In observance of Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, Rachel Wiegand, MS, PA-C — Cooper University Hospital’s neurology specialist on staff — provided information on managing migraines and headaches with lifestyle modifications.
In America, there are 40 million individuals living with migraine disease and headache disorders.
Unfortunately, more than half of migraine sufferers have not been medically diagnosed. If you or a loved one suffers from migraines or headaches, it’s important to discuss your symptoms with your primary care physician.
If symptoms are severe and include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and difficulty concentrating, schedule a consultation with a neurology specialist.
For migraine sufferers, early intervention may help prevent a migraine from progressing into a severe, disabling attack.
There are many new abortive medications that work well to stop/decrease symptoms and preventative medications/interventions to assist with minimizing frequency of episodes.
Fortunately, there are also lifestyle modifications that can help with migraine and headache management which include:
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and getting at least 7-8 hours uninterrupted per night
- Minimizing screen time when able and allowing an hour of screen-free time before bed
- Eating a healthy breakfast, maintaining a regular, well-balanced diet and not skipping meals
- Identifying and avoiding any triggers such as foods (alcohol, MSG, foods with nitrates, aged cheese), odors (perfume, chemicals), medications (birth control pills, Nitroglycerine)
- Staying well hydrated with a goal of at least 64 ounces of water daily
- Stress management via relaxation techniques such as slow, deep breaths, calming lighting and sounds, focusing on a soothing memory or image, or Yoga
- At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week
- Taking breaks throughout the day to stand and stretch, reducing muscle tension
- Limiting the use of over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen and Excedrin. Overuse of such medications can worsen headaches and lead to “rebound headaches”
- Keeping a migraine/headache journal to track frequency, symptoms and identify any potential triggers
- Minimizing noise in your environment if you have sensitivity to sound
- Using non-direct, soft light and anti-glare glasses when working on the computer if you have light sensitivity
- Wearing sunglasses while outside and driving for light sensitivity
A patient who experiences new onset of a sudden, severe headache should seek emergent medical attention immediately.
Wiegand received her Master of Medical Science, Physician Assistant Studies degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is available for general neurology consults and office follow-ups for hospital discharges.
To schedule an appointment, call 856-469-2020.