Headache diary for tracking migraine triggers.

Comprehensive Guide to Migraine Self-Care: Tips & Essential Practices

Migraine is widespread, affecting millions globally. Those who live with it face immense challenges, battling through daily tasks while combating intense pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and disruptions to daily life. Self-care for migraine and headache disease stands as a crucial ally, offering relief and empowerment. It’s not just about pampering oneself but about reclaiming control, finding ways to manage symptoms, and nurturing well-being amidst the storm of migraine and headache diseases.

Understanding Migraine: Quick Facts

Dealing with migraine is a personal unique experience. The prevalence and burden are important to understand. To learn more, check out these  Migraine Statistics.

  • Global Prevalence:
    • Migraine affects approximately 1 billion people worldwide, making it the third most prevalent medical condition globally.
  • Economic Burden:
    • Migraine imposes a significant economic burden, costing the global economy an estimated $193 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.
  • Gender Disparity:
    • Women are disproportionately affected, with about 18% experiencing migraine compared to 6% of men. Hormonal fluctuations often contribute to increased vulnerability among women.
  • Productivity and Quality of Life:
    • People living with chronic migraine may experience a substantial reduction in work productivity, with more than 90% reporting some level of impairment during an attack. This, coupled with the potential for comorbidities, significantly impacts overall quality of life.
  • Comorbidity with Mental Health:
    • Migraine is often linked with mental health disorders; individuals with migraine are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, reinforcing the importance of a holistic approach to treatment and self-care.

Why Self-Care is Essential for Chronic Migraine Sufferers

Self-care practices can not only alleviate symptoms but also improve overall well-being and mental health. There are physical, emotional, and social challenges of living with chronic migraine

  • Physical Challenges:
    • Intense pain
    • Fatigue and weakness
  • Emotional Challenges:
    • Mental health impact
    • Frustration and isolation
  • Social Challenges:
    • Impaired social life
    • Stigma and misunderstanding

Self-Care Practices for Migraine Management

Self-care goes beyond the alleviation of symptoms. By addressing the physical, emotional, and social dimensions of this condition, self-care practices not only provide relief but also nurture a resilient foundation for improved mental health and overall well-being.

Immediate Actions During a Migraine Attack

Remember, how to manage migraine attacks is individual. Responses to migraine attacks and self-care vary.  It's essential to tailor these strategies to personal preferences and the specific nature of the attack. If your attack is chronic or severe, consulting with a healthcare professional for a personalized management plan is highly recommended.

Immediate actions when feeling a migraine attack coming on:

  • Find a quiet and dark space
  • Stay hydrated
  • Use relaxation techniques
  • Apply a cold or warm compress
  • Take medication
  • Avoid triggers
  • Practice mindfulness or medication
  • Rest in a comfortable position
  • Notify others: inform people around you especially if you’re in a social or work setting, so they can provide necessary support or make accommodations.
  • Monitor symptoms

Identifying and Avoiding Migraine Triggers

Understanding Migraine Triggers:

Migraine triggers are external or internal factors that can increase the likelihood of a migraine attack in susceptible individuals. Identifying and managing these triggers is crucial for migraine management. Triggers can vary widely among individuals, and recognizing patterns can empower people to make lifestyle adjustments that reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. Sharing experiences can help in identifying less common triggers. Migraines Support Community Groups are a place to share those experiences and learn more about yourself while hearing from others.

Headache diary for tracking migraine triggers.

Maintaining a Headache Diary:

Keeping a headache diary is a valuable tool for tracking potential triggers and understanding migraine patterns. Here’s a guide on what to include in the diary:

  • Date and time
  • Pain level
  • Weather conditions
  • Sleep patterns
  • Dietary intake
  • Hydration 
  • Physical activity
  • Stress level
  • Environmental factors
  • Medication use

Analyzing Patterns:

After consistently maintaining the headache diary, analyze the recorded information to identify potential triggers and patterns. Look for correlations between attacks and specific factors, such as:

  • Consistent timing (e.g., certain days, times of day)
  • Weather conditions
  • Sleep patterns
  • Dietary choices
  • Hydration levels
  • Physical activity
  • Stress levels

Once patterns emerge, individuals can take proactive steps to manage or avoid identifying triggers. This knowledge is invaluable when working with healthcare professionals to develop a personalized migraine management plan, including lifestyle modifications, medication adjustments, or other interventions tailored to the individual’s needs.

Lifestyle Changes for Migraine Prevention

Adopting a holistic approach to migraine prevention involves addressing various aspects of life that contribute to overall well-being. While these strategies may not eliminate migraine attacks, they can significantly reduce the frequency and severity, providing individuals with more control over their lives and promoting a higher quality of life. Always consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and guidance.

  • Dietary Changes:
    • Hydration
    • Regular meals
    • Identify trigger foods
  • Regular Sleep Patterns:
    • Consistent sleep schedule
    • Create a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Stress-Reducing Techniques:
    • Mindfulness and Meditation: Harvard.edu explains the effects of the practice of mindfulness for migraine management.
    • Deep breathing
    • Regular exercise:
      • Aerobic exercise
      • Yoga
      • Low impact activities
    • Habits:
      • Regular caffeine intake
      • Consistent meal timing
    • Alternative therapies
    • Acupuncture and acupressure
    • Stay informed and adjust
    • Monitor progress
    • Adequate rest and breaks
      • Eye strain management
      • Napping

When to Seek Medical Help

While common migraine symptoms can often be managed with self-care and lifestyle changes, any alarming or unusual symptoms warrant immediate medical attention. Regular check-ups are crucial for overall health, enabling timely intervention, monitoring, and adjustments to optimize migraine management and ensure well-rounded healthcare. Mayo Clinic provides more information about migraine and the various stages if you’d like to read more about them. 

Common Migraine Symptoms:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Aura
  • Visual disturbances

Alarming or Unusual Migraine Symptoms Requiring Immediate Medical Attention:

  • Sudden and severe headache
  • Head pain that is different than your normal attack
  • Headache with neurological symptoms
  • New-onset migraine
  • Headache after a head injury
  • Persistent aura

Situations Warranting Immediate Medical Attention:

  • Thunderclap headache
  • Fever and stiff neck
  • Headache accompanied by weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Headache following physical exertion

Importance of Regular Check-ups:

Regular check-ups with healthcare professionals are essential for several reasons:

  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Monitoring and adjusting medications
  • Preventive strategies
  • Rule out other conditions

Building a Supportive Community for People Living with Migraine

Miles for Migraine creates a community of support by offering support in-person,  and virtually. The Social Series brings other people together virtually while the walk/run/relax events bring local communities together in person. This connection is an important part of self-care for many reasons.

Comfort in Shared Struggles:

Within a community, whether physical or virtual, individuals find solace in the realization that they are not alone in their struggles. Shared experiences create a common ground where empathy flourishes, proving a comforting embrace that eases the weight of emotional burdens. In times of hardship, knowing that others have faced similar challenges and triumphed imparts a sense of hope and resilience.

Understanding Beyond Words:

Language often falls short in capturing the nuances of our emotional landscapes, but within a community, understanding transcends mere words. Shared experiences forge a silent understanding as well as a connection that requires no elaborate explanation. This unspoken empathy becomes a powerful force, affirming the validity of emotions and fostering a sense of belonging.

Practical Advice and Wisdom:

Practical advice becomes a valuable resource for those seeking guidance. Whether facing a health challenge, navigating relationships, or overcoming personal hurdles, the wealth of knowledge within a community empowers individuals with tangible strategies and solutions.

Reducing Stigma and Isolation:

When individuals openly share their stories, it creates a ripple effect of acceptance, eroding societal misconceptions and fostering an environment where vulnerability is celebrated rather than shunned.

Celebrating Victories Together:

Just as communities provide solace in difficult items, they also amplify the joy of victories. The community becomes a tapestry of shared successes, reinforcing the notion that every achievement, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is a cause for collective joy.


In closing, this guide to migraine self-care serves as a roadmap, guiding individuals through the challenging terrain of managing migraine. By embracing self-care strategies, one can find a compass to navigate the complexities of this disease. Remember, self-care isn't just about managing symptoms—it's about reclaiming control, nurturing well-being, and cultivating a life not dictated by migraine. 

Sarah Rathsack

Sarah Rathsack, Patient Advocate

Sarah Rathsack is a patient, writer and creator of the blog My Migraine Life. She serves on the Miles for Migraine Warrior Advisory Board and has fundraised thousands of dollars for Miles for Migraine.

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