Nursing the Migraine Hangover

migraineMigraineurs are all too familiar with the symptoms: sensitivity to light and sound, seeing auras, nausea, and intense, unremitting pain. After hours or even days, the pain subsides and you feel relieved but perhaps don’t feel quite normal. Lesser-known than the migraine itself is the migraine “hangover” known as the migraine postdrome.

What is the migraine hangover? 

The migraine hangover or migraine postdrome can feel very similar to an alcohol-induced hangover. Symptoms include feeling drugged, sluggish, foggy, drowsy, or simply feeling “out of it.” You may have difficulty concentrating, feel weak or dizzy, lethargic, or even depressed. Some migraineurs compare it to catching a mild case of the flu.

Although not studied to any great degree until about 2004, the postdrome is actually a normal phase of the migraine headache and addressing it is an essential part of migraine treatment. Everyone who suffers from migraine headaches can suffer the symptoms of each phase to varying degrees.

Predrome Symptoms

The onset of migraine starts with “predrome” symptoms that signify a migraine is coming. Chronic migraine sufferers are often no strangers to this. This phase is marked by irritability, odd food cravings, sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, or visual auras. 

The aura phase can occur just before and/or with the actual pain phase, whereby the actual headache occurs. Pain, vomiting, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to sound or light can occur just before and/or with the migraine headache.

Postdrome Symptoms

Postdrome symptoms are less dramatic, but can be extremely frustrating and depressing. Migraine sufferers expect normal life to resume instantly once the pain has subsided, but sometimes find themselves experiencing:

  • Decreased energy

  • Dizziness

  • Weakness

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty in concentrating

  • Foggy thinking

  • Depression 

Migraine treatment should include handling postdrome symptoms as well as the actual migraine symptoms themselves. What can you do to prevent and ease migraine postdrome? Here are five helpful ways:

1. Rest

If you’ve just struggled through a migraine, chances are you feel drained and exhausted. You’ve been through a lot. Your body needs ample rest and sleep to fully recover. Avoid stressful activities and be patient. Take the time you need to recuperate before resuming your usual routine.

2. Seek herbal help

If you’re still experiencing after-effects like nausea, natural anti-nausea medications like ginger and butterbur may be helpful. These herbs are known to be effective without the causing further discomfort. 

3. Use over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications

If you can take them, postdrome symptoms can be alleviated by over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin, naproxen sodium, or ibuprofen. These medications are just as handy to migraineurs as they are to people with flu and hangovers. 

4. Take supplements

Taking supplemental riboflavin and magnesium on a consistent basis may also make both the migraine headache and the postdrome symptoms less severe. Many migraineurs find these supplements useful and effective. Supplements like these can be bought over the counter, without the need for a prescription. 

5. Drink plenty of water

Drinking plenty of water helps minimize the postdrome “hangover” symptoms. Similar to an alcohol hangover, a migraine hangover can happen in part because nausea and other symptoms during the acute migraine phase can make ingesting liquids unpalatable to impossible. Hydration is key. Drinking plenty of water will help alleviate the hangover symptoms you may be experiencing, and help you recover faster.

If you suffer from migraine headaches, no doubt your first priority is to minimize the pain you experience, both in intensity and duration. But the migraine hangover can be disabling and frustrating as well. Following the steps above can greatly reduce the after-effects of a migraine. With these remedies, you may be able to ease and avoid postdrome symptoms, and feel better faster. 

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Image Credit: Carsten Schertzer

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