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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Understanding Migraine -- Prevention

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When using medication to prevent migraines, keep these tips in mind:

  • Your doctor will likely start you on a low dose and gradually increase it over time. It may take several months to find the best dose with the fewest side effects.
  • Don't suddenly stop taking preventive medications. That could trigger a severe rebound headache. Preventive medications need to be gradually tapered off under your doctor's direction.
  • Preventive migraine medications probably won't completely rid you of the headaches. You may still need to take acute medications when you do have a migraine attack.

If you can't take medications or prefer not to, a device may be worth considering. Cefaly is the first FDA-approved device for preventing migraines in people over age 18. The portable headband-like device gives electrical impulses on the skin at the forehead. This stimulates a nerve associated with migraine headaches. Cefaly is used once a day for 20 minutes, and when it's on you'll feel a tingling or massaging sensation.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle habits can go a long way to help reduce the number and severity of migraines. A consistent sleep pattern and regular exercise and meals are important.

Here are some lifestyle changes that may help:

Sleep. Setting a consistent sleep schedule may help reduce migraines. Go to bed and get up about the same time every day, including weekends and holidays. Disruptions to your sleep schedule, getting too much or too little sleep, can trigger a headache.

Exercise regularly. You may be tempted to avoid exercise, afraid it might trigger a migraine. And, although overexertion may trigger a headache in some people, research suggests regular, moderate aerobic exercise may reduce the severity, duration, and number of migraines in many people. Regular exercise also helps control stress, another migraine trigger.

Eat regular meals. Regular meals are important to maintain level blood sugar. A drop in blood sugar can trigger a migraine. Also drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which can trigger migraine.

Limit stress. For many migraine sufferers, stress is a common trigger. Take time each day for a relaxation break. Find something that you enjoy that helps you relax. For example:

  • Listen to calming music
  • Take a short walk
  • Meditate
  • Do yoga

Try complementary therapies. Along with your prescribed treatment, consider using complementary therapy to help prevent migraines. For example, you may be able to manage stress and prevent migraines through:

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on March 19, 2015
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