Like bad weather and traffic jams, headaches are something most of us have to suffer through at one point or another. But migraines are a different story.
These severe headaches can cause you to miss work, school, social events and family time. And when they strike more than once or twice a month and interfere with your daily life, it’s time to talk to a doctor, says George Nissan, DO, an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at the Headache Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
Here’s how to get yours in check.
For both men and women, changes in barometric pressure, skipping meals and consuming certain foods, such as aged cheese and chocolate can bring on a migraine. For women, hormonal changes that occur around menstrual periods cause extra trouble.
“After the age of 12, there are three girls for every one boy getting migraines,” Dr. Nissan says. “Women have a drop in estrogen and progesterone within a few days of their periods, which can precipitate migraines.”
The increase in environmental allergens in spring and fall can also trigger migraines for some people.
A class of prescription drugs, called tripans, is specially designed to relieve migraine headache pain. “A lot of time, over-the-counter medication won’t bring down pain in a reasonable fashion, so you might lose hours or even a full day,” Dr. Nissan says.
For people who have three or more moderate to severe headache days a month, daily preventive medication can help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
Keep in mind that finding a medication that brings relief without bothersome side effects can often take more than one try, Dr. Nissan says. “Patients want relief immediately, but it does take time.”
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, exercising four or five days a week and practicing relaxation techniques can also help prevent migraines.
Keep a headache diary. This can help your doctor identify triggers and tailor treatment.