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Handling Migraine Hangover

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH - Blogs
December 11, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

If you suffer from migraines (like I do), you know that when the dull, throbbing, deep headache hits, you drop everything. Because you know that if you don’t, the pain will be worse and drag on longer. So you take your meds at the first sign of a migraine and get to a quiet, dark room to wait out the headache.

But what happens after the headache?

Do you take care of yourself during the migraine hangover?

The “migraine hangover” is the time when the pain is gone, but you feel beat up; and tired; and not quite altogether. If you move too quickly, you can feel an echo of the headache, like a bruise inside your head.

People often don’t realize that the hangover is an official phase of a migraine, called the postdrome. Many migraine sufferers, especially women, do experience a postdrome after the headache, and it can last for around 24 hours.

So if getting back up to speed after a migraine feels like an impossible task, you’re not alone. A lot of people have trouble keeping up work, family and social responsibilities right after a migraine. You’re probably still in the migraine hangover phase and need to slow down and give yourself time to recover.

As a working mom, I know it’s tough. But, the migraine hangover is a critical time – don’t push yourself or the pain can come back and you can have lingering symptoms.

What should you do during the migraine hangover?

Rest. Remember, it’s not “rest” just because you were in bed while the migraine was raging in your head. During the hangover phase really rest and don’t push yourself to jump back into your busy life right away. Take a nap, go for an easy walk, cuddle with your kids.

Stay disconnected. This is important especially if you are light sensitive.  Staring at a computer or TV screen can prolong your symptoms.

Say no. Even though you’re starting to feel better, don’t push yourself to attend events where the noise and conversation might bring back the headache.

Hydrate. If you suffer through your migraines with nausea and vomiting, this is the time to catch up on fluids and water-rich fruits and veggies that give you energy.

As you ease back into your regular, everyday routine be kind to yourself. Preventing migraines is a daily process. It’s not just about the time around the migraine. Keep a headache diary to get clues. Talk to your doctor about medications that can ease your migraine pain and even prevent migraines.

Look at the rest of your life for headache triggers:

Is it hormones? For some women, migraines occur around their menstrual cycle and mid-cycle. For others, birth control pills are the trigger.

Eat healthy meals. Don’t skip meals. And try to minimize (or completely remove) headache triggers like alcohol, cheeses and sausages from your diet.

Avoid caffeine. Slowly cut back what you drink now. Try diluting your coffee or tea with decaf.

Get enough sleep. Ideally, you should get up in the morning and go to bed at night at the same time every day.

Take care of your mental health. Stress is a major trigger for migraines, whether it’s from the daily grind or from a major life event. Look for small ways to make your day to day routine easier. And, recognize the stress of even happy changes like a new home or job promotion. Make time for relaxing activities and consider talk therapy if the stress is bringing on feelings of anxiety and depression. 

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About the Author
Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and a WebMD Medical Editor. She is on the team that makes sure all WebMD content is medically correct, current and understandable. She sees patients at the Women’s Wellness Clinic at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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