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10 tips that have helped me as a chronic migraine sufferer

Freelance writer | Blogger and a 'somewhat nomad' between the blue-green mountains of Georgia and the red-gold desert of Arizona. Reading is my superpower.

What 20 years of chronic migraines have taught me about how to manage them

As I sit here typing this post it feels like there is a knife stabbing straight through my right eye. The pain comes in waves. It is intense, throbbing and debilitating. If you have ever suffered through a migraine then you know it is just about the worst pain imaginable. Even thinking hurts.

Chronic migraine sufferers feel this pain 15 or more days every month. For me, it is a migraine which began Monday night and does not leave until Thursday morning. Or even worse, an early afternoon aura hits (for me that means there's a metallic taste in my mouth, I can't think straight and I have a general sense of unease) and by nighttime when my sweetheart is ready to hit the town, I am in bed wishing the pain would just go away.

For the past 20 years I have lived with chronic migraines. A traumatic brain injury at the age of 18 'blessed' me with this curse. In these 20+ years I've learned a few tips and tricks to get through the worst parts:

1. Reduce stress however possible.

2. Meditation makes a world of difference. It doesn't cure the migraine, but it does get me out of the mental loop of "I'm dying, I'll never get over this migraine, this always happens, why can't I just be normal?"

3. Getting out of bed and slowly continuing on with life is much better than laying in bed listening to the crazy talk soundtrack going on and on in my head.

4. A hot shower or even better, a hot Epsom salt bath can help ease tense muscles and soothe the mind.

5. Stretching. Gentle stretching to release the tension that builds up in the shoulders, neck and head while in the midst of a migraine.

6. Try to not make any important decisions or have deep intense discussions while in the midst of a migraine. For example, don't lay into your sweetheart because he has not taken out the trash once again. This just gets your blood pressure elevated and causes your head to pound relentlessly. Wait until you are over the migraine to have those serious discussions.

7. Lavender oil or peppermint oil are known for their beneficial properties for headache sufferers. I've tried both many times and have found it can take the edge off at times while other times there is no benefit whatsoever. If you've never tried either it's worth giving a shot! Two - four drops rubbed into your temples can be beneficial while the gentle massage helps tremendously.

8. Try a homemade ginger root tea. Mix a tablespoon of grated ginger root with a cup of hot filtered water. Once the root has steeped for 5 minutes, strain into a coffee cup, mix with a tablespoon of raw honey and the juice from 1/2 a lemon. Drink and enjoy! This helps with the pervasive nausea that usually accompanies a migraine.

9. Massage is great anytime but especially while in the midst of a migraine. Even when I don't want anyone to touch me because my head hurts so badly, a good scalp and face massage can relieve the tense muscles, making a world of difference.

10. Self-compassion. The more you talk badly to yourself while in the middle of a migraine the longer the pain seems to last. Give yourself compassion as you would any friend or family member with a knife stuck in her head. Replacing the negative self-talk loop with "It's going to be ok, you can get through this, you've gotten through it before, you're going to survive. . . and so on."

I'm always looking for tips on how to survive a migraine attack. If you've got a trick up your sleeve that has worked for you, please do share in the comments! I'd love to add to my repertoire! And if you are one who suffers from chronic migraine, please know I feel your pain. I understand how hard it can make your life and the lives of your loved ones. You have my empathy and compassion.

What 20 years of chronic migraines have taught me about how to manage them
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