Migraines: How to Help Someone Live With Them
By: Lisa Donovan
It is sometimes difficult to understand something when you have never actually experienced yourself. I think this is especially true of migraines. Those of us who have been lucky enough to have never had one of these crippling headaches have a hard time really wrapping our brains around what they are all about. As someone who rarely gets even mild headaches, much less migraines, I can tell you that when I met my husband and was witness to them through him I was, at once, horrified and moved to take action.
My husband was your typical bachelor when I met him. He had gone to see specialists, but for the most part, he just took gross amounts of Excedrin Migraine and slept the headaches off in a cold dark room. This means of healing doesn't really work with two kids nor is it healthy for the liver — I wanted to find a long term solution to the problem rather than a short term fix-up of the symptoms. I did several months of research and, four years later, I think we have the migraine fiasco under wraps. He still gets them occasionally, but they are milder versions of what they once were.
- Look for seasonal patterns. My husband noticed that he started getting migraines around February that lasted throughout the summer. Once you establish whether or not you get them at certain times of the year or after eating certain types of food or after a certain holiday (Christmas can be just stressful enough that you only get migraines throughout the holiday season) you can move forward to finding a solution.
- Once we had my husband's migraine season pegged, we could then look for preventative medicines. We wanted to find something holistic and conducive to overall well being, rather than just something focused on the migraine. I found that feverfew extract is key in loosening up those blood vessels in the brain. If you know that you are on the verge of a migraine season (or even if you are already in the middle of one) you can take something like Mygrafew (my husband doesn't go a day without his). It is not a get rid of the pain deal — it is a take daily and see the results in about a week deal. If you are diligent you will be rewarded, ask my husband.
- Diet has a tremendous amount to do with it. Caffeine makes you feel better at the moment, but cutting it out entirely is a path to lesser migraine pain. My husband still hasn't committed to this one. Other things like avoiding soy and MSG (believe it or not, it is found in plenty of processed foods but listed as malodextrin or hydrolyzed vegetable protein). David Buchholz' book, "Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain." is a great place to learn all about how to alter your diet to avoid migraines.
- I haven't ever seen anything written about this but, in our experience, going for daily walks and drinking a lot of water seems good for just about anything that ails you, including migraines.
If you are a partner of someone with migraines, be patient and try to understand. Again, as someone who has never felt the horror of these, it was tempting to write these of as regular headaches. Be understanding and realize that, even though they may seem over the top — they are really excruciating. Since someone with a migraine is so inconsolable, I found that the best thing to do was to be committed to breaking the cycle. Breaking the cycle means relief for all.