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Finding the Right Migraine Treatment

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9 Self-Care Tips for Women With Chronic Migraine

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer Larson on March 10, 2021
  • young-woman-laying-in-bed-awake
    Find the self-care strategies that work for you.
    If you suffer from chronic migraine, you’re not alone in your pain. Estimates of the number of people living with chronic migraine vary, ranging between 1 and 5% of the United States population. But we do know women are much more likely to be affected than men. Managing chronic migraine isn’t easy, but it is possible, especially if you embrace some self-care tips. Find the self-care strategies that work best for you so you can meet your needs and minimize the disruptions to your life that chronic migraine tends to cause.
  • Rear view of woman in dark room looking through window at home
    1. Be proactive when signs of a migraine first appear.
    It may be tempting to try to power through, especially if you’re busy, but that’s not a good idea. At the first sign a migraine is developing, take action. Don’t wait until it’s a full-blown attack. Stop what you’re doing and take a break. If, like many people with migraines, you are sensitive to light, take some time to rest in a dark room. You may also be sensitive to sound, so consider turning on a white noise machine or find other ways to mute any noises.
  • woman-getting-restful-sleep
    2. Get some sleep.
    Lying down and taking a nap can be a good strategy when the first signs of a migraine appear. But getting a good night’s sleep every night is also an important way to take care of yourself and eliminate lack of sleep as a headache trigger. Create and stick to a consistent sleep schedule–yes, even on weekends and holidays. Make your bedroom a cool, dark sanctuary where you can really rest, too.
  • bottle of PrEP HIV pills spilling on table near additional pills
    3. Avoid medication overuse.
    Medication overuse is a common problem among people who suffer from migraine headaches, including chronic migraine. When you use certain kinds of acute medication to treat headache pain too often, you wind up experiencing more headaches as a result. These medication overuse headaches, which many people used to call rebound headaches, can be very painful and can cause other symptoms, like nausea, irritability, anxiety, and restlessness. The medicines that can cause medication overuse headaches include acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, opioids, triptans and ergotamines. Caffeine can play a role, too. So, if you’re taking any acute meds frequently and experiencing these headaches, talk to your doctor about how to stop doing so safely and effectively. A preventative medication might be a better option.
  • Middle aged woman painting art and smiling with husband
    4. Explore your creative side.
    Expressing yourself through art, crafts, or music can be a great way to process your emotions, including your feelings about coping with a chronic illness that can sometimes be debilitating. It can also be fun. Pick up a paintbrush, sit down at the piano, or experiment with woodworking, stained glass, or needlework. Baking and cooking can also be good outlets for channeling your feelings–and feeding your family and maybe a few of your neighbors.
  • woman-outside-on-swingset
    5. Spend time outside.
    Your body’s adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol in response to stress. This can trigger migraine attacks in many people. Lower those stress hormones by stepping outside and connecting with nature. Research shows that spending even just 20 to 30 minutes outside each day can make a big difference. You could head for the closest public park or take yourself to a favorite greenway or hiking trail. You can even just sit in your backyard and gaze at the trees and the sky. Notice the way the breeze feels against your skin. Try to breathe more slowly and deeply.
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  • woman-practicing-yoga-outside
    6. Embrace other stress-reduction strategies.
    Do you ever feel like your shoulders are hunched up so far that they’re practically touching your ears? Time to focus on relaxing and letting go of some of that stress. Try yoga, meditation, prayer, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness techniques to help you lower those stress levels. Pick one that works for you, not one that you think you should do. And don’t forget to lean on your support system. Knowing your loved ones can help you when you need it can relieve stress and enable you to take time for yourself.
  • Friends having wine at restaurant
    7. Skip the red wine.
    A good cabernet may taste delicious on your tongue, but like many red wines, it can trigger a migraine. You might blame the tannins, which are chemicals found in grape skins, since red wines are made with the entire grape, including the skin. However, other chemicals in wine may also lead to headaches, so white wine, while perhaps less likely to trigger a headache, may not be entirely safe, either. Moderation is the best approach, unless you know for sure that drinking wine will lead to a migraine, in which case, you’re better off choosing a glass of sparkling water instead.
  • Colorful assortment of fruits, greens, vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds
    8. Eat a healthy diet.
    Eating a healthy diet is always a good rule of thumb, but it can be especially important for people with chronic migraine. You may already know which foods tend to trigger migraine attacks for you, so be sure to avoid those. Cured meats, fermented soy products, and aged cheeses often make the list of trigger foods to avoid for many people with migraines. Additionally, resist the temptation to skip a meal. When you skip a meal, you may inadvertently cause a migraine.
  • cup-of-coffee
    9. Try a little bit of caffeine.
    A small amount of caffeine–emphasis on the word small–can help relieve migraine pain. That means a small cup of coffee or tea might actually be therapeutic. But you’d need to drink it during the earliest stages of the migraine, and don’t try this technique late in the day or the evening, as it may disrupt your sleep pattern, which can make things worse.
Migraine Self-Care | Women With Chronic Migraine

About The Author

Jennifer Larson has more than 15 years of professional writing experience with a specialization in healthcare. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and memberships in the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Education Writers Association.
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  2. Chronic migraine. Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Hunter MR, et al. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology. 04 April 2019.
  4. Low Tyramine Headache Diet. National Headache Foundation.
  5. Medication overuse headache. American Migraine Foundation.
  6. Migraines: Simple steps to head off the pain. Mayo Clinic.
  7. New ways to manage migraines. Harvard Women’s Health Watch.
  8. Probyn K, et al. Non-pharmacological self-management for people living with migraine or tension-type headache: a systematic review including analysis of intervention components. BMJ Open. 2017 Aug 11;7(8):e016670.
  9. Tis the season for holiday headaches. American Migraine Foundation.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 12
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.