For migraine sufferers, the debilitating pain can be so bad that the first thing you’d like to do when it’s over is forget all about it. But careful tracking of your migraine attacks can actually help you find the right treatment, avoid certain triggers, and better prepare for the triggers you can’t avoid.
In other words, it’s worth remembering your migraine headaches and other symptoms you get before, during, and after an attack.
While doctors aren’t 100% sure about what causes migraines, they do know about migraine triggers—the things in your world that can set your migraines in motion, like sounds, lights, certain foods, or even changing weather patterns.
So, how do you figure out what triggers your migraines and which treatment’s the most helpful? A migraine tracker! Specifically, using a migraine tracker.
Remind me again, what are migraine triggers?
Migraine triggers can come from your environment or your lifestyle. For example, many triggers are things that happen around you, such as:
- weather conditions
Other triggers have to do with what you put into your body, including things like:
- alcohol and caffeine
- food additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) or nitrates
- foods, such as dairy products
And still more triggers have to do with other things happening in your life, like:
- getting too much or not enough sleep
- feeling exhausted
- feeling stressed
- skipping meals
The thing is, these triggers affect all headache sufferers differently. The trick is to learn which are the biggest triggers for your migraine headache attacks, and work to avoid them.
Migraines are more than just headaches—as you well know—and with symptoms often starting hours or days before the headache or aura begins, it’s hard to rely on just your memory to identify triggers.
How do I track my migraines?
So, how do you track your migraines in a way that’ll actually help you? Migraines already take too much of your time and energy, so you probably don’t want to spend more time than you need to thinking about them. Here are some guidelines to help you track valuable information about your migraines without pouring hours into it.
The medical journal Consultant lists information that can be helpful when it comes to diagnosing types of migraines and other headaches:
- Where on your head is the headache? Around your temples, on just one side, behind your eyes?
- What kind of pain is it? Does it pulse or throb, or is more of dull ache?
- What do you see? Flashes of light, blind spots, or other visual disturbances typical of aura?
- What do you hear? Ringing in your ears? Sensitivity to loud noises?
- What do you feel (other than pain)? Numbness, tingling, or nausea?
Keep in mind that if you’re keeping the migraine diary so you can show your doctor a clear picture of your symptoms, you may want to include what a 2018 study calls “the 3 Fs:”
- Frequency of the attacks
- Frequency of acute medication use
- Functional impairment (how much the migraine impacts your life)
In other words, your doctor may find it useful to know how often you get migraines, how often you turn to migraine medication to treat an attack, and how severe the migraine is.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends also tracking:
- When the headache begins and ends (both time and day of the week)
- What you were doing when the migraine started
- What you did to try to stop the headache (medications and other remedies)
- How well the treatment worked
- When and what you ate most recently
- When your last menstrual period was
And the Migraine Trust adds that information about your lifestyle can be useful too, such as:
- How much sleep you’re getting (and your sleep patterns)
- Other medicines you’re taking, including vitamins and other products
- What’s going on in your life and work
- Your exercise habits
What do I do with this tracking information?
A migraine diary can be useful to your doctor. You may forget to tell your doctor about certain aspects of your attacks or leave out information you don’t realize might be helpful. And with your symptoms and triggers tracked over time, your doctor may be able to make a diagnosis faster—and get you the treatment that’ll actually work for your migraines. Plus, the tracker will help a doctor understand whether you're dealing with migraines or another type of headache.
Once you have a few weeks or months of diary data, you’ll be able to use the information for your own migraine management, too. If you can see how your lifestyle and environment are related to your headaches, you might be able to take actions to stop them or lessen them. That might mean avoiding a certain food or changing your schedule to avoid stress.
And trust us, we know avoiding coffee or saying no to a glass of wine isn’t easy...
What if I can't avoid my triggers?
Sometimes, all the tracking the world won’t help you avoid migraine triggers. Maybe your migraines come on because of unavoidable weather changes or barometric pressure changes, or you can’t fully escape the stress of your job or home life.
That’s where treatment comes in. Cove offers both acute and preventive medication that can help you alleviate migraine pain and lessen their frequency.
How do I use Cove to track my migraines?
If tracking all of this information about your migraines feels like a lot, know that you don’t need to figure it out on your own. Cove’s migraine tracker is designed to help you keep track of all the most relevant information about your headaches, in a quick and easy way.
To learn more about how Cove helps you treat your migraines, click here.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash.