I have never taken any medications to prevent my migraines. Through good stress and lifestyle management however I have been able to reduce them drastically. I used to get 2-3 a month with 2-3 rebounding migraines a year that would last anywhere from 2 weeks to several months. I now get on average 3-6 a year, and they last no more than 2 days.
I have a history of hemiplegic migraines, the last one I had was in June of this past year. The worst one I had I lost most of my speech and was partially paralyzed on one side. My migraines also come with aura, my auras are usually a loss of peripheral vision and synesthesia.
I also cannot take NSAIDs, or triptans. I also avoid using narcotics for migraines as they have a history of causing bad rebound.
So what works for me?
I have done a lot to improve how I deal with stress. I have my own coping skills, mostly if I cannot do something to change a problem right that moment I do what I can to put it out of my mind. I also do what I can to redirect myself to be realistic and not fall prey to catastrophic thinking. If I'm acutely stressed I use deep breathing.
Staying hydrated! Dehydration is a huge trigger or migraines, and that means drinking plenty of water, not juice, or something else. If my other illnesses start affecting my appetite, or due to my other illnesses I am unable to eat I will drink gatorade as not eating or having enough calories can also trigger migraines.
I also avoid my triggers, and plan for them when they are unavoidable. So when I have periods (right now I don't due to other medical issues) I make sure I have my migraine meds with me, I eat well, stay well rested, and stay hydrated. I find triggers tend to gang up together and that's when migraines get really bad.
As I started improving my lifestyle to better manage my migraines they reduced over time. First they shortened in length going down to at most a week, and then down to 1 or 2 days. Then over the course of a year the number of migraines I had started to come down, to once or twice a month, and now a few years later several times a year.
If I start feeling a headache coming on of any kind I make sure I drink plenty of water and calm myself down. At the first sign of migraine aura I take my migraine medication as soon as I can. I take Caffiene-Ergotamine which shrinks the blood vessels (and migraines are vascular), take Tylenol for the pain, and Reglan for nausea and Reglan can also help with other migraine related issues.
To prevent migraines from going into rebound and causing those long 1-2 month headaches I do a few different things.
I make sure I rest.
I avoid all potential migraine triggers.
I make sure I stay hydrated and keep my blood sugar up. If I have bad nausea I'll drink broth.
I stay away from TV screens and the computer.
If I have to go out I try not to use the eye the migraine is affecting.
I avoid light and loud noises.
I also avoid anything that causes blood vessel dilation e.g. hot showers, hot baths, alcohol
I also do what I can to manage the pain (without narcotics!) using deep breathing, meditation, distraction (listening to radio or podcasts at a low volume), cold compresses, etc.
Bad use of medication can also cause rebound. If the first few doses of my migraine medication (which I take religiously when I have one) are not effective I stop taking all medications but Tylenol and revert to rest. Narcotics, caffiene-ergotamine, and other medications taken for migraine can cause rebound headaches, and then rebound headaches can trigger back into migraine. Rest in a dark, low sound environment is key for healing a migraine. Cold packs can also be helpful. After the core of a migraine it is also incredibly important to go slow and stay away from all triggers, and continue with dim light and low sound.
A few common triggers for migraines:
- Artificial sweeteners (big one for me I can have no diet drinks)
- Barometric changes (if the weather is wacky I make sure I have plenty of water and my meds)
- Running on low sleep
- too much caffeine or too little if you're a morning coffee drinker
- flashing lights
- alcohol, especially wine (sulfates) I can't drink any wine at all.
- MSG and other chemicals added to processed foods
- certain perfumes and smells