Tuesday, February 19, 2008

getting serious about migraines: 5 things you must do

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Maybe you've had migraine for years and just decided to get serious about them or maybe you're new to the affliction. Either way, you're probably wondering what few things you must do while you're starting to sift through the volumes of information about coping with and preventing migraines and other headaches. Keep reading for my five essential steps for getting serious about your migraines.

1. Read Teri Robert's book.

Teri's book
Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know is the best source of information on all the topics you need to familiarize yourself with as a migraineur.

Teri is a patient advocate who is constantly working to inform migraineurs and advance the causes of importance to them. Not only that, but Teri is a migraine patient herself. She went on a long, winding journey to get her migraines under control, and she knows what she is talking about.

After you finish her book, head over to My Migraine Connection to follow along with Teri's work.

2. Get a recommendation for an excellent headache specialist.

When you're new to the process you might make the mistake of thinking any neurologist can help you. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. Some are woefully uninformed about treating migraines, while others don't want to treat headache patients but don't have the guts to tell you that. The worst offenders encompass both traits.

The good news is that there are wonderful specialists spread all across the U.S. who are both brilliant and compassionate. It just takes a little research to find the right ones.

Here is a link to a list of patient recommended specialists compiled by Teri Robert: Patient Recommended Migraine & Headache Specialists.

I also suggest spending some time on one of these migraine forums to get other recommendations for good specialists:

My Migraine Connection Forums
Migraines Live Journal Community
WEGO Health Migraine Forum
The Daily Headache Forum

Build a support system.

Your friends and family probably won't understand the true nature of migraines (i.e. that migraine is a neurological disease, not just a bad headache) and will not know the full impact of the disease on your life. You must do your best to share what you learn about your condition with them and tell them what they can do to help you. Be as specific as you can so there is less room for misunderstanding.

I don't say this to insinuate that you're unstable or that mental illness is the cause of your migraines, but I also recommend you find a good therapist. Speaking from my experience, the longer your life is impacted by serious migraines, the more you need the skills of a professional at your disposal to help you cope with all the upheaval in your life.

4. Familiarize yourself with the AHS Headache Hygiene guidelines.

The American Headache Society (AHS) Headache Hygiene guidelines are a list of seven important good practices for migraineurs. They're all grounded in common sense and provide a good place to start making simple lifestyle changes.

AHS on 'Headache Hygiene'

5. Find or continue to focus on a relaxing, enjoyable hobby.

Preferably your hobby would be something low key that you can do just about any time, but the important thing is to make a commitment to yourself to keep doing at least some of the things that make you, well, you.

For me it has been reading and knitting. I can't usually do either one when I'm feeling incredibly awful, but on an average day I can engage in either activity and feel a bit more like myself. I know knitting is stressful for some people, but I find it very calming. And nothing beats the satisfaction of making a real finished object.

Do you have other essential tips to share? Please post them in the comments.

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