By Sari Harrar
A tiny twinge tells Kelli Smith, 40, that The Headache is coming. "I feel pressure behind my left eye. Then my pulse starts pounding in my left temple. It feels like a bruise if I touch it," she says. "I get nauseous. The pain becomes so sharp I have to lie down in a dark room."
Raw onion, red wine, cigarette smoke, motion sickness, an off-kilter sleep schedule, hormone swings, and even weather changes can set off the skull-busting pain that has tormented Smith since she was 17....
Over the years, Metzger says she's tried pretty much every standard migraine treatment available -- from triptan medications to anticonvulsant drugs and Botox -- and most of the alternative options, including acupuncture, biofeedback, and herbs such as feverfew.
But she's also found that if she doesn't focus on managing the triggers that seem to set off her migraines, medications and other therapies don't work nearly as well.
That's common for many people who get migraines. So what are the most important lifestyle changes to make in order to get your migraines under control?
They're not always the same for everyone. What helps one person with migraine may have no effect on someone else.
But some of the things you can try to keep migraines under control include:
1. Regiment your life.
If migraine were a person, it'd be the cranky guy next door yelling, "You rotten kids, get off my lawn!"
Migraine doesn't like excitement. When your life gets eventful and unpredictable, migraine flares up.
"Be boring," says neurologist Gretchen Tietjen, MD, director of the University of Toledo's Headache Treatment and Research Program.
"Keep a regular schedule. Make sure you go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time in the morning. Get an adequate amount of sleep, but don't oversleep. Eat your meals on a regular schedule."
You can't always do that, of course. So if you know that an upcoming event -- like a red-eye flight that will leave you jet-lagged -- is likely to throw off your schedule, plan accordingly so that your "migraine brain" won't rebel.
"If I'm flying to the West Coast for a few days, I'll get up at 4:30 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. when I'm there, and go to bed at 8:30 or 9 if I can," Tietjen says.