As a family nurse practitioner, I spend a lot of time counseling my patients on disease management and prevention. As a migraine sufferer and mother, I know how difficult it can be when you have an unannounced visit from a severe migraine in the middle of your day. We cannot simply take a time out in a dark room and put our lives on hold while we take a nap. Like many migraine sufferers, I used to be a victim of my migraines. I did not know the warning signs that a massive migraine was about to ensue. I would spend countless days trying to chase my headache pain. It took years for me to realize there were many triggers to my migraines. Now that I have identified a handful of them (lack of sleep, hunger, stress, barometric pressure changes, hormonal fluctuations, illness, etc.), I try to live my life in a manner that helps keep them at bay. I am too familiar with the devastating effects of suffering from migraine headaches and am passionate about trying to help others take control of this debilitating disease.
What are the symptoms of a migraine? Some people experience an aura prior to a migraine attack. An aura may be a flash of light, visual changes, or sometimes even a tingling sensation in the body. These symptoms typically occur before a migraine attack occurs and may even occur during the attack. Some of the symptoms of a migraine include a headache that worsens with light, noise and/or smells. Nausea, vomiting and dizziness are also common symptoms associated with migraine. A migraine headache can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Resting in a dark, quiet room may help alleviate pain. Often times, analgesics that are over the counter or in prescription form are taken to help relieve the severe headache.
It is important that if you too suffer from migraines that you help to identify your own triggers. Using a headache diary can help. Try to write down the symptoms you are having, the time of day your headaches are occurring, what you happen to be doing, what you did or did not eat, how much you slept or did not sleep, what the weather was doing, etc. Over time, you may see a pattern of triggers that you too can help avoid. The true goal of migraine control is prevention.
Here are my Top 5 tips for preventing migraines:
- Get enough sleep. For most people, it usually means between 6-8 hours a night (this may vary from person to person as some may need more or less).
- Do not skip meals. Eat a balanced diet and be sure to drink plenty of water daily (dehydration and hunger are two common causes of headaches).
- Keep your stress under control. The juggling act of balancing it all is hectic, but a necessity when you have migraines.
- Stay active. Exercise is important for your body and mind. Get the entire family involved—it not only helps keep you feeling good, but helps keep the entire family healthy.
- Don’t be afraid to take something. If your migraine headache begins to attack, always remember to medicate yourself early. These can include over the counter analgesics such a acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or prescription medications. Once a migraine begins, it is important to recognize the early signs and treat as soon as possible. Pain from these types of headaches can be severe and there is much better success when treatment is initiated at its earliest signs.
If you continue to struggle with your migraines, please seek help from a healthcare professional. It is important to recognize if your headache pattern changes, if they begin to occur more frequently, or if your headache is different than your typical migraine headache—-seeking immediate medical attention may be advised. Partnering with your healthcare provider may help you take control of those pesky migraine headaches. Get back in the driver’s seat and don’t let your migraines take control over you.
Terri Schmidt, APRN, FNP-BC is a board-certified family nurse practitioner at the Saint Mary’s Medical Group in Spanish Springs. She completed her undergraduate nursing degree at San Diego State University and graduate degree at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a southern California transplant who enjoys preventative health and taking care of families of all ages. Being a mother has probably been the hardest and most rewarding job she’s ever had. Terri is a mother to a rambunctious two-year-old boy named Thomas and a four legged energetic 8-month-old schnauzer named Bella. While not working, Terri can be found spending time with her family and enjoying the great outdoors.