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National Headache Awareness Week, June 3-9

As part of National Headache Awareness Week, the National Headache Foundation has identified seven healthy habits of headache sufferers. NHF’s goal is to help headache sufferers reduce headache risk and live a happy life despite headaches.

Seven Healthy Habits of Headache Sufferers

  1. Diet: Eat regular meals, avoiding foods and drinks that are known to trigger headache attacks
  2. Sleep: Maintain a regular sleeping schedule, including weekends and vacations
  3. Stress: Implement stress reduction techniques into your daily life
  4. Headache diary: Keep a headache diary of when your headaches occur, along with any triggers, and share the information with your healthcare provider
  5. See your healthcare provider: Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to specifically discuss your headache
  6. Be a partner in your headache care: Be informed, be a participant in your treatment and be an advocate for your headache care
  7. Education: Stay apprised of the latest headache news and treatment options (by reading The Daily Headache, of course!)

NHF will be hosting three podcasts this week to describe these tips in detail.

Monday, June 4
Lisa Mannix, MD, medical director of Headache Associates in Cincinnati, Ohio and an NHF board member will provide an overview of the seven habits.

Wednesday, June 6
Roger Cady, MD, medical director of the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Missouri and an NHF board member will provide an in-depth focus on the first three of the healthy habits and discuss the importance of diet, regular sleep and stress reduction in managing headaches.

Friday, June 8
Dr. Mannix will conclude the series by focusing on the remaining four healthy habits. She will discuss how to keep a headache diary, making an appointment with your doctor, being a partner in your headache care and staying educated. Judy Brown will also speak from her personal experience as a headache sufferer who has lived with headaches for years.

Adapted from a National Headache Foundation press release. (It’s a doc file, not a pdf)

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Why I Don’t Keep a Headache Diary

Compared to the ratings in a person’s headache or pain diary — if it’s kept faithfully — most people who rate their pain retroactively recall it as worse than it actually was. I too have a recall bias, but it’s the opposite effect. I think of the pain and other symptoms of my chronic daily headaches and migraines as much less than it really was.

When someone asked me on Monday how I’d felt in the past week, I said that it had been a pretty good week. I thought that was right, until I reflected on the week. My pain and other symptoms were severe at that moment. Saturday and Sunday were terrible — until I took a nap and drugged myself up so I could enjoy myself each night. Friday I was pretty sure my migraine was going to kill me. I didn’t post on Thursday, which only happens when I’m miserable and can’t think.

It wasn’t because I wanted to hide the severity of my migraines from this person, who is a health care provider that I’m currently seeing. I was protecting myself from the truth: I had a horrendous headache for at least a few hours every day that week.

A headache diary makes me confront reality. It’s too sad to think about.

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Stealth Attack

It sneaks up, so quiet that I don’t know it’s there. It bullies my body until I awaken, dizzy, nauseated and gasping in pain. My only choice is to go back to sleep, but it’s never a restful sleep. If I’m lucky, I’ll wake in the morning slightly out of sorts, but without much pain. More often, I have to sleep at least an extra two hours and the rest of my day will be mediocre at best.

These were my thoughts when I was awoken by a migraine for the fourth time in the last five nights. (Yes, I do mentally blog in the middle of the night!) This happened a few months ago too, but I’m not sure when it was or how many days the night migraines lasted.

If only I kept a headache diary I might see if there was a pattern. I get so sad when I can look back at the month and see just how bad the pain was. Without a diary, it’s easy to fool myself into thinking the pain wasn’t so bad.

While I insist my migraines aren’t linked to my menstrual cycle, I did start my period on Thursday night and have had a migraine every night since then except for Friday. Hmm…

I really like the headache journal on Migraine Survival. Maybe today’s the day to try charting them again.

Do you chart your headaches? Is it helpful for you or just frustrating?