Migraine headaches are multifactorial with many possible contributing lifestyle factors. These may promote functional disturbances and sensitivity within the brain and central nervous system, which in turn increase the risk of migraines.
The role of physiotherapy including medical acupuncture is to promote central regulatory effects, which in turn increase the central nervous system’s ability to tolerate the various migraine triggers.
When undergoing a course of physiotherapy treatment for migraines, we provide the following lifestyle, diet and exercise advice which may help prevent or reduce the severity of migraines.
- Avoid multitasking, focus on doing one thing at a time with your full attention.
- Regular rest breaks and pacing i.e breaking up jobs into smaller, manageable tasks.
- Try to stay in the present, let the past go and don’t think ahead.
- Find time in your day to do whatever helps you relax for example light exercise, meditation, reading, listening to music etc.
- Generally try to avoid sugar, seed oils, processed foods, excess alcohol and other foods which may trigger migraines.
- These may also include cheeses, soft drinks, preservatives, red wine.
- You may feel better by avoiding bread and other grain-based foods that contain inflammatory anti-nutrients such as gluten, phytates and lectins.
- Try to eat whole foods, lots of colourful vegetables, good sources of pasture-raised or free-range meats, non farmed fish and healthy fats.
- Be aware of the importance of sleep which allows the nervous system to regulate and recover.
- Follow a good sleep hygiene practice before bed.
- This would include no screens at least three hours before bedtime, avoid vigorous exercise in the evening time, no caffeinated drinks after 3 pm, a cool dark room.
Exercise & Movement
- Try to get out for a 20-minute walk each day, not too fast, preferably outdoors, leave your phone behind.
- Try to move frequently at a slow pace, avoid sitting too long. A movement break for 2-3 minutes every hour, 10 minutes every 2 hours and half an hour at lunchtime at least.
- Low to moderate-intensity exercises such as Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi are recommended.
- When sitting, relax back into a supportive chair, keep the chest up, chin gently tucked in and shoulders relaxed.
- Rest in comfortable positions avoiding becoming slouched.
- Avoid sleeping on your front as this can place strain on the neck which may aggravate migraines.
- When sleeping on your side, ensure you have enough pillow between the side of your head and the mattress to maintain a straight spine.
Even though you may feel your headache start to improve, continue taking your medication, if prescribed, for the time being. This may be reviewed in consultation with your GP or consultant.
Keeping a headache diary, noting when they come on, how long they last, and how severe (1-10) the headaches feel can be a useful way to monitor treatment progress.
If you are struggling with migraines and would like to book an appointment for an assessment, please call our reception team on 01 2834303.
By Simon Coghlan MSc, BSc Physio, DipMedAc
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay