Tips for managing migraines

If you’re one of more than 500,000 Kiwis affected by migraine disease, you probably know there’s no one magic migraine treatment or cure.

Medicines and lifestyle changes can improve how often you have migraine attacks and reduce how severe the symptoms are. It can take time to find the right combination but it’s worth keeping on trying so you can have more migraine-free days. 

If your migraine pain is an ongoing headache, here are our top management tips: 

1. Prioritise your sleep

Your migraine brain often doesn’t respond well to changes in your sleep routine. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is a well-known migraine trigger. Try and stick to a regular bedtime and get up at the same time each morning. 

2. Identify your triggers 

There’s a lot of information about what may or may not trigger a migraine attack, especially food-related triggers. This makes it hard to learn what your triggers are, and depending on your migraine threshold they may not cause a migraine attack each time you eat them. 

Some dietary triggers include foods containing sulphites, tyramine, monosodium gluconate (MSG) and nitrates. This includes food such as dried apricots, sausages, cheese, beer, Chinese food, ham and bacon, as well as other foods. 

Other non-dietary factors such as hormones, weather, light and smells can also trigger an attack. 

Learn more about migraine triggers from the National Migraine Centre and MigrainePal

3. Use medicines wisely 

Abortive medications (medicines that stop a migraine once it starts) such as triptans are effective for reducing migraine pain during an attack. But if you use them for more than 10 days a month, they can cause medication-overuse headache. Paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen should only be taken up to 15 days a month. 

Preventative medications can help if you have frequent migraine attacks. 

4. Find the right complementary therapy 

Yoga, acupuncture, massage, physiotherapy and biofeedback can be used as part of your treatment plan. There’s less scientific evidence for complementary therapies but many people in the migraine community find non-medication treatments helpful.

Mindfulness can also help to reduce stress, which can be a migraine trigger. 

5. Be conscious of what you drink 

Dehydration can trigger a migraine attack. Alcohol is also a known migraine trigger. Drink more water and limit the booze. 

6. Consider supplements 

There’s reasonable evidence to suggest people with migraine disease can benefit from supplements, including magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), ginger, butterbur and feverfew. 

7. Educate yourself 

Migraine disease is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. But unfortunately, its impact is often misunderstood, under-diagnosed and under-treated. 

Like many chronic diseases, you need to advocate for yourself to make sure you get the most appropriate care and understand your treatment options. 

8. Find a support network 

Migraine Down Under is a platform aimed at raising awareness and advocating for New Zealanders with migraine disease. It features a blog for Kiwis and Facebook page to help you connect with others. 

Living with migraine is often about finding the right balance – of sleep, exercise, food, medicines and complementary therapies. 

New medicines specifically developed to prevent migraine disease have been approved in the past few years and so there’s every reason to be hopeful of a more migraine-free life. 

References 

  1. Migraine Neurological Foundation, NZ
  2. Migraine (severe headache) Health Navigator, NZ
  3. Migraine triggers and causes list MigrainePal
  4. Complementary and alternative therapies Migraine.com
  5. Supplements and herbs The Migraine Trust
  6. Best migraine supplements recommended by an expert MigraineAgain
  7. Spotlight on: Nutraceuticals American Migraine Foundation
  8. Key facts and figures about migraine The Migraine Trust
Credits: Sarah Cahill, freelance medical writer. Reviewed By: Health Navigator Editorial Team Last reviewed: 07 Sep 2020