How to Handle a Migraine Hangover

As many people with migraine know, the pain doesn’t always go away when the headache ends. That’s because there’s a final stage of migraine called the postdrome, also called a migraine hangover.

It can last anywhere from a few hours to more than a day after the headache goes away. Postdromes don’t always come, but experts believe they do happen up to 80% of the time.

There’s also no way to know how intense your postdrome will be. It isn’t necessarily linked to how severe your migraine is.

So how do you know if you’re having a postdrome? Symptoms vary, but you might be:

  • Tired
  • Unable to concentrate
  • In a general bad mood

People say they feel drained or washed out -- that’s the part that may feel like a hangover.

You might also notice physical symptoms, like:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Weakness
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Nausea

What to Do in the Moment

Once a postdrome has begun, it’s important to practice what’s called good headache hygiene.

Drink plenty of water. Rest, too. Relaxing activities like yoga can be helpful. What works for someone else won’t necessarily do the trick for you, so you might need to experiment a bit.

Do you notice your postdrome is worse when you look at a screen? Stay off your phone or laptop.

Do you find that caffeine is helpful? Make a cup of tea.

You can also try:

  • Ice packs
  • Heating pads
  • Massages

It can be a good idea to keep a headache diary. On a pad of paper, or your phone, or in an app, keep track of:

  • What your symptoms are
  • How you’ve dealt with them
  • Which things work or don’t work

This will help you in the future when you need to feel better.

Don’t ignore your symptoms or try to push through them and return to your normal life too fast. Let yourself recover completely from both the headache and the postdrome before you dive back into everything.

How to Prevent Them (or Ease Them)

During the earlier phases of the migraine -- prodrome, aura, and headache -- make sure you stay hydrated and try to do some light stretches if possible.

Avoid anything that makes your migraine worse, like overstimulation or trying to do too much too fast.

Of course, one of the best ways to prevent the postdrome phase is to avoid a migraine in the first place. How do you do that?

  • Try to have good sleep habits.
  • Eat healthy foods throughout the day.
  • Make exercise a priority.
  • Keep stress in check.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 11, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Neurology: “The Migraine Postdrome: An Electronic Diary Study.”

American Migraine Foundation: “The Science of Migraine – How to Deal With Postdrome.”

Ophthalmology: “Migraine Headaches: Diagnosis and Management.”

American Migraine Foundation: “Migraine Hangover.”

Mayo Clinic: “Migraines: Simple Steps to Head Off the Pain.”

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