Dealing With Chronic Migraines: What Helps

I have struggled with headaches and migraines for years now. Really, when I try to think back, it’s hard to recall a time when I didn’t experience them. I remember enduring headaches when I was young, many of which might have been migraines, but I simply didn’t know how to identify them. I’ve never had a doctor officially diagnose me as someone who suffers from migraines. I once had a doctor offer me medications that I knew wouldn’t work for me personally, but beyond that I’ve had many doctors discount my experiences and the pain of living with chronic migraines. “It’s because you’re a woman.” … “You need to lay off the caffeine.” … “Try getting more sleep.” …  “Oh you’d know if it was a migraine!”  – These were some of the responses I’ve gotten from doctors over the years. But that was generally where the conversation ended.

Migraines run in my family. I really don’t need a doctor to tell me whether or not I’m actually suffering from them because at this point, I know. Rather, I needed a doctor who would listen to me and help me find ways to manage them. That hasn’t happened, and between that and other issues I’ve dealt with in recent years, I’m currently without a doctor. Finding a doctor that not only, is accepting new patients and my insurance is one thing. Finding a doctor who will listen to me is a whole different story. So in all honesty, I’ve taken a break from that search because it was really starting to drain me after a few bad experiences. It’s actually an issue I’d like to explore more, because I KNOW that I’m not alone, but more on that in the future.

Now that I’ve given a bit of context, let me get into the whole point of writing this post. I’ve been meaning to do so for awhile, but ironically, as I sit here on day three of a migraine, I decided to just sit down and do it. Over the years, I’ve found myself suffering with more frequent migraines than in the past. Over the course of dealing with them, I have tried so many different things to try and combat them. Many, many, things that did not help, but there were some things that did, and I’ve wanted to share them with you. Of course, migraines are a tricky jerk. What might help one person, might do nothing for someone else. Also, it’s important to remember that I’m not a doctor or a medical expert, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Now, the key thing I want to mention before I share these things is that while these are all in my tool box for enduring a migraine, none of these (with a few small exceptions) are really geared toward stopping them fully. I wish I could give you that solution – I really do.

Tiger Balm White – the first thing I want to mention is honestly, my favorite thing when it comes to suffering from a migraine. I realize that sounds weird, but it’s offered me so much comfort during a migraine attack. I picked it up randomly once when browsing an Asian market, because I wasn’t even aware that there was more than one kind of Tiger Balm. My mom swears by the red one for some of her chronic pain, but this one is different. It feels like you’re encasing your head in ice, without the melting that inevitably comes from a traditional ice pack. My favorite thing to do is to spread it all over my forehead, and then to put on my headache hat. The combination is wonderful. Just don’t get this stuff too close to your eyes or you’ll cause them to tear up! PS – I’m realizing now in writing this post, that it’s actually cheaper to buy this on Amazon rather than at my local Asian market. Amazon is offering a two pack for the same price that I paid for one!

Headache Hat – like I said above, I like to pair my headache hat with tiger balm. But even on it’s own, this thing is such a wonderful, wonderful tool. I had added it to my Christmas list last year and while my family thought I was a bit crazy for it, they got it for me and I’m so glad that they did because this thing is wonderful. It really encases your head with ice and the ice pack is made in a way that means it sits against the skin far better than a lot of other ice packs that I have or have tried. It also doesn’t drip or melt quickly which can be big problems with other ice packs. It comes with a piece of fabric that you place on it so that the ice pack isn’t directly in contact with your head, and I think it actually makes it feel more comforting. Of course, I often get teased when I wear it but if its on my head, that generally means I’m dealing with a full blown migraine and they call all sod off. 😉

Migraine Buddy App – okay now this app, is actually one of the few things I’m mentioning today that can actually help to prevent a migraine as well as to better understand them and monitor/track them. I wish I could remember how I happened upon this app, but I don’t. I just know that I’ve been trying it out for nearly a year now and it has taught me so much about my migraines! The app helps you to track your migraines and headaches and through doing so, it helps to pinpoint triggers, symptoms, and what helps during an attack. It also looks at how menstruation comes into play if at all, how weather impacts our migraines and sleep! There are a lot of different variables when it comes to living with migraines and it can be really difficult to try and figure out what exactly is triggering them. Since we all have different triggers, it can make figuring it out even harder. Honestly, I was almost hesitant in a way to make this post because I know that there are many people who might read this list and feel frustrated because none of the suggestions are helpful for them. But, I hope that something I’ve talked about here at least helps someone out there because even helping one person would make it worth it for me.

Back to the app – one of the best features that has helped me identify a pattern in my migraine history, is the sleep tracker. I’ve learned that sleep is directly connected to the prevalence of my migraines. If I get less than 7 hours of sleep, I’m about 80% more likely to have a migraine, and perhaps about 95% more likely to experience at least a headache. As someone who struggles with insomnia, this is extremely helpful information to have. I’ve found that like many things, my insomnia flares and when that is happening, I’m much more likely to experience a migraine. That’s exactly what I’m dealing with now. I’ve been dealing with insomnia and pretty horrible sleep patterns for over a week now, and now I’m on day three of a pretty bad migraine. Using this app consistently has allowed me to identify different triggers, as well as what helps me. This app is one of those tools that I really think everyone should use. You can even download reports from it that you can show to your doctors in order to advocate for yourself better! It’s a free app – and I believe it’s available for both Android and Apple!

Sleep mask – I’m extremely light sensitive. I keep my phone super dim, and I actually hate driving around on super sunny days because it often brings on an attack. I love overcast cloudy days! I used to love concerts but at the last one I attended, I had to keep closing my eyes because the flashing lights were painful and had given me a migraine. Dealing with flashing lights is an issue that has worsened over the years for me, and now I unfortunately am wary that any concert I go to will cause a migraine attack. As a music lover, this is a truly unfortunate turn of events for me. When I’m feeling particularly light sensitive, either from a migraine, general eye strain or the ones that really freak me out – an ocular migraine where my vision goes all blurry, I grab this eye mask. I’ll be honest and admit that I picked it out because of the celestial pattern on it, but I’ve also come to enjoy it a lot beyond that. It’s adjustable which is perfect for me because anything too tight on my head can make the pain worse. It’s big enough to block out light but doesn’t make me feel smothered, and is just overall excellent! I’d recommend getting an eye mask/sleep mask if you don’t already have one. We live on screens so much now that it really isn’t a bad idea for everyone to use one from time to time.

Accupressure mat – when I first heard of these spiky mats, I was thinking they were pretty damn bizarre, and that they’d likely be fairly painful. But I’ve had one for about a year now and oh my goodness, they are so COMFORTABLE!! When you first situate yourself on one, it can be a bit prickly, but once you’re laying on it, it’s bizarrely soothing. The first mat I saw was the Bed of Nails one, which might very well be amazing, but is SUPER EXPENSIVE and I really didn’t want to shell out so much money not knowing if the mat would be beneficial or not. Now I have to say that I’m curious if there is any different between the two and I’d love to test out a higher end one to compare some day. I got mine from Amazon, where there’s easily too many to choose from. I’ve linked to the exact one I purchased, since that’s where my experience lies (ha). Laying on the mat is incredibly soothing and relaxing. It has helped my back immensely and on days where I feel too crappy to even do yoga, I like to lay on this mat for a bit and it’s honestly magic what it has done for my back. I nag my family to try it out and of course everyone but the one man in the house is down for it. He says it’s too painful…

Ice Packs – ice packs in general are no earth shattering suggestion. I know some people might find more relief through heat, but for me and my noggin, ice is where its at. I love my heating pad for other aches and pains though! I’ve got a couple of these ice packs that I used to use all the time before my headache hat. I still use them, but the headache hat is my number one go to. When it warms up too much, I’ll then reach for one of these (they’re also great for lower back pain!).

Chamomile – I’ve been taking a chamomile supplement now for over a year. I don’t take it regularly every day with the rest of my meds, but I take it as needed. Of course, that often means that I’m reaching for one every day, perhaps more. I started taking it for my anxiety, which I have found it to be immensely helpful with, but I’ve since realized that chamomile is incredibly beneficial for stomach issues as well. So I now take it for both anxiety and digestive concerns. When I’m having a migraine, I often find that it can bother my stomach and also make my anxiety come through a bit, so I find that taking one or two during an attack really helps me. It just seems to take the edge off a bit. It’s also super affordable, and you can’t really take too much of it, so it’s a win win! Chamomile is a supplement that I now swear by!

Tea – in a similar vein, I also drink a lot of tea when I’m dealing with a migraine. For one, hydration is important during an attack, and I also find that certain teas can be fairly helpful when I’m suffering. My favorite is Tulsi Honey Chamomile, which combines holy basil and chamomile into an incredibly soothing drink. There’s a lot of different blends out there but this one is my favorite. A cup or two of this works magic on my overall mood, and can even help soften the migraine I’m struggling with.

Sleep – lastly, this one might make some eyes roll, but I find sleep to be super helpful when I’m dealing with a migraine. Some migraines feel like they’re fueled by my sleep deprivation, and even a couple of hours of sleep can bring them to a stop or at least soften them a bit. I know that sometimes that’s easier said than done, but I’ve found that sleep combined with a few of the other suggestions above, can really help a lot!

I hope that this post helps someone out there because I know that suffering from migraines is a truly dreadful experience. I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, many of which aren’t even listed here (like essential oils and other supplements), some have been helpful, and some I’m still on the fence over. If you’ve got suggestions of your own, please share them in the comments! When it comes to migraines, we all have different ways of coping and combating and what works for you, might not work for me, but it might help someone else, so please – share away! 🙂


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