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Preventing chronic headaches and migraines

Mind, Spirit, Body

Nothing spoils your day quite like a sudden headache. But for many people, chronic head pain is a constant battle. If you frequently find yourself down for the count because of head pain, then you may want to take steps to prevent chronic headaches and migraines.

What’s a migraine anyway?

Migraines are chronic, reoccurring headaches—they just keep coming back. They cause moderate or severe throbbing pain on one side of your head and may last anywhere from four hours to three days.

But migraines have additional symptoms that distinguish them from other types of chronic headaches. People who experience migraines also tend to have two of these three symptoms:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia.)
  • Sensitivity to sound (phonophobia.)

Headaches put a damper on your day

When it comes to chronic headaches, it’s not just the pain that’s the problem. Chronic headaches and migraines keep people from enjoying everyday life.

In fact, nearly 25 percent of people who experience migraines say the intense headaches have led to time lost at work, with friends or at home.

Want to get back that lost time? There are five things you can try to stop headaches and migraines before they start. 

5 headache prevention tips

For many people, certain lifestyle factors trigger headaches and migraines. Making modifications to your daily routine may help reduce the frequency of attacks or prevent them from happening altogether.

  1. Keep a headache diary. Because there’s no test for diagnosing migraines, it’s important to track them as they occur so your doctor can prescribe a treatment plan. Headache diaries help you track the length, severity and possible causes of your head pain. The National Headache Foundation has a free printout you can use. You may want to note additional factors such as what you ate that day, how well you’ve been sleeping, how much you’ve been exercising, your stress level, any bothersome lights or sounds, or if you’re menstruating.
  1. Get on a sleep schedule. A good night’s sleep does your body good. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help you avoid a headache or migraine.
  1. Maintain a nutritious diet and stay hydrated. Eating nutritious foods and not skipping meals can help keep chronic headaches and migraines at bay. And be sure to keep a water bottle handy. Dehydration is the biggest trigger for migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
  1. Exercise regularly. Being active can also make a difference. Aerobic exercise such as biking, jogging or walking three times a week for at least 30 minutes may lead to fewer and less intense headaches and migraines.
  1. Manage your stress. This can be a hard one to get under control, but finding ways to lessen your stress can help minimize your headaches. Try taking daily stress breaks. Inhaling slow, deep breaths and thinking of a soothing image or place can help you calm your stress.

Learn more about migraines

Want additional information on treating migraines? Check out our article on getting to the bottom of migraine pain.