Your Guide to Telehealth for Migraine

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9 Wellness Tips for Life With Chronic Migraine

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer Larson on June 23, 2021
  • Woman making notes
    Chronic migraine attacks create a need for better self-care.
    Chronic migraine is a condition involving severe migraine attacks that occur on at least 15 days of every month. Coping with them can take a lot of energy out of you. And when you’re juggling a number of responsibilities, you may not have any extra time and energy to spare for that. That’s why self-care is so important for women with chronic migraine. Successfully implementing a few self-care strategies can help you feel and cope better with the pain, nausea, and other symptoms that migraine attacks tend to cause.
  • middle aged woman relaxing or meditating with eyes closed
    1. Don’t ignore your stress levels.
    Easier said than done, we know. But stress is a trigger in nearly 70% of people with migraine, according to the American Migraine Foundation. If you’re one of them, it’s time to acknowledge the role that stress plays in your migraine. Don’t just shrug it off. Begin identifying the major causes of your stress and developing specific strategies to address them. It might be as simple as doing some deep breathing exercises when you start to feel stressed, or it might be more complex, like delegating some tasks at work that you don’t have the time to do.
  • Woman sleeping
    2. Get some more shut-eye.
    Not getting enough sleep? Sleep loss can be a major trigger for a chronic migraine flare-up. Also, if your sleep schedule is irregular, you may be more prone to developing migraine attacks. You need at least seven hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and it’s best to try to stick with a routine. That includes a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. You might also develop a wind-down routine that will help you fall asleep easier so you can be sure to get enough zzz’s.
  • Prescription-Pain-Pills-spilling-out-of-a-bottle
    3. Take your preventive medicine as directed.
    One of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself is to take your preventive medicines as prescribed by your physician. These meds, which can vary based on any coexisting medical conditions you may have, can help reduce the frequency and severity of your flares. They might also help you reduce the amount of medication you need to take for addressing acute pain. But you need to take them as directed to experience the maximum benefit. So don’t let that prescription get low: refill it on time.
  • female-woman-running-outside
    4. Exercise.
    A 2011 study found that 40 minutes of exercise three days a week was just as effective in helping adults with migraine as relaxation therapy or the medication topiramate. Exercise is also good for your mental health, which might provide further help to you as you cope with chronic migraine. Let that be your inspiration to lace up your running shoes, put your goggles on, or unroll your yoga mat. Pick an activity you enjoy, one you will actually do, and consider choosing an exercise buddy to hold you accountable (and make it a little more fun, too).
  • Midsection Of Woman Holding Blister Pack of Oral Birth Control Hormonal Pills
    5. Consider changing your contraception.
    Hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause seem to affect migraine symptoms in many women. Taking a birth control pill or using another hormonal method of contraception that can stabilize your hormone levels might help alleviate some of your symptoms, but it can really vary from woman to woman. It’s worth discussing with your doctor, however, especially if you tend to experience migraine attacks around the time of your period.
  • Asiago and gouda cheeses  with crackers
    6. Watch what you eat.
    Ever noticed a link between eating certain foods and the onset of a migraine? Many people find certain foods, such as cured meats, chocolate, anything containing the flavor enhancer MSG, aged cheeses, pickled foods, and some artificial sweeteners, can trigger their migraine symptoms. If you aren’t sure of your trigger foods, start keeping track of the foods you’ve eaten shortly before developing a migraine. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can choose other foods to eat instead.
  • glasses of red and white wine on table
    7. Approach alcohol with moderation.
    Alcohol is pretty notorious for triggering migraine attacks. No one’s saying you can’t have an occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer, but know your limits and what makes sense for you. Also, you may want to pay attention to which types of alcoholic drinks are more likely to cause a headache than others. You might struggle with red wine, for example, so choose something else to imbibe. Also, if you are drinking alcohol and start to feel a migraine attack coming on, be ready with your acute medication.
  • cup-of-coffee
    8. Cut back on coffee.
    This might be a hard one for a lot of you who need a hot cup of joe (or perhaps a mug of cold brew) to help you get going in the morning. But if caffeine tends to trigger migraine symptoms, you might think about trying a different drink or at least switching to decaf (which admittedly does contain a small amount of caffeine, so be mindful of that). Of course, some people actually find a cup of coffee can help ward off migraine symptoms. An occasional hit of caffeine can indeed help, much in the same way an acute headache medication does. But you don’t want to turn to caffeine too often, or you may develop a dependency, which can then lead to medication-overuse-style headaches.
  • pitcher of water being poured into glass
    9. Guzzle some water.
    Have you ever noticed you feel worse when you’re dehydrated? Some people find dehydration is a migraine trigger, but this is an easy one to remedy. Procure a bottle or container to fill with water and make it a goal to drink frequently. You could buy insulated bottles that keep water cold, if that will help you drink more water. Or you can fill a travel mug with hot water with a twist of lemon, if that’s more your taste.
Self Care | Self Care for Chronic Migraine
Weatherall MW. The diagnosis and treatment of chronic migraine. Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease. 2015;6(3):115-123. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4416971/

The Connection Between Headaches and Hormones.
  1. Northwestern Medicine. https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/why-women-have-more-headaches-than-men
  2. How Much Sleep Do I Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
  3. The Impact of Hormones. Migraine Research Foundation. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-in-women/the-impact-of-hormones/
  4. Katsarava, Z et al. Defining the Differences Between Episodic Migraine and Chronic Migraine. Current Pain and Headache Reports. 2012; 16. 86–92. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11916-011-0233-z
  5. Migraine Headaches. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5005-migraine-headaches
  6. Sleep Disorders and Headache. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/sleep/
  7. Starling AJ and Dodick DW. Best Practices for Patients with Chronic Migraine: Burden, Diagnosis, and Management in Primary Care. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. March 2015; 90(3). 408-414. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/s0025-6196(15)00068-3/fulltext
  8. Top 10 Migraine Triggers and How to Deal with Them. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/top-10-migraine-triggers/
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Last Review Date: 2021 May 21
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