Insane in the Brain

When you get a headache, you pop two Advil and carry on with your everyday activities. When you get a migraine, it is almost impossible to partake in them. You cannot sit in class or

When you get a headache, you pop two Advil and carry on with your everyday activities. When you get a migraine, it is almost impossible to partake in them. You cannot sit in class or work, study in the library or socialize with your friends. You can barely open your eyes. The pain is too intense for you to function, and you will do anything to make the feeling go away.

But how do you know you are experiencing a migraine and not just an everyday headache? According to the National Headache Foundation, migraines occur on one side of the head and last at least 72 hours. The pain is throbbing and, with severe pain, nausea or vomiting can also occur.

That being said, how can you get a handle on your migraine pain? Follow these tips to get a grip.

Step 1: Getting the answers

What’s up, doc?

The toughest thing about suffering from migraines is figuring out what is causing the pain. Sometimes the answer is simple. Do you need glasses? Are you allergic to certain foods? Maybe you need your wisdom teeth pulled. If your doctor gives you a complete physical, these seemingly simple possibilities can be ruled out. And you will feel more in control of what’s happening in your head.

Dear diary…

You won’t be confessing true loves in this diary. But it is the next step to unlocking the secrets of your migraine pain. Keeping a migraine diary is an excellent way to try and pinpoint what triggers your pain. You will write down everything you do: eating, sleeping, relaxing, exercising, partying. You will also write down when you get migraines, how long they last and what you did to eradicate the pain. You should also take notice to the weather. You may find that you only get migraines when it rains. You may discover that you are allergic to red wine, which has long been known to cause severe migraines. You may be surprised at what you find.

Step 2: Managing the pain

You are what you eat

A good way to avoid getting migraines is make sure you are eating throughout the day. Skipping meals allows for the sugar levels in your blood to drop significantly. When this happens, migraine pain comes on quickly and strong. Usually the pain goes away with the consumption of food, but often time it is too late, and you are stuck with sticking it out. Eating fruit and veggies throughout the day keeps your sugar and happiness levels where they should be.

There are many foods that have been known to trigger migraines: alcohol, cheese, processed foods like Twizzlers or Spam, coffee and – sorry ladies – chocolate. Another culprit for causing migraines is MSG, which is a popular seasoning found in Chinese food. If your headache diary reveals a reactionary pattern to certain foods, you will be able to cut them out of your diet.

Along with remaining well fed, you should also be sure you are well hydrated. Often times, migraines occur when you have not had enough water.

Medicine cabinet

With proper treatment, the number of migraines you get can be reduced, as well as the severity of the pain. There are a number of excellent medications to help manage the pain. Some people take medication daily to prevent migraines. Some use medication to help deal with the pain with the onset of an attack. Some use both. Because migraines cannot be cured, finding the right medication can be difficult. You may go through four or five before you find one that reacts well with your body. Beware: These medications can be expensive. Imitrex, which is a leading brand of pain medication, costs $20 a pill. That’s a lot for a college student, so make sure you’ve tried everything else first.

But whether you are taking over-the-counter or prescription medicine, you best chance of heading off a migraine is taking something as soon as you feel one coming on.

Lights out

If you are at home when a migraine comes, go to bed. Take your medicine. Lie down in the dark. If there was ever a time for your roommates to be quiet, the time is now. Closing your eyes and relaxing your mind can also relax the tight grip the pain has on you. A bag of ice or a warm washcloth can also be helpful. Heat helps to open the sinuses, which can be causing intense headaches if clogged.

Whatever it takes

Migraines are mysterious ailments. There is no cure, and different therapies work for different sufferers. If you’ve been experiencing migraines for awhile, you know what helps or hurts the pain. While doctors tell you to stay away from sugar or processed foods, sometimes these very same items can make your migraine disappear.

Although caffeine can trigger migraines, it can also relieve them. Excedrine Migraine is a common over-the-counter medicine that contains caffeine and often helps with the pain.

Nina M. Sachdev can be reached at

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