From The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle, Kindle edition

There is a good discussion about prescription drugs, and what to look for in a headache specialist in the book, and if someone wants that info, I'll be happy to look it up for them. But a lot of people might not have that access, so here's a few things you can try to treat migraines that don't need a prescription:

Caffeine - if it's not a trigger for you, the constriction of blood vessels, assistance in absorbing other meds, and brain stimulating qualities of caffeine can make it useful to treat a migraine in the early stages. A cup of strong black coffee, tea with caffeine, or a caffeinated soft drink without aspartame are all options. As are caffeinated candies, caffeine tablets, etc.

The "standard" analgesics (aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen) might provide some relief, but obviously that does vary from person to person. The "migraine" versions of a lot of these drugs have been combined with caffeine.

Some of the CAM methods that the authors find effective:
biofeedback and relaxation techniques
yoga - the authors recommend a gentle form of yoga to start out with - they specifically mention Hatha yoga or Iyengar yoga - obviously it would depend on how comfortable you are with yoga already
hands to feet (pada hastasana)
child pose
warrior pose
triangle pose (trikonasana)
standing side stretch
acupressure - the soft area between your thumb and first finger can be pressed and may help provide some relief from headache - the authors state that acupuncture may help a bit more, because some of the migraine relief points are precisely located and really don't get hit as well with pressure
ice massage
grab a bag of ice, a bag of frozen peas, or a coldpack, place it on your head, scalp, wrap it around the back of your neck, or side of your face, go with what hurts most... they also make migraine gel stickies that I personally have tried and do work for me... they don't help my mom, though, so again YMMV
nutritional supplements: magnesium, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10
magnesium - 320 mg for females, 420 mg for men is the US daily recommended allowance - the author recommends 400 mg/day, and recommends giving it about two months before saying if it does / does not help - i actually do this as well, because of the blood pressure and muscle issues... the fact it might help my headaches is a bonus I was unaware of :)
riboflavin (B2) - authors recommend 400 mg/day
coenzyme Q10 - authors recommend 100 mg, 3x / day
energy healing
deep breathing
sex, if it's not a trigger and you can stand it, might also help break a migraine

The primary author does mention herbal meds, but she's wary of them due to lack of regulation - she does recommend GelStat Migraine, which is composed of feverfew and ginger (not for pregnant people)
Feverfew is commonly recommended by herbalists - assuming you get a good source,aren't pregnant, and do not have any issues with blood thinners, it might be helpful - she does not list a dosage amount

Butterbur is another common herb recommended for migraines - she's even more wary of this one, as some formulations contain high levels of carcinogens, which if you're taking daily, isn't good. She does mention Petadolex Butterbur Gelcaps as having less of those carcinogenic chemicals, although I wouldn't say she recommends either of the herbal remedies.

Some of those are more for general wellness, which does help reduce the occurrence of migraines. They may help you sleep more, relax muscles, reduce stress, etc.

Other general wellness suggestions:

Two and a half hours of exercise per week (half hour a day, 5x a week)
eight hours of sleep a night
healthy eating: high-fiber, high-protein, foods, small amounts every four to six hours, keeping your blood sugar even
stay hydrated - she recommends at least six eight-ounce glasses of water per day, more if you're exercising or live in a hot climate
stress reduction
social relationships and emotional connection - in my case, my cat, as frustrating as she is, and as much as her peeing on the bed might be a trigger due to lack of sleep, may help my emotional state a lot, which helps reduce my likelihood of stress-triggered migraines
some sort of connection with something bigger - art, religion, teaching, connection with nature

Migraine Treatment Plan:

This might be helpful to have on hand, once you've gone through the process of making a headache diary, keeping track of what sort of migraine symptoms you have, etc.

1. What are my migraine triggers?

2. What is my MIDAS score?

3. Am I wiling to take medication? Am I able to take medicines? To I need a daily preventive med? What abortive meds will I take during a migraine attack? Am I able to take triptans? What rescue meds will I take when I get a painful migraine?

4. Do I want to use complementary and alternative treatments? If so, which ones will I use?

5. Exercise half hour/day, 5x a week will help. How can I do this? Do I like to exercise in groups? Alone? Mix it up?

6. I need to put nutritious food into my body every 4 - 6 hours. Do I eat healthfully now? Do I need to lose weight to be healthy? If yes, how will I do so without having more migraines? Do I have an eating disorder? Do I have any particular food triggers? If yes, what are they?

7. Changes I can make to my bedroom to improve sleep. Changes I can make to my routine to improve sleep.

8. Steps I can take to help avoid migraines when I travel:

9. Steps I can take to help make my workplace as migraine free as possible:

10: Steps I can take to help my family understand that migraine is an illness, and though it isn't curable, they can help me have fewer migraines:

11: Steps I can take to make my home as migraine-free as possible:

12: Steps I can take to find time to relax or be alone at least three times a week:

13: Am I in good spirits and feeling energetic? If not, have I taken any sort of depression test? Do I have other mental or emotional issues I might want to get help with? Would therapy be helpful to me?

14: Am I safe in my home? Am I happy in my relationships? If not, is there something I want to discuss with a therapist, counselor, minister, etc?

15: Other things to consider to take care of my migraine brain.

Quick List:

1. Did I get enough sleep last night? If not, I will have the abortive plan ready.
2. What will I eat today and when? Do I keep water and healthy snacks available?
3. I need to drink 6 - 8 8oz glasses of water throughout the day.
4. If I take a daily preventive, did I do so today? Do I have my abortive and rescue meds with me?
5. When will I exercise today?
6. When will I build in at least 10 minutes of relaxation today?
7. Am I facing any particularly stressful events today? If so, can I avoid them? If I can't avoid them, how can I keep my stress to a minimum?
8. Am I facing other triggers today? What are they? Can I avoid them? If not, how can I minimize exposure to other triggers?
9. Other daily reminders:
From The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle, Kindle edition

What A Migraineurs Partner Should Know:

Migraine is a neurological illness that someone is born with. It is not their fault.

Migraine isn't a type of headache. It has many symptoms, such as severe headaches, vomiting, nausea, and the need to lie still in a dark room until the attack is over. Migraine symptoms vary from one person to the next.

The pain is often extreme, which is why they are so debilitating.

Migraines happen because their brain very sensitive to any changes in what it's used to. To get fewer migraines, it's really important for them to take really good care of their health. That means eight hours of sleep a night, healthy foods every four to six hours, exercise five times a week, and plenty of water through the day. This won't stop the migraines but may help reduce how many attacks they get.

Everybody has different things that set off migraine attacks, called "triggers." Common triggers are stress, lack of sleep or poor sleep, not eating regular meals or eating poorly, strong smells, bright lights, and many others. It's important for them to figure out their list of triggers and try to avoid them whenever possible.

Stress may be a trigger for them. This doesn't mean they are weak or are trying to avoid responsibilities. Stress causes chemical changes in the brain, which is most likely how it triggers migraines. You can help them minimize stress by encouraging them to incorporate relaxation techniques into their schedule. Joining them may be good for both of you.

Both you and they want to minimize how often migraine attacks come. So be as supportive as possible in their wellness plan.

If they take migraine medications, please help them to make sure they have them on hand at all times. Offer to get their prescription refilled when needed sometimes.

Please don't get angry or upset with them for being sick even when you're disappointed about them not being able to do something.
From The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle, Kindle edition

MIDAS scale (Migraine Disability Assessment)

Gives an idea of how debilitating a migraine is, beyond just "it really freakin' hurts"

1. On how many days in the last three months did you miss work or school because of your headache?___ days

2. How many days in the last three months was your productivity at work or school reduced by half or more because of your headaches? (Do not include days from question 1). _____ days

3. On how many days in the last three months did you not do household work because of your headaches?____ days

4. How many days in the last three months was your productivity in household work reduced by half or more because of your headaches? (Do not include the days from question 3). ____ days

5. On how many days in the last three months did you miss family, social, or leisure activities because of your headaches? ____ days

Total: ____ days

0-5 days - minimal or infrequent disability
6-10 days - mild or infrequent disability
11-20 days - moderate disability
>20 - severe disability

Headache Impact Test:

There are some links between migraine and mental illnesses/disorders such as depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, etc.

Of people with migraine, 54% are also clinically depressed. The chances of having a major depressive episode are three times higher if you're a migraineur. And if you get migraines, it's pretty likely you'll suffer from depression at some point.

Depression symptoms such as sleep problems, appetite problems, trouble concentrating, etc... you can see the similarities between that and migraine, or how it might prime a migraineur for an attack. Which doesn't help with the depression, and round and round it goes. Treating depression may help with migraines, and having less migraines might also help with the depression.

I was amused/interested by the fact that some of the things that are recommended for depression are also at least partially helpful for migraines - currently I take magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, fish oil, and Sam-E. I don't think it's made me all better, but it has helped with some things. And I've had headaches, but nothing near like I used to since I've started these things.
( Jun. 21st, 2010 03:02 am)
From The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle, Kindle edition

This is a big thing. Those of you who know me know that there are lots of things I don't eat, or don't eat often, because they'll trigger a migraine. People who get migraines have brains that are hypersensitive to triggers, and when it encounters them, it gets agitated and sets off the changes that lead to migraines. Triggers do not CAUSE migraines, they simply light the fuse that leads to one. Triggers only work when a person is already primed for a migraine. There is a lot of variety in what can be a trigger. And you may have things that trigger you sometimes but don't others, or things that will always trigger a migraine. It may also take a combination of triggers to really set off a migraine.

Identifying triggers is important - it can help you possibly mitigate the chances of a migraine being set off if you have an idea of what will do it in the first place.

Here's a list of the most common triggers - it's not exhaustive, though:

Stress or tension - you can also get a letdown migraine which occurs AFTER a stressful event is over

Sleep issues - lack of sleep, too much sleep, other disordered sleeping - ideally, you should get 7 - 8 hours of restful sleep. As I don't know too many people that actually pull that off, this is a very common trigger.

Certain foods - not all trigger foods are guaranteed to trigger a migraine, but here are some that are commonly linked to migraines: aspartame, aged cheese, chocolate, MSG, processed meats, soy sauce, tyramine (this is an amino acid that is present in a lot of the foods I just listed), nitrates, citrus fruits, histamine (found in stuff like sauerkraut, tempeh, tofu, miso, tamari), sulfites

Hunger/low blood sugar

Alcohol - especially red wine

Hormonal changes (females only) related to menstrual cycle or pregnancy


Strong smells

Cleaning fluids, chemicals, formaldehyde, other preservatives

Smoke, especially cigarette smoke

Bright lights

Loud, piercing, or repetitive noises

Caffeine - although this can also be a treatment, so go figure





Blow to the head

Dental issues

Travel - it can combine stuff like sleeping weird, noises, stress, not eating right, dehydration, weather and barometric pressure changes, etc.

Keeping a diary of your headaches with what you were eating, drinking, doing, dealing with, what the weather was like, how you were sleeping, what stage you're in of your menstrual cycle, etc. can help you figure out what might bring about a migraine. As you can probably tell, not all triggers are necessarily avoidable. But knowing what the triggers are can help reduce some occurrences, or give you ideas of possible ways to prevent a migraine.

Also, what triggers one person's migraine might have no affect on what triggers another person. I'm triggered by yogurt, for example. Why, I have no idea.
From The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle, Kindle edition

This is the fourth stage, and occurs after the pain phase ends. It usually lasts several hours to a few days, until your body returns to normal. Your body is resetting.

Here are some things that you might experience during the postdrome stage:

Fatigue or exhaustion

Depression or sadness

Euphoria or elation

A sense of freshness or renewal

Tender skin or scalp

Excessive urination


You can use this information to help set up a migraine profile for yourself, which may give you more ideas regarding how to treat the bastardly things. A profile can change over time.
( Jun. 21st, 2010 02:30 am)
From The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle, Kindle edition

The third stage of a migraine is the primary migraine phase, or the pain phase. This part sucks. It can include severe head pain, nausea and vomiting, and intense reaction to light and noise. The head pain is usually throbbing or pulsing, and may only be on one side of your head. It may also switch sides.

The pain phase usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours. If you're having a migraine for over 72 hours, get thee to a doc. It's not an emergency, but you may be experiencing status migrainosus - a sever migraine that can last over a week with no relief. The treatment of that is a bit more intense or involved than whatever you establish as your normal regimen and may involve steroids, anti-inflammatories, or narcotics.

Here's a checklist to see what types of pain you may experience during this stage. See if you get the symptom Always, Often, Rarely, or Never



A sense of seasickness

Aversion to food

Head pain getting worse with physical exertion

Intense sensitivity or aversion to light

Intense sensitivity or aversion to noise


Runny nose

Stuffy nose/congestion

Eyes tearing up

Sensitive scalp or skin


Hot flashes


Fluid retention


Cold, clammy skin

Pale skin

Reddish skin

Bloodshot eyes

Facial sweating

Goose bumps

Mental confusion/inability to concentrate

Emotional reactions - irritability, depression, anxiety, etc

People who know migraineurs may also begin to recognize a "migraine face" that the migraineurs have when they're having an attack. You can also determine your migraine face by taking a close-up picture of your face when you're feeling fine, then if you can, take another when you're having a migraine. Compare the two when your migraine has passed, and you'll see the changes.
balivatn: (anger)
( Jun. 21st, 2010 02:16 am)
So my mother called me up and recommended this book. I'm on the third chapter, and it does seem to have some useful information. I'm going to cull some information out of it and put it up here where others might be able to use it.

The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle. This is from the Kindle version.

The authors talk about two early stages of a migraine attack that might give people warning that the pain is coming and so take preventive measures.

One early stage is prodrome, which refers to the changes your body goes through that are connected to the beginning of a migraine. It's probably occurs due to chemical changes in your brain at the start of the migraine, and appears a few hours or up to two days before the pain stage of a migraine. About 40 to 60% of migraiineurs experience prodrome. Many more might have it and not know the signals are linked to the headache.

Here's a list of some of the ways prodrome manifests. Next time you get a migraine, look at this list and see if any of these things occurred in the days and hours preceding it, and if you notice a pattern, you might be able to use it to help make the next one much easier:

Mood changes - feeling depressed? Irritable? Excited? Euphoric?

Increased appetite

Specific food cravings - suddenly craving high-carbohydrate foods such as candy, cookies, or other junk foods?

Unusual fatigue or drowsiness

Tense muscles, especially in the neck

Constipation or diarrhea

Abdominal bloating or rumbling

Difficulty concentrating

Urge to urinate frequently

Frequent yawning

A problem understanding words or finding words you want to use

Slurring your words or other problems speaking

Stumbling or other difficulties when you walk

There are other changes - keep track of anything that you remember in those days/hours before the migraine, and you might get a sense of what your prodrome stage consists of.

The second stage is aura - which are those sensory changes that some migraineurs get. About one in five migraineurs get some sort of aura, with visual aura being the most common type. Aura is the result of changes in your brain chemistry that can affect any or all of your senses and perceptions. Auras gradually appear over a period of five to twenty minutes, usually last less than an hour, and typically fade away once the pain phase appears, although some people do have their auras extend into the pain stage. The authors advise seeing a doctor immediately if you get auras for more than an hour, as that could be a sign of migraine-related stroke, a very uncommon thing. The aura stage, if you get it, is a good stage for using triptans for treatment. Some different types of aura are:

Visual -
sparkling or twinkling lights (scintillations)

area of lost or decreased vision (scotoma)

zig-zag lines

white spots

wavy lines


blurry vision

mosaic vision (what you're looking at appears to be blocked off in pieces or different colors)

distortions in perception

hearing sounds that aren't really there (like dripping water or a beating drum)

sounds appearing louder than they actually are

losing hearing in one ear

ringing in your ears (tinnitus

smelling non-existent smells

smells seeming stronger or more unpleasant than usual
Olfactory changes can also be associated with seizures, so if you get olfactory changes, they'd be worth bringing up with a doctor to double check.

numbness or tingling in the skin

hypersensitivity or pain in reaction to mild stimuli (allodynia)

partial paralysis of one or more of your limbs (if you've never experienced that before, see a doc - it's also the sign of a stroke... if you experience full paralysis, then you REALLY should contact a doc)

Speech and language-
difficulty speaking

difficulty finding the right words to express what you want to say

slurring words


mental confusion




RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags