If you experience symptoms of another chronic health condition in addition to migraine, it’s important to take steps that address that condition — steps that may also help reduce your migraine symptoms. Those steps may include seeking a diagnosis and treatment from a doctor, as well as making lifestyle changes that have the potential to reduce the burden of your condition.
1. Get an Accurate Diagnosis
Whether you have anxiety, depression, IBS, or a sleep disorder along with migraine, it’s important to see your primary care physician or a specialist to get an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will discuss your health history, perform a physical exam, and order lab tests and scans, if warranted, before making a diagnosis.
2. Get a Clear Treatment Plan
Some people with migraine may benefit from taking a single prescription medication that has been shown to be useful for both migraine and another condition, such as anxiety or depression. Other people may need to take a separate medication for each condition.
Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of preventive and acute treatment medications for migraine, and make sure you understand your doctor’s recommendations for when and how often to use these drugs. (Ask for these recommendations in writing, if necessary.)
3. Follow a Consistent Lifestyle
It’s important to know that “migraine brains” don’t like changes in your daily behaviors or routine.
“[A consistent] lifestyle reassures your brain that everything is okay,” says Robert Cowan, MD, a neurologist and director of headache research at Stanford Medicine in California.
“Eat meals at the same time, go to bed at the same time, exercise regularly, and be consistent,” says Dr. Cowan. “These are the things that set the patterns for the brain so it knows what’s coming: sleep, eat, wake up, exercise.”
4. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Dr. Barad recommends waking up at the same time and going to bed at the same time to help reduce your risk for migraine symptoms.
“Migraine’s brain is particularly sensitive to change — weather, sleep cycle, sickness. Keep your lifestyle consistent and lead a scheduled lifestyle to avoid problems,” says Barad.
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5. Avoid Potential Dietary Triggers
While not every potential migraine food trigger applies to everyone, it’s worth paying attention to whether your migraine symptoms get better when you avoid common triggers in your diet. Barad tells her patients to “minimize caffeine and sugar. Minimize processed foods in your diet, and avoid chemical triggers like MSG and nitrites, which may trigger migraine in some people.”
6. Live Your Life
Above all, live your life to the fullest. “It’s important to take a holistic approach” to migraine management, Cowan says, rather than worrying about every little thing that could make your migraine symptoms better or worse. “Take precautions, but live your life.”