminating that food or drink from your diet and see if your migraines lessen over time. Dairy and gluten items can trigger migraines, so you might want to keep an eye out if you feel like an external factor is behind your chronic migraines.

 

Manage Your Stress

Stress can bring about more migraines than you would expect. To minimise chronic migraines, you have to think about the way you’re handling stress. Don’t try to overcomplicate your life by doing too much all the time. A 2012 study shows that 70% of individuals report stress as a trigger for migraines.

 

Try taking little breaks throughout the day and do activities that genuinely make you happy once in a while. Take care of yourself, whether that’s through skincare, your diet, or reading habits. Getting exercise is also another way to reduce stress.

 

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Be Mindful About Exercising

Physical activity can lead to specific hormones like endorphins being released that can make your migraines more manageable and less chronic. It is because endorphins also act as a natural painkiller, which can prevent migraines before they even begin. Endorphins released during working out can lessen depression, anxiety, and stress, which can be crucial to reducing migraines.

 

Choosing a simple exercise like walking or swimming can be a good way to start including exercise in your lifestyle. Obesity can also lead to a higher chance of chronic migraines, and exercise will help you balance and fight it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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