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Coping with migraines and headaches

Painkillers are not the only way to help cope with recurring migraines or headaches.

Some people find lifestyle changes and other practical measures help them keep a clear head:

  • Follow your headache treatment plan. Avoid taking medications that have not been recommended by your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Reduce emotional stress. Take time to relax and take time away from stressful situations. Learn relaxation skills such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Reduce physical stress. Proper rest and sleep will allow you to deeply relax so you can face the stressors of the new day. When sitting for prolonged periods, get up and stretch periodically. Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders.
  • Exercise regularly. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week.
  • Keep a regular routine. Eat meals and snacks at about the same times every day, and get enough sleep at night.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking can trigger headaches and make any headache, especially cluster headaches, worse. Ask your GP for information about smoking cessation programmes in your community.
  • Know your headache triggers. Keep a headache diary to keep track of what triggers your headaches and avoid these triggers in the future.
  • Preventive therapy. Women who often get headaches around their menstrual period can take preventive therapy when they know their period is due.

In addition to these headache coping tips, there are organisations and support groups that may be able to help.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 20, 2017

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