Community, Coping, Diet, Doctors, News & Research, Patient Education, Resources, Treatment, Triggers

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)


Stress, Migraine & Other Headaches

While some folks debate whether stress is a trigger for migraine, tension-type or other headaches, research and anecdotal experiences satisfies me that there’s a connection*. Even if it’s not directly related, stress can induce other headache triggers, like not getting enough sleep and eating poorly. Besides, reducing stress is something that nearly everyone can benefit from because, well, life is happier and easier that way.

After feeling relaxed all week, I’m a tense kitty today. Lucky for me, checking Bloglines turned up a ton of recent blog posts on the topic.

May favorite is how to ensure that your life is stressful. This tongue-in-cheek post got my attention much more than the usual tips on reducing stress, which are so widely distributed that they’re easy to overlook. It really made me think about specific thoughts and behaviors that contribute to stress.

The fifth tip, be more and have more, hit me upside the head. I have half of this one beat as I’m trying to have less in my life; the other half I do all too well.

When does trying to make yourself a better person cross over to being too hard on yourself? For me it was a long, long time ago. Realistically, I can only improve on one or two faults at a time, but I’m forever thinking about all the others I want to “fix.” All that leads me to do is berate myself for all my negative attributes. Hmm. . . .

In the more typical list format, the American Lung Association suggests 52 stress relievers, which they claim are proven. Each one is only a couple sentences long so they’re easy to digest. Some that caught my eye:

  • Take more time between tasks to relax. Schedule a realistic day.
  • “Worry about the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” Pay attention to the details in front of you.
  • Do one thing at a time. When you are working on one thing, don’t think about everything else you have to do.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • Forgive people and events. Accept that we live in an imperfect world.

I’m going to spend the afternoon trying to figure out how to stop nagging myself. I have no doubt that this will increase my already high stress level.

[via Lifehacker & Lifehack]

*Note, 01/19/07: The ACHE article that I link to in the first sentence says that stress is a headache trigger. My sloppy paragraph and ill-placed link imply otherwise. While some people argue that stress is not a headache trigger, they are a small minority. In fact, I’ve never seen that argument made by a health care provider.

So, yes, stress is a headache trigger, but it is not the cause of the headache. (You can read about the distinction in the fourth paragraph of this post.) Thanks to Dr. Peterson for pointing out my mistake.

Coping, Resources

Holiday Stress & Headaches

With high levels of stress and routines out of whack, the holidays can be a painful time for people with headache. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of tips on how to cope with holiday stress. Here are some that caught my eye.

If all else fails, consider my favorite remedy: Close all the windows and doors and scream at the top of your lungs (for some reason, this always works best in a car). Follow it up with a lovely latte or hot chocolate — or, if your screaming session is prolonged, treat your throat with hot tea and honey. You’ll get out your frustration and the warm drink provides some self-nurturing.

Doctors, Meds & Supplements, Resources, Triggers

Great New Articles on’s headache page has long been a resource for headache patients. Teri Robert, the headache “guide,” has been hard at work lately writing some great new articles. Here are some of my recent favorites, but be sure to poke around on the site — it’s chock full of information.

Top 7 Steps To a Head Pain Sufferer Friendly Home
Reducing environmental triggers, simplifying chores and setting up your own headache place (much like finding “home”) are all ways to minimize the impact that headaches have on your life. By reducing odors, chemicals and stressors, you may also reduce your headache frequency.

Doctors – Helpful or Hopeless? How’s Yours? Need Help?
Tips on finding the right doctor for you and how you can help your doctor help you.

Headache and Migraine Medications and Wal-Mart’s $4 List
While no triptans are available for $4 (because there are no generic triptans), many headache preventives are. Teri provides a short list of meds and links to more information, including a comprehensive list of Walmart’s $4 prescription drugs.


Letdown Headaches

We hosted a wedding reception on Saturday. I use the term “reception” loosely — it was a casual potluck for friends who got married in Georgia and all the guests were fun and laid back, just like the couple who got married.

And yet, Hart’s migraine hit five minutes after the final guest left (literally). Mine came on in the wee hours of Sunday morning and I finally got out of bed an hour ago. Hart has a pattern of getting a migraine after stress has let up. Because he was worried that I would crash, he was also more anxious about the event than I was.

I’m annoyed by my migraine because I was so careful with my time and my body beforehand. My deadline for getting things done on the house was May 31. Since then we’ve been doing small things with one task each night or a manageable number of tasks on the weekend. We hired someone to clean the house two days before the party.

I really felt little pressure. With the deadline, we finished all the necessary work to make the house feel like it’s ours. That provides relief all on its own. Preparing for the party knowing that we were celebrating the marriage of two great friends was so much fun. And it was the first big party in our Seattle home, which we bought with entertaining in mind.

Perhaps it’s an inevitable part of headache disorders. Migraineurs get letdown headaches and tension-type headachers get pre-party headaches. (That’s a sweeping generalization, of course.) I love to throw parties, so it makes me angry. The latest Real Simple has an article about a couple who throw stress-free parties frequently. Next time I’ll try to follow their lead.

(P.S. Bride, if you’re reading this don’t worry, really. We had a great time and would do it all over again in a heartbeat.)