Sign In
  • ENG

Living With Chronic Migraine: An Invisible Ailment

Medication is just one facet of migraine treatment. Here are a few non-medical ways to reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : January 13, 2022 11:03 AM IST

Chronic migraine is an invisible ailment and should be taken seriously. A lot of people fail to realize how much pain one suffers because they look healthy on the outside. Chronic migraine is related to greater disability and has a huge impact on quality of life. It lasts for 15 or more days in a month, for at least 3 months, and at least 8 days which qualifies as a migraine headache day. Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the worldwide prevalence of current migraine to be 10 per cent and the lifetime prevalence to be 14 per cent.

Some people with migraine may also experience visual or sensory disturbances during or before a migraine and is labelled as migraine aura. Aura when it begins before a migraine attack starts can be a warning sign of headache. Sometimes migraine aura occurs without headache, especially in people above 50 years of age. Migraine with aura, also called as classical migraine, usually occurs within an hour before headache begins and lasts less than 60 minutes. Auras can also be in the form of tingling or numbness or paresthesia's of the face and limbs.

Living with chronic migraine is not easy, it can steal a lot of precious moments with family and friends from one's life. Also, it limits our ability to work and concentrate as well as affects a person's social life. In severe ones, pain in migraine can be equivalent to an acute physical injury. More than 90 per cent of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during the attack.

Also Read

More News

Although a complete cure of chronic migraine has not yet been discovered, it can be prevented with proper medication and lifestyle changes. However, medication is just one facet of the treatment. There are quite a few non-medical remedies like daily habits and lifestyle choices, that one can incorporate to bring down the frequency and intensity of the attacks.

Stick to a routine

Although there are factors which cannot be controlled, like the weather and other triggers which may increase stress, future migraines can be kept at bay, by adopting a daily routine which helps controlling one's lifestyle which in turn can reduce stress and stress inducing factors. By maintaining a routine lifestyle, the brain is less likely to be surprised and triggering an alarm-like response may become infrequent.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule and try not to go beyond one hour of your fixed routine.
  • Exercising regularly and being physically active can play a significant role in migraine management.
  • Certain food, like cheese can trigger migraine. However, it can vary from individual to individual. Skipping or delaying meals is found to be an important trigger for migraine in many individuals.

Adequate sleep

Sleep is essential for the wellbeing of both our body and mind. A host of very important bodily functions take place when we sleep, and insufficient or poor sleep can lead to various health problems. Sleep is also one of the major triggers of a chronic migraine attacks. Ensure 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, but the precise length for a complete restful sleep session, can vary from person to person. Eliminate distractions, do not watch television or mobile screens just before sleeping and make sure your sleeping place is free of lights and sounds.

Don't stress yourself to sleep, the more we think about it and try, the less we are going to be able to fall asleep. Light activities like reading or meditation are useful and can help with sleeping.

Regulate eating habits

It's very important to know when and what to eat, with a chronic migraine lifestyle. Disrupted timing of meals and several types of foods and beverages have been known to trigger attacks, this includes processed/packaged food, aged cheese, cured meat, food additives like MSG and sugar.

Always try to take meals at the same time every day and do not skip meals or leave too much of a gap between two meals. Avoid foods like raw onion, milk and cultured dairy products, wheat-based products like bread and pasta, citrus fruits, caffeine, alcohol, chocolates, and nuts, as these are known for triggering chronic migraine attacks. Focusing more on pain-safe diet like- rice (especially brown rice); yellow, green, and orange vegetables like spinach, sweet potato, carrot, squash, kale etc.; dried non-citrus fruits like cranberries and dates; natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

To understand the food that is triggering your pain, maintain a diary and incorporate the details of your meal intake. Record the frequency, content, and gaps between each meal. It will be easier for to identify the food triggers and take necessary steps accordingly.

Exercise with moderation

Though in majority, people say that exercise triggers chronic migraine attacks but, in most cases, it has observed that exercising itself doesn't trigger migraine. The triggering factor is usually the conditions in which the exercise is undertaken. There are few other factors which triggers the pain but not exercise:

  • Not drinking consuming enough fluid before and during exercise and has become dehydrated.
  • Starting an intense regime without proper planning or warm-up and the body is lacking oxygen from the unexpected rigor.
  • Exercising in an empty stomach or with very little food
  • Irregular exercise regime and sometimes do intense workouts to make up for lost time
  • Head or neck injury while exercising

Stress management

In our current lifestyle, stress is unavoidable, and it is one of the key triggers for chronic migraine. Stress affects chronic migraine sufferers in broadly two ways. Firstly, sustained stress and anxiety can lead to onset of the pain and trigger attacks. Secondly, the difficulties of living with chronic migraine can lead to mental stress and depression, which worsens the symptoms of attacks.

Though stress is not something that can be easily unloaded from life, but with the help of meditation, taking off from daily life and going on vacations or by limiting/ not multi-tasking, can help in reducing stress.

One shouldn't delay in consulting a neurologist or a headache specialist, if one is experiencing headache for more than fifteen days per month, with at least eight featuring migraine symptoms. Chronic migraine is hugely debilitating, but there are options available that can help you to manage your migraines better.

Trust yourself, listen to your body, lean on others and know that you can live a happy, healthy life. Believe in yourself, learn how to navigate life with this condition and find the path towards healing.

The article has been contributed by Dr. Shiva Kumar, Senior Consultant Epileptologist & Neurologist, Sakara Hospital Bangalore.

Total Wellness is now just a click away.

Follow us on