Migraines, Fibromyalgia, IBS, Neck Pain, TMJ, or Panic Attacks Out of Control? Make Lifestyle Changes!
How can you take control of what is out of control? Begin with the basics. The basics mean making healthy lifestyle choices. Migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS, frequently neck pain, TMJ, and panic attacks are interrelated. The common denominator is migraine. I have chosen the phrase migraine syndrome to group the above symptoms together, because when you control migraines, then the migraine syndrome will improve. Successful migraine prevention depends greatly on understanding how lifestyle impacts the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
People that are subject to the migraine syndrome have what I call the sensitive body. The body is more sensitive to light, sound, smell, food, and/or stress. It is important to remember that your body is sensitive. Avoid triggers. Triggers can be additive and total up to big trouble. The more trouble you have, the lower your threshold for developing symptoms. If your body is over-stimulated by triggers for a sufficient time period, then transformation of migraines occurs (migraine become more chronic) and more of the migraine syndrome is revealed. Transformation can ultimately lead to fibromyalgia. It is impossible to totally avoid triggers. Triggers are risk factors. Activities done to normalize the nervous system are protective factors. Lifestyle changes promoting protective factors and avoiding risk factors lead to good health.
Lifestyle changes markedly reduced the frequency of headache in studies that I have conducted. Let me prove my point. I have been the investigator in many medical research studies. In the late 1990’s, I did two studies that I found extremely revealing about the importance of lifestyle changes. They were simple preference studies. The patients would try the study drug and determine if the study drug was preferable over whatever over-the-counter medicine they were taking for migraine. In one study Imitrex was the medication studied, and in the other Amerge was the study medicine. Imitrex and Amerge are triptans. Triptans are drugs that help stop a migraine attack. In one study Imitrex was taken for three headaches and in the other study Amerge was taken for four headaches. The study patients were required to have five or six headaches a month in order to be enrolled into the study. In other words, these study patients’ lives were significantly impacted by having too many migraines. The patients had three months to complete the study. Assuming five to six headaches a month, then the study should only take a month. Nevertheless, they had three months. In both studies combined there were about seventy patients. My office treated these patients like regular migraine patients. We made the “mistake” of teaching the usual lifestyle changes—the changes I am about to teach you. Over half the study patients were unable to complete the study in three months! One patient did not have another headache in three months. Needless to say, we did not make that “mistake” again while conducting a study. We taught them lifestyle changes after the research projects were completed.
One of the basic needs is a consistent life. Everything needs to be done in a methodical way. Maintain adequate sleep—not too much and not too little. You need to go to bed at night and awaken in the morning at approximately the same time each and every day including weekends, holidays, and vacations. If you oversleep by more than one hour, you may feel hungover or tired, and you are definitely aggravating the migraine syndrome. Did you ever wonder why jet lag bothered you so much? Imagine awakening by 6:00 am weekdays and 8:30 or 9:00 am on weekends. That may explain weekend or Monday morning headaches or cricks in the neck. The fatigue is felt when you go on vacations and/or come home to reality. The variable sleep-patterns problems adversely affect high school and college students and night shift workers.
Eat regular meals. You need to eat breakfast! Commonly, I find migraineurs who just do not feel like eating early in the morning. Eat anyway. It does not have to be eggs and biscuits. A bowl of cereal or even a breakfast bar will work. Do not skip meals. If you do not eat, or if you eat junk food, you are setting yourself up for reactive hypoglycemia among a host of other problems. Consistent sleep and meals are very important. In other words, your life must be dull and boring—oops. What I meant to say is, the more regular your lifestyle is, the more protected you are from risk factors.
I will cover more lifestyle changes in subsequent articles. The subjects will include emotions, dietary triggers, medications, posture, physical activity, trauma, and environment. For more information, go to http://www.migrainesyndrome.net.
About the Author: J. Wes Tanner, MD is a family practice and headache specialist who has been treating people for about 30 years. He has extensive experience in treating migraines and fibromyalgia with excellent success. In "Doctor, Why Do I Feel This Way?", Dr. Tanner exposes the secrets and myths about fibromyalgia and the migraine syndrome. To find out more, go to http://www.migrainesyndrome.net.