Techniques for Reducing Migraine Frequency

Recent studies show that healthy lifestyle changes can decrease the frequency of migraine attacks. Use the mnemonic SEEDS to help guide your choices: sleep, exercise, diet, diary and stress.

Try yoga, especially gentle poses like seated forward fold and child’s pose. Stretching can loosen the muscles in your upper back and help relieve tension.

1. Deep Breathing

Deep breathing increases oxygen and decreases carbon dioxide levels in the brain, which can help relieve migraine pain. It also helps reduce stress, which is a common trigger for headaches. Practicing this technique, along with wearing migraine hats, can help reduce the severity and frequency of your headaches, so it’s important to make it a daily practice.

The first step in deep breathing is locating a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts. If you struggle to focus, try listening to soothing music to help you concentrate. Once you have found a comfortable spot, gently clench your teeth, making sure the top and bottom touch (not too hard). Then take a breath through your nose to count to five. Exhale slowly, lowering your chin. Repeat this process for about 10 minutes.

Another variation on this is alternate nostril breathing. To do this, you will need to sit comfortably with your spine straight and relax your shoulders. Put your thumb lightly on the right side of your mouth, just above your upper gums. Then close your left nostril, while keeping the right one closed. Inhale through the left one, and then exhale through your right.

Mindfulness meditation can be helpful for relieving the pain of a headache, and it’s also been shown to reduce the number of days per month that you experience a migraine. However, it’s important to talk to a health care professional before starting this meditation practice. They will be able to answer any questions you may have and can provide additional guidance.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy approach that can help you change negative thinking patterns that may contribute to your headaches. This could include identifying and challenging negative thoughts and learning relaxation techniques to help you cope with stress. Talk to your doctor or a mental health specialist about finding a qualified CBT practitioner in your area. Another type of psychotherapy is called biofeedback, which involves using electronic devices to monitor your heart rate, skin temperature, perspiration, and muscle tension. The device “feeds back” this information in the form of graphs and sounds to teach you how to control your tense muscles.

2. Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques help relieve stress by calming the body and mind. They have been shown to reduce migraine frequency and intensity in several studies. They can be used as prevention or to treat a migraine that has already begun. They are most effective when used regularly, especially before a headache starts.

Relaxation therapy can help with many other problems, too. It has been shown to improve coping and quality of life in people with cancer, as well as reduce depression and anxiety in patients with chronic pain conditions. Research also shows that it can help with PTSD and substance abuse.

Different types of relaxation therapy include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and autogenic training. These can be taught by health care professionals or can be learned through self-help books, audiotapes, and video recordings. Your healthcare professional can help you decide which technique is right for you.

Stress can trigger migraines and make them worse by causing you to hold your breath, tense your neck and back muscles, or grind your teeth. These habits are hard to break, but relaxation exercises can help you change your negative reactions and decrease the amount of time you spend in a state of tension.

Breathing techniques are a good place to start. Try to practice these in a quiet room with no distractions, and sit in a comfortable position. Slowly inhale through your nose, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Focus on your breathing for a few minutes, and notice if you have any areas that feel tense or cramped. Mentally scan your body for these areas and imagine them relaxing.

For these exercises to work, they must be done regularly and for a period of about 25 minutes per session. The length of the session may get shorter over time, as you become more skilled at the techniques. It can take time to reach a state of deep relaxation, but with regular practice you will find that it is easier. Many migraine sufferers have found that visualization is the most helpful relaxation technique, as it allows them to control their emotions and beliefs about their condition, a principle known as “control expectancy.” This helps them feel in control of their own symptoms.

3. Exercise

Exercise is a vital component of any healthy lifestyle. It strengthens muscles, burns calories, increases cardiovascular endurance and lowers blood pressure. It also reduces stress levels and improves sleep quality. It has also been shown to help prevent migraine attacks. Research has found that moderate aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and dancing are effective in reducing migraine episodes.

Exercise may be helpful because it can change how the brain processes pain signals, and can increase endorphins, which are natural pain relievers in the body. However, it is important to note that a sudden, rigorous change in exercise or diet could trigger a migraine attack. It is best to gradually introduce new exercise routines and make sure you are fueling your body properly, staying hydrated and incorporating warm up and cool down activities into your routines.

A regular, moderate exercise program is recommended because it has been found to decrease migraine days and severity in people with chronic migraine. In addition, it has been shown to be non-inferior to certain pharmacologic prophylactic therapies.

The most beneficial exercise is strength/resistance training, followed by high-intensity and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. It is also suggested that patients with migraine consider a high-intensity interval workout, which alternates short bursts of intense cardio activity with periods of low-intensity walks or rest.

In one study, a migraine patient who started a regular exercise regimen experienced a decrease in headache days and improved pain levels after eight weeks of training. Compared to the control group, the migraine patient’s headache frequency decreased by 0.6 days per month and their pain level reduced by 0.8 points on a scale of 10 (where 0 means no pain and 10 is the worst imaginable).

The researchers found that this was the highest improvement seen among all the studies included in the analysis. The results were similar to those in other studies using a frequentist network meta-analysis.

4. Diet

Diet can play a major role in migraine prevention. Although research has shown that migraines are genetic, diet and food can have a significant effect on how often you get attacks. A diet high in fats, carbohydrates and processed foods can increase the frequency of migraine headaches while a vegetarian diet may help reduce their severity. Eating small meals throughout the day and avoiding high-fat foods, alcohol, and caffeine may also be beneficial. It is important to note that there is little evidence to support strict elimination diets, so they should be used only under a doctor’s care.

In general, eating a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy proteins is important to reducing the number and intensity of migraines you have. A diet high in fibre helps avoid peaks and troughs of blood sugar, which are common triggers for migraines. It’s also important to drink plenty of water and cut down on the amount of fat in your diet.

Some people have found that dietary folate — especially folic acid and L-methylfolate, which are naturally occurring methylated forms of vitamin B9 (folate) in the body — is helpful in preventing or treating migraines. This may be because these diets are believed to cause changes in DNA methylation that help prevent the development of migraine-causing migraine genes.

One case study showed that a man who had been diagnosed with HIV and was taking antiretroviral medications experienced a dramatic improvement in his migraine symptoms after switching to a plant-based, whole-food diet. This case is particularly interesting because the patient’s migraines were triggered by both stress and alcohol.

It is not yet clear whether this type of diet would be helpful in other migraineurs, and further studies will be needed to test its effectiveness. Nevertheless, this case report suggests that a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can dramatically improve the quality of life for many people who suffer from chronic migraines.

If you think your diet might be contributing to your migraines, start keeping a diary of what you eat and when, along with your headache symptoms. Elimination diets can be effective in identifying foods that may contribute to migraine, but it is best to do this under a doctor’s supervision so you can ensure that you are getting adequate nutrition and preventing malnutrition.

By Patty
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