There are few things that compare to the all-encompassing, chronic pain that a migraine headache inflicts. Lasting anywhere from four to 72 hours, they often feel impossible to treat. But, for most of us, there are ways that we can lessen our migraine’s intensity if not frequency before they even begin.

One of the most important things is to know the signs. The Wall Street Journal recently collaborated with doctors around the country to try to pinpoint the warning signs of an upcoming headache. Many afflicted people report that the following symptoms typically arise in the 48 hours before a migraine starts: fatigue, food cravings, yawning, muscle stiffness, mood fluctuations, appetite loss, and increased urination. There is no “formula” – the symptoms differ from patient to patient – so it’s important to keep a record of your physical and emotional indications when you feel a migraine coming on.

Researchers have divided migraines into four phases. The prodrome phase refers to the 48 hours before the migraine starts, when you might begin to see the signs that are mentioned above. The aura phase refers to “visual disturbances” that occur, such as flashing lights or unfocused vision. One third of those afflicted by migraines experience this stage. Almost every migraine patient is familiar with the pain phase, where severe throbbing occurs for hours – and even days. In the postdrome phase, migraine sufferers experience lingering exhaustion or soreness.

Make yourself aware of these signs so that you can understand both how your body reacts in these different phases and what triggers them.  By eliminating migraine triggers from your lifestyle, you will reduce the frequency of migraines. You can also integrate some simple measures into your daily routine. The Mayo Clinic suggests taking the following procedures to prevent migraines before they begin:

1. Develop a regular sleep schedule. Make sure that you get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night so that you wake up well-rested each morning.

2. Don’t skimp on meals! Eat a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day – and if you’re hungry in between, you don’t have to starve yourself. Just snack healthily.

3. Exercise regularly. A recent study found that physical activity is as effective in preventing migraines as medication or relaxation treatment. The participants exercised for forty minutes three days a week to attain successful prevention results.

4. Don’t stress. Many people experience stress-induced migraines, or tension headaches. Carve out some time each day to relax – whether it’s taking a walk, doing yoga, or meditating. My giving your mind time to unwind, you’re not only preventing migraines… you’re also helping your overall quality of life.

There’s no way around it: migraines are draining, painful, and intense. But you can take these simple measures to ensure that chronic headaches don’t dictate your life. Take a stand against migraines for a happier you!

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