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The Impact of Migraine - Part One: Daily Life


This is the first post in a five-part series about how migraines impact those of us affected by this disease. It affects our daily lives, physical and mental health, relationships, and even our careers. Migraine weaves its way into every part of our lives, sometimes making it difficult to think of anything else, leaving us worried, exhausted and trapped in a vicious cycle.

Migraine impacts how we go about our daily lives:

Sleep. We have to make sure we keep a good sleep schedule, get enough good quality sleep no matter how busy we are, and not nap or sleep in on weekends (this can cause Weekend Migraines) no matter how badly we think we need it

Hydration. We need to stay well hydrated, drinking water all day, avoiding diet drinks (some artificial sweeteners can trigger migraines in sensitive people), even though this causes us to run to the bathroom all day

Food. It is very important for us to eat three healthy meals a day – even though we may have busy jobs, snacking in between and not skipping meals so our blood sugar stays level (low or high blood sugar levels can cause headaches and migraines), and staying away from our known food triggers – even if it is our favorite food

Exercise/Weight. We are advised to maintain a healthy weight and perform low to moderate impact exercise regularly, even though exercise and getting overheated can trigger migraines in a lot of migraineurs

Medications. We work with sometimes doctor after doctor until we are prescribed the right preventative and abortive medications – trialing new drugs and living through the related side effects is an unpleasant, sometimes dangerous, adventure in itself. And sometimes, the “right” medications only work some of the time because migraines tend not to be the same every time.

Usually, insurance only allows 9 pills per month to rescue us from the pain, so we always worry, do we have enough? In order to be effective, we have to take them at the onset of migraine, before we know how bad it will be. So, with each migraine, we play a guessing game: is this THE migraine? THE migraine that is worth giving up 1 or even 2 of my precious supply? What if we take the pill, and it turns out this wasn’t THE migraine – it was just an “average” migraine that could have been resolved with something else? And now we used up a precious pill that we could have used on day 28 when THE migraine hit and we have no pills left.

Stress. Managing stress helps all of us, but particularly the migraineur. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can calm the mind and increase blood flow to the brain. Yoga and tai chi have the added benefit of low impact exercise. However, sadly enough, one of the ways doctors diagnose migraines is when a person’s headache pain increases when they bend over. Sometimes we are able to afford to see a therapist who can help us manage this stress by using cognitive behavioral techniques, teaching us how to cope with and balance everything.

As you can see from the above list, properly managing this debilitating, life-altering disease on a daily basis can sometimes seem impossible. And sometimes it is impossible – so we do our best. Every day. Gently reminding ourselves that our best may be different on any given day, based on any number of variables.

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