Migraines can be debilitating. Not only can the pain be intense, but it can cause you to miss crucial events in the working or family life. Certainly, the last thing you would want to be concerned about during a family gathering, like Christmas day, is double guessing as to whether a migraine will strike. We have compiled a list of ways to reduce your migraines to limit the risk of them spoiling a special day. A migraine is triggered when nerve sensitivity, a lower part of the brain, reaches a certain threshold. This nerve sensitivity can be affected by a number of different factors so ‘attacking’ the issue on several fronts can be more effective.
It may sound like common sense but at Sydney Headache and Migraine Centre we believe a thorough understanding of each person’s triggers is crucial in diminishing their effects. Many people find specifically identifying each trigger can be hard as there may be many that overlap.
HOT TIP: Keeping a headache diary will significantly aid in identifying these triggers.
Common triggers could involve:
- The Upper Neck – e.g. ‘Hunched forward’ posture on laptop
- Being stressed or anxious – e.g. Having a long or stressful day at work
- Diet – Consuming certain foods or alcohol such as chocolate and red wine
- Hormones – Certain times of the hormonal cycle for women
- Lack of Sleep
- Bright or flashing lights (such as night-time driving)
- Loud noises
- Certain smells
All these ‘inputs’ are processed through the brainstem so, by limiting their impact on the nerve sensitivity, you can have a positive impact on your migraines. Let’s unpack a few of these areas more specifically:
The neck – Posture and exercises
The neck can have a major impact on brainstem sensitivity and hence, migraines, because nerves from the upper neck connect directly into that region of your brain. Additionally, stiffness and tightness in the upper neck can cause more frequent migraines. We can reduce the neck’s impact on migraines by maintaining good posture and doing some specific exercises for the area.
Typically, two postures can be problematic: the ‘slumped forward posture’ and flexed neck posture. ‘Slumped forward posture’ relates typically to a slumped position at the computer. This put’s pressure on the upper neck which can induce the onset of a migraine. Having a good ergonomic work set-up with a supportive chair helps maintain a correct neck position.
A ‘flexed neck posture’ is common when on your mobile phone. When you check your phone usage you may be surprised how long you are in this posture every day. You can improve your posture by holding the phone up to your eye level. Using a cushion or two on your lap will make this easier to maintain for long periods.
Specific neck exercises given by your headache practitioner
At Sydney Headache and Migraine Centre our practitioners are experts at reducing the negative effects of headaches and migraines. One important way is through regular neck exercises. This can help keep the neck loose, dull the effects of a headache and prevent the onset of headaches. Although the majority of people benefit from neck exercises, some do not. Therefore, it is important you are assessed to ensure the exercise is appropriate to you. Feel free to book an appointment with us and we can guide you through the process of headache recovery and management!
Mild to moderate exercise
We see a lot of patients who are understandably fearful of engaging in exercise as it can induce a migraine. This apprehension is understandable as no-one wants to have a migraine from a workout.
In fact, current evidence strongly suggests that low to moderate intensity physical activity significantly reduces the number of migraine days per month. At Sydney Headache and Migraine Centre we recommend a minimum of 30 minutes appropriate exercise 3-4 times weekly for best results.
Have medications handy for a last resort
When all else fails and an important day is looming, it is important to have your medication nearby just in case. The good news is that your medications are much more likely to be effective if you have been vigilant in avoiding triggers, exercising regular and have been mindful of your posture.