What Not to Do If You Get Migraines

Researchers are still trying to figure out why some people get migraines and others don't.

What experts do know is that certain things can migraine triggers. Staying away from those things can lower your chances of getting one. Here are some things to avoid.

Don't go more than 2 hours without a glass of water. Water is important for your overall health, but it's especially important if you get migraine headaches. In one study, when people who get them added about 6 cups (1.5 liters) of water to their usual amount, they said they got fewer headaches. They also said they had less pain when they did get headaches.

Don't skip meals. Being hungry to the point that you feel shaky can bring on a migraine. Some researchers think low glucose (blood sugar) levels may cause changes in your brain that bring them on.

Don't take pain meds for more than 3 or 4 days. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine (Excedrin Migraine) can sometimes help ease migraine headaches. It's best to take one of these as soon as you feel a migraine coming on. But using them for more than a few days in a row can lead to "rebound headaches." Your body starts expecting the pain medication, and migraines can happen if you don't have it in your system.

If you have migraines more than a few times a month, talk to your doctor. He may recommend prescription medications for your head pain.

Don't sleep too much or too little. Both can trigger a migraine. It's important to keep a regular schedule. If you can't fall or stay asleep or if you're getting 7 to 8 hours a night and still feel tired, talk to your doctor. You could have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or insomnia. They can cause headaches, including migraine headaches. Getting treatment for them can help ease your aching head.

Don't power through the pain. Trying to ignore migraine pain or symptoms like an aura, which can include seeing light or zigzagging lines, hearing ringing in your ears, or feeling dizzy and unstable, can make the headaches worse. If you can, lie down in a dark, quiet place until it passes. You also can try putting a cool, damp cloth on your forehead. Some people find that massaging their scalp also helps relieve head pain.

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Don't skimp on magnesium. It's important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. But magnesium, seems to be especially important. Research shows that taking over-the-counter magnesium oxide (around 400 mg a day) can help you get fewer headaches. Magnesium is particularly helpful for easing migraine auras and preventing migraine headaches related to menstrual periods.

Keep in mind that when you begin taking magnesium it may cause diarrhea. And always get your doctor's OK before taking any supplement or medication.

Don't forget to jot down what you eat. A food diary can help you figure out whether a certain food or several foods are triggering your head pain. Common culprits include aged cheese; food additives like nitrates, which are often found in hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meat; nuts; and alcohol.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Lawrence C. Newman, MD on August 26, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Migraine Research Foundation: "Migraine Facts."

American Family Physician: "Migraine Headaches: How to Deal With the Pain."

Spigt, M. European Journal of Neurology, August 2005.

Dalkara, T. Current Pain and Headache Reports, October 2013.

Cleveland Clinic: "Rebound Headaches," "Headaches and Food."

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, Kona, Hawaii, based internist and author of Pain Free 1, 2, 3.

American Migraine Foundation: "Sleep Disorders and Headache."

Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain: "Magnesium."

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