Migraines are like mosquitoes. They get you when you least expect, they are persistent, and they won’t just go away with any old thing. You need specific meds, natural treatments, and a semi-controlled lifestyle to help you manage them. I’ve suffered from migraines for over 25 years now; I should know. Traveling as often as I do, I’ve had to be very careful to stay on top of my migraines. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any fun, but it does mean I need to remember a few key factors when I’m on the road.
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Avoid your triggers
Red wine is a major trigger for me. I recently met a wine maker who told me that UC Davis recently came out with a study that said microbials are more likely the trigger for migraine sufferers or anyone else who has an “allergic” reaction to red wine. It is not the tannins, and it is definitely not sulfites. It may be something even more devious. Chocolate and cheese are other triggers for migraine sufferers. This can be very hard to avoid when you travel, especially if you already have trouble avoiding them when you are home. Steer clear. That reaction at home could be 10 times worse when you travel.
Pack extra meds
Always, always have more medication than you think you will need on your trip. Ask your doctor to up your prescription amount before you leave so you will have extras on hand. If your insurance prohibits this, ask for an alternate medication to take if things get really bad.
Book a massage
Stress and tension can trigger migraines after a plane ride or sitting in the car for too long. Book a massage the day of your arrival or soon after to work out a few of the kinks and keep those muscles relaxed.
If yoga is offered at your destination, hop into a class to stretch your muscles and get everything moving again. If you can’t get into a yoga studio, do a few simple stretches or follow along in our 5 Simple Yoga Stretches for after a Flight video.
Do not be a lump on a log. Don’t sit on the beach all day and don’t just sit in a conference room. Remember to get up, stretch, take a nice walk, get your muscles moving. You will feel mentally and physically better.
Keep water with you at all times. Dehydration can trigger migraines. You should be drinking at least ten 8-ounce glasses of water a day, if not more. Yes, you will have to run to the restroom a whole lot, but better that than being comatose in your bed with a migraine.
Eat on time and often when you travel. Make sure you are getting some protein, fruits and veggies. It is tempting to skip lunch and go for the sweets instead, but that sugar imbalance can put a stop to your fun and land you back in bed with a migraine if you aren’t careful. This isn’t to say you can’t indulge at all, just make sure you are getting the good stuff too.
It may sound like fun to stay out until the wee hours of the morning, but let’s get realistic. You probably aren’t 21 anymore and your body needs some rest. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even if that means that you go to bed at midnight and are up by 7am. You are not old. You are smart to take care of yourself so you can continue to have fun.
Yes, when you travel you may want to have a drink. I know I like a glass of white wine to take the edge off of a long travel day, but here’s the thing, alcohol can dehydrate you, which can lead to a migraine. Drink a glass of water for every glass of wine or cocktail. Most of all, know your limits. Don’t get drunk. It just comes to bite you back in the morning with a migraine.
A long time ago a doctor told me to keep my caffeine levels low at all times so that when I got a migraine I could drink a caffeinated soda, cup of coffee or a strong cup of black tea to help kick my migraine out. Caffeine makes your blood move faster, which can get your medication into your system quicker.
This trick does work. I’ve been doing it for at least ten years. I drink a lot of decaf coffee and tea, but have no fear. My caffeine levels are so low that even decaf coffee, which still has traces of caffeine in it, can give me a little jumpstart in the morning if I’m dragging.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or any type of medical professional. I am just a long-time migraine sufferer who has learned a few tricks after years of travel. Everyone who suffers from migraines is different. Before you change anything in your routine talk to your personal physician and/or neurologist first.
Image credit: Flickr/r. nial bradshaw