How to help yourself when having a migraine headache - follow the ABC's

A - Apply pressure & Abortive medications

  • Apply pressure to your forehead and migraine focal point
  • Use a cold compress or ice in a tea towel
  • Run hot tap water over a wash cloth and apply repeatedly
  • Gel filled eye masks are great at keeping pressure on the area

The nerves that receive painful information that is then fed to your brain, also receive information from deep pressure. Apply pressure and you can make your brain think about the pressure and forget about the pain. Be careful not to apply direct pressure to your eye itself. This can cause serious damage.

Abortive medications; prescription or non-prescription

  • Over the counter painkillers: Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, etc.
  • Prescription Triptans, Opioids, etc.
  • If you have caffeine everyday but missed your cup, have it now.
  • If you don't have caffeine everyday, don't start now.

B - Banish yourself to a cold, dark, quiet room

  • Photophobia (aversion to light) and Phonophobia (aversion to sound) will be kicking in quickly.
  • Your bedroom is the best, you will want to sleep if you can.
  • Vicks VapoRub, lavender, and sour apple scents can help
  • Be a goldilocks when it comes to choosing your pillow. Not too big (or doubled up), not too flat, but just right.
  • Do not sleep on your stomach with your face down. Sleep on your back or to the side, your neck will thank you.

C - Call for help if not alone.

  • The people who care about you often don't know how to help.
  • Ask them to get your supplies, medications, hot towels, ice, etc.
  • Delegate tasks to other people if it will cause stress otherwise.
  • Clear your mind, relax, and think of nothing but your breathing.
  • Breathe in for 4 seconds and breathe out for 8 seconds.
  • Put your hands on your abdomen and feel it lift and fall.

D - Drink water to deal with the dehydration

  • Ask your support person if they can get you 2 glasses of water
  • Sprinkle some salt into a 14 oz. glass of water and drink it all!
  • Have the second glass of water next to your bed & drink later.
  • Drinking at least two 14oz. glasses of water before noon is a good way to avoid triggering migraine headaches in the future.

E - Everything else can wait for now

  • With migraine headaches you only have a very small window of opportunity where you can influence the migraine outcome.
  • The prodromal phase of migraine usually only lasts 5-15 min.
  • This prodromal phase happens before migraine kicks in and can be characterized by tingling, yawning, sore muscles, visual aura (changes to vision), numbness, nausea, etc.
  • During this phase the steps you take can improve and even avert your oncoming migraine headache attack.
  • Even if you have a lot to do, you won't get any of it done once this migraine kicks in. So the quicker you follow these ABC's the greater your chance of winning back the rest of your day.

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