Like diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis, migraine is a chronic disorder that, as of yet, cannot be cured, but can be managed to reduce its impact on your quality of life. This concept of "control not cure" is important to understand as you begin to learn more about the ways you can help yourself.
Many people with migraine, particularly when it is severe and/or frequent, feel that the headaches are controlling their lives. Successful management is directed at putting you back in control. You have taken the first step just by reading this information.
What do you need to know?
Successful management depends on you becoming an expert on your migraine. Your doctor or headache specialist may know more about migraine overall but you should become the "world authority" on your own unique disorder. Every person with migraine is different with his or her own frequency, severity, pattern and individual trigger factors. Even the response to migraine medication often differs from person to person. This individuality requires a treatment plan customized to your disorder.
How can using a headache calendar help?
The place to start in becoming the expert on your migraine is with a headache calendar. This is a highly important tool to track the frequency, severity, duration and pattern of your attacks. The calendar will also record any trigger factors for attacks and your use of medication.
The headache calendar is used in many ways to help customize your treatment. During each attack the severity is recorded depending on how much your ability to function is impaired.
Prevention is a big part of the picture. Learn to identify your trigger factors and how to avoid them. Recording your migraine trigger factors as well as the frequency and severity of events on a headache calendar will help both yourself and your doctor in diagnosis, treatment and management of your migraines.
As well, recognition of lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors is often extremely important in gaining control of migraine.
What kinds of treatment are available for migraine?
The treatment for individual migraine attacks can involve a number of strategies including comfort measures and medications. These strategies will be different for different people.
Factors such as time of migraine onset, severity at onset, intensity, and the particular trigger responsible for the attack all help determine the type of treatment required. Being prone to nausea or vomiting will also play affect which treatment types are best for you.
Treatment of individual migraine attacks may require the use of medication, including non-specific agents such as analgesics (pain relievers) or specific migraine drugs designed to attack the cause of migraine headache and other symptoms. Biobehavioural methods and preventative drugs can be used to help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Discussing the various alternatives with your doctor or pharmacist is recommended as the pros and cons of each alternative is beyond the scope of this article.