Written by Denise Macy for Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc
Despite over 39 million people in the United States suffering from migraine attacks, there is still no definitive cause or cure for this neurological condition. Among the list of many possible triggers, though, is the weather. Specifically, barometric pressure changes, bright sunlight, extreme temperatures, and humidity. All of these can trigger a migraine attack and impact our daily lives with migraine-inducing effects like sinus pressure, photosensitivity, and/or a drop in serotonin.
Although there is no cure for weather-related migraine attacks, there are a variety of ways to help ease any symptoms.
Natural Home Remedies
Since the core component of meditation involves mindful breathing exercises, this practice can help you relax and manage the part of your nervous system that oversees stress. This way, your brain is better oxygenated, encouraging the release of dopamine—an uplifting chemical. Considering that chronic migraine attacks may also take a toll on your mental health, meditation is also a good way to feel centered. If you prefer to learn the practice in classes first, this may even be a way for you to build a community of support, which is another way to navigate migraine attacks with mental wellness.
Although a lot of migraine attacks can be triggered by scents, when done carefully, aromatherapy is believed to help relieve pain and improve moods. Some possible migraine-busting scents are peppermint and lavender. Both are said to help relieve tension and relax the body. Before using any aromatherapy, though, make sure it is skin-safe or mixed with a carrier oil. Otherwise, enjoy the scents through a diffuser instead.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Also called NSAIDS, this category of drugs includes aspirin and ibuprofen. They’re used to ease minor pain and inflammation in the body. Although taking these drugs for a short time is considered safe, as with any drug, extended use can have side effects which include allergies or an upset stomach. As a common pain reliever, please use caution and take no more than advised by your healthcare provider.
A popular pain reliever, acetaminophen is found in many over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol. This drug works to block pain signals in the brain and spinal cord. However, since excessive amounts of acetaminophen can cause liver problems, make sure to follow the directions on the label or as directed by your healthcare provider.
Treatment Plan with Healthcare Professionals
The umbrella term for healthcare professionals who are certified in headache medicine and who treat migraine disease are called “headache specialists.” But since this field of study is not as widely publicized, not all patients may know who to expect on such medical teams. Therefore, it’s important to note that aside from neurologists, headache specialists also often include nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
While both professionals have extensive training in treating, assessing, and managing various types of headaches, the difference lies in their capacity to work independently with patients. Specifically, these nurse practitioners will have completed an RN to BSN program that includes in-depth studies on genetics and healthcare assessment. With additional certification in headache disease, this enables them to then specialize in headaches so they can evaluate and diagnose a patient within their practice. Physician assistants, meanwhile, have graduated with a certification in a physician’s assistant program, but must always work in collaboration with a doctor unless in very rural areas.
A well-rounded headache specialist team, such as the one outlined above, will take your lifestyle, medical history, and preferences into consideration to craft a unique treatment program for you. If needed, they may also ask you to visit other specialists like dieticians, physical therapists, or chiropractors to supplement their treatments.
Botox, one of the FDA approved injectable treatments for chronic migraine, helps to reduce attacks by obstructing the release of chemicals thought to be involved in pain transmission. Studies suggest that this can reduce the number of headaches by approximately 50%. Because Botox for migraine uses a different dose than cosmetic procedures, it’s important to get this procedure done by a neurologist. These doctors have undergone a residency and fellowship program where they gain relevant field experience. Thus, they are well-versed in the sensitivities of the brain and its corresponding treatments.
Aside from being physically debilitating, migraine attacks can also be mentally draining. Although you may not be able to prevent sudden changes in weather or your body’s reaction to this, you can take comfort in knowing there are treatments to help you take back your life.