A pain in the neck, and the head, and everywhere else

Have you seen those billboards for a local hospital; "I am not a (whatever medical condition).  I am a (hobby of some sort?)"  Every time I drive by them, I think to myself that I am not a migraine. I am a mommy, a writer (it still feels strange to call myself that), a reader, a shopper, a cook, and a million other things.  But I will not define myself as a migraine.

The infamous Webster's defines a migraine as "a recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision."  Sounds about right, except they forgot to mention that it's painful enough to bring tears to your eyes, makes you unable to think clearly, and pretty much turns you into a cave dweller in order to avoid bright lights.

I've suffered from migraine headaches for over a decade now.  They seem to be a hereditary condition in my family and we're all stuck with them.  These are a few of the tips and tricks that I've found helpful and I hope they can help you too.

1.  Avoid caffeine, unless you feel a migraine coming on.

Just for the record, I stink at this one.  I know it helps, but I'm useless without coffee.  If you have more willpower than I do, avoiding caffeine can really help avoid headaches.  BUT, if you feel a migraine starting, a quick jolt of caffeine can actually help boost your adrenaline and ward off the worst of the pain.

2.  Ice, ice and more ice.

When I have a migraine, I put an ice pack on my eyes, one on the back of my neck and sometimes one over my ears.  I may look like I'm trying to turn myself into a human popsicle, but it helps.

3.  Get a full night's sleep and sleep the same hours every night.

Again, ha!  I'm the parent of small children, so this one is pretty much a joke.  Do the best you can, though, because throwing off your sleep schedule can really trigger a migraine.

4.  Explore all your natural and medicinal options.

It has been my experience that different things work for different people.  I'm currently taking an prescription anti-seizure medication daily, and I have an as needed medication called a triptan for when a migraine hits.  It took awhile to sort out what works best for me, and honestly, I'm still researching.  I've recently starting looking into some methods involving essential oils and possibly, acupuncture.  But the point of this one is to be in charge of your own care.  No doctor, nurse, or advice-filled friend is going to know and understand your headaches better than you.  So be sure that your voice is heard when it comes to treatment, because there are tons of options out there, and one of them will help you.

5.  Learn your triggers.

This sort of falls under the category of being in charge of your own care, but it's important enough that I thought it deserved its own number.  Me, my mom, and both my sisters all have migraines, but we all have different triggers.  One of my big triggers is a movie screen.  The large screen, loud noise and bright lights are guaranteed to bring on a big, bad headache.  So, for me, a movie means Redbox and some microwave popcorn.  It took me a long time to figure that one out, though, so pay attention to when you're getting them and what might be the common denominator.

6.  Know that you're not alone.

Twenty-five percent of women and eight percent of men will have a migraine at some point in their lives, so you're definitely not alone.  A migraine is very polarizing, because you don't want to see, smell or hear anything.  But even though you might feel isolated, other people do understand and sympathize. And maybe, it will help to know that after the headache's over.

I hope you find what works for you.  And if you hear of a great treatment, make sure to let me know!