Stress can cause migraines, migraines can become a form of chronic pain and chronic pain creates more stress. It is an endless cycle that can seem impossible to avoid. Additionally, if your body is accustomed to constant stress, a weekend off can result in a “let down” migraine when your stress levels abruptly lowers. The migraine brain is vulnerable to change and fluctuations in stress, thus managing stress can be a significant aspect in controlling migraines.
Tips on how to manage stress:
Prioritize – Remember what’s most important when planning your week. Consider what is more time sensitive or urgent.
Protect your time – Schedule what is important and learn to say no to events or tasks that are not important to you or could cause more stress.
Make time for relationships – Studies show that by increasing personal interaction and prioritizing the things that make you happy, stress will instantly be minimized.
Make time for yourself – Many times we are too focused on doing things for others that we forget to take time to focus and work on ourselves. Pamper yourself from time to time.
Communicate your wants and needs – If you communicate your wants and needs properly, everyone around you will be on the same page making managing certain tasks and stress easier.
Better sleep – Proper sleep hygiene is key. Sleep hygiene includes daily exercise, avoiding food before bed, waking up and going to sleep around the same time on a daily basis, keeping the bed separate (no eating, catching up on work in bed) and avoiding screens prior to sleep. Recent studies display that approximately 85% of migraine sufferers report clinically significant poor sleep quality.
by Caroline Pruski, NP
Exercise and migraine
Many people with headache and migraine avoid exercise to keep migraines from coming.
Research has shown that women who intentionally avoid physical activity actually have twice as many migraine attacks as women who do not avoid physical activity.
Some scientific studies have shown that physical activity actually reduces the frequency and severity of migraine. It is thought that it may be helpful because exercise reduces stress and helps with sleep. Additionally, it releases endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers. For this reason, it is important for people with migraines to get regular exercise 2 to 3 times per week.
For more information on the type of exercise that is right for you, speak to your health care provider.
By: Brooke Steiger, NP
The Role of Light Wavelengths in Migraine
To an extend most people have some degree of light sensitivity. For example, looking directly into the sun can be painful for anyone. However, most people with migraines are hypersensitive to light. A sunny day that delights most of us can be miserable for migraineurs, even certain indoor lighting or computer screens can be irritating. Light sensitivity or photophobia is reported as a common symptom and a common trigger of migraines. Specifically, more than 90% of people with migraines are sensitive to light.
Migraineurs have been managing this symptom by staying indoors in a dark room, decreasing screen time, avoiding certain places or events with bright lighting. These efforts may be helpful, but they cannot be considered a long term solution, or a reasonable solution that won’t impact someone’s lifestyle.
A reasonable solution is migraine glasses. Migraine glasses provide relief during migraines and protection from light-triggered migraines. Migraine glasses filter certain wavelengths of light that trigger and aggravating migraine attacks. Migraine glasses do this by having a certain coating on the lenses. Migraine glasses can be purchased or a coating can be added to a current pair of glasses.
Caroline Pruski, NP
CBT and headaches
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a form of psychotherapy focusing on behavioral strategies to change conditioned ways of thinking. It has been shown to be effective for migraines and headaches, depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions.
Research has shown that it has been effective for migraine and tension type headaches. One study revealed a decrease in headache intensity with cognitive behavioral therapy. A recent review of research studies showed a correlation between CBT and decrease in headache activity from 30-60%.
Other benefits of CBT include increased ability to better identify and manage headache triggers, improvement in stress management techniques, and increase in wellness-related activities.
Speak to your healthcare provider about starting CBT for migraines and headaches or other conditions.
Brooke Steiger, NP
Cervicogenic headache is a result of referred pain from the neck (cervical spine) that is perceived in the head in the form of a headache. Referred pain is when pain occurs in a part of the body other than its true source. Cervicogenic headache is caused by an abnormality of the cervical spine such as tumors, fractures, infections and arthritis.
Cervicogenic headache generally presents as a one sided headache with pain that radiates from the neck through the head, up to the front of the head/behind the eye. Additional symptoms include reduced range of motion of the neck and a worsening headache with certain neck movements or pressure applied to certain spots of the neck.
Suspicious of Cervicogenic headache? Come see us at The Manhattan Center for Headache & Neurology where we can properly assess and treat you! People with possible cervicogenic headache should be carefully assessed by a physician to exclude other causes of headaches. Treatment includes nerve blocks, medications, physical therapy and exercise.
Caroline Pruski, NP
Many people who suffer from migraines suffer from sensitivity to light, also known as photophobia. In fact, this is a hallmark symptom of migraine. In fact, it is believed that about 85-90% of people with migraines also experience this symptom.
In many cases, a person having a migraine attack often will isolate themselves in a dark, quiet room to help relieve the symptoms.
Light comes in many different forms, with different wavelengths representing different colors. A recent study found that green light actually reduced intensity of participant’s migraines by about 20% compared to red, blue, and white lights. Although there are no current therapies using green light for migraine sufferers there is definite potential in the future. Blue light, which is associated with electronics including phones and computers, can contribute to the onset of migraines.
For patients living with migraines, it is important not to avoid exposure to light completely which would just increase sensitivity. Avoiding extreme glare and sitting next to windows when possible may help. Also, applying filters through red, yellow, or orange lenses to screens on electronic devices may contribute to prevention.
It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms because there may be other reasons you are experiencing the sensitivity to light.
For more information about migraines and light, call and speak to one of our caring providers!
By: Brooke Steiger, NP
Cervical Dystonia, (spasmodic torticollis) is a painful condition in which your neck muscles contract involuntarily, causing your head to twist, tilt or turn. Symptoms include abnormal head postures (most commonly the chin is pulled toward your shoulder), jerking motion of the head and neck pain that can radiate into the shoulders and headaches. Cervical dystonia can be an exhausting and disabling condition. In most cases of cervical dystonia, the cause is unknown. There is a possible genetic component and at times it can be linked to head, neck or shoulder injuries.
A diagnosis of cervical dystonia is based upon clinical examination, a detailed patient history. There is no specific laboratory or imaging test confirms a diagnosis of cervical dystonia. There are no abnormalities in laboratory or imaging tests. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain is normal, and MRI of the neck does not help with the diagnosis unless compression of the spinal cord is suspected. Electromyography (EMG) is not indicated unless there are additional signs of nerve irritation.
There is no cure for cervical dystonia but treatment focuses on relieving the signs and symptoms. Possible treatment options include botox injections, oral medications that have a muscle-relaxing effect, sensory tricks, heat packs, massage therapy, exercises, stress management techniques and deep brain stimulation.
Call The Manhattan Center for Headache & Neurology! Speak to one of our caring providers!
BY: Caroline Pruski, NP
Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medical practice based on the notion of regulation of flow and balance of energy, known as “chi” in Chinese, in the body. It is performed using very small needles to stimulate points on the body in Chinese medicine known as acupuncture points and meridians which correspond to different organs in the body.
In western medical practice, it is believed that acupuncture causes therapeutic effects in the body through micro-injury that temporarily causes an increase bloodflow. Also, some studies have shown that acupuncture increases endorphins in the body that lead to decreased pain levels.
Acupuncture has been found to be helpful in decreasing pain associated with headaches. A large-scale study done in 2012 looked at the effects of acupuncture in several pain conditions including headache and found that it was effective in treating headaches and had effects similar to non-opiate pain medications. Additionally, it is beneficial in helping to treat anxiety, sleep problems, and muscular tightness.
It may be utilized along with medications, massage, and stress-reduction techniques to treat migraines or headaches.
To find out if acupuncture is right for you, speak to your healthcare provider.
By: Brooke Steiger, NP
Some people find that certain foods can trigger their headaches and migraines.
Foods that might trigger migraines and headaches vary quite a bit from person to person. Some people find that wine is a trigger. Others find that chocolate may be a trigger.
Generally, for good health, a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, and complex carbohydrates and low in junk foods including processed foods. This type of diet also generally works well to keep headaches to a minimum.
For some, not eating frequently enough may be a trigger. For example, skipping breakfast or eating lunch at a later than usual time may bring on a headache.
For more information, talk to your provider about which diet and foods are right for you.
Brooke Steiger, NP