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A List & Call for Creature Comforts

When under the thumb of a migraine, time can pass so slowly. Minutes seem like hours, hours like days.  When the pain is daily, it becomes key to find ways to get comfortable; to pass the time; and to try to lessen or avoid the pain altogether. As someone who has navigated life with chronic migraines for many years, I have sought out and found various effective ways to offset and ease the discomfort of migraine as well as to address the increased sensitivity to the world that migraines can cause.

All of us who face frequent migraine have worked hard to find effective creature comforts to help along the way. For me, creature comforts can make the difference between migraines that last a few hours to ones that drag on for days. Seems a shame to keep these findings to ourselves. To that end, I am sharing mine here and invite you to do the same in the comment section below. That said, what works for me might not work for you and this article is certainly not meant as an endorsement of products listed. We merely want to encourage a sharing of resources and ideas in hopes that people might find new ways to lessen their pain.

Sensitivity to sound:

I’m the mom of kids who play sports in unbearably noisy gyms. I’ve missed more games than I care to admit because of migraines but I’ve also had to leave many games early because the noise sent me over the edge. “EarPeace” earplugs were recommended to me by my sister who works in a music venue (they are designed specifically for music professionals) and are the best I’ve found because they block high end noise but still allow you to hear conversations in your vicinity. I literally could not attend sporting events without these.

Sensitivity to light:

Investing in a great pair of polarized sunglasses is priceless for people with migraines. One of our contributors at Migraine.com has started her own sunglass company called “Theraspecs”.  For me, also having a hat handy to block bright lights outside or inside has become key ingredient in my purse.

I’m grateful for my handy husband who has installed dimmers on the lights in nearly every room in our home. This makes a huge difference in my comfort.

Sensitivity to smells:

We can’t control our external environment.  Being exposed to smoke, strong perfume, or car exhaust fumes can set off or exacerbate a migraine. I keep a Duff headband in my bag to whip out for just such an occasion. These headbands are made of soft material and are sewn into a circle. They can be worn around the neck as a scarf, or pulled over the head. I pull it up to cover my mouth and nose when in a stinky situation.

Hot/Cold Therapy

Everyone responds differently to extreme temperature. For me, a soft, flexible (gel-filled) ice pack on the back of my neck when I feel a migraine coming on (or when I actually have one) is a source of great relief. Sometimes, an ice pack actually provides more help than medication. I use them so often that I bought three to keep cold and have on rotation.  My chiropractor sold them along with soft flannel covers (comfort is key!).  A fellow migraineur gave me the tip that coupling an ice pack at the base of the neck with a heating pad at the base of the spine can decrease migraine pain.

One of my all time favorite go-to’s for pain management is a product called “BioFreeze”. It’s a pain relieving gel that leaves the skin feeling cool. I have it in the roll-on form and use it on the back of my neck regularly. When out and about in the world, it makes me feel like I’m in the comfort of my own bed with an ice pack.

Nausea:

I turn to ginger ale quite often to offset nausea and calm my stomach after vomiting. I like the strongest taste of ginger possible and my favorite brand is called “Q”. At a restaurant recently when I thought I’d have to leave due to nausea, the waitress noticed I looked a bit green and offered to put some aromatic bitters in some ginger ale. Just a few drops. It settled my stomach immediately. I’ve bought some now to mix with ginger ale at home. Any brand will do.

Distraction:

Getting your mind off the pain is important and in my opinion can ease its intensity. I’m a big podcast subscriber as well as TV binge watcher. Diving into the dramatic worlds of others can do a great deal to take the focus off of extreme pain.

I look forward to seeing what others might share. What have you discovered that helps ease, address, and get you through a migraine?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • JMEZON7
    3 years ago

    Walgreens sells an ice pack made for knee or shoulder. It works great Velcroed around the head. Ivey or smoothie or ice cream or shake. Salonpas patches to help neck, shoulders, etc whee ever u need them except face. Ice pack can be pulled over eyes to help pain. Heating pad. I suffer from chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, DDD lower back, chronic pain syndrome,.
    Clothes hurt to wear them, hair hurts, extremely light sensitive, severe allergies to smells, jaw pain, jaw pain is when a migraine is coming. Tied all the time from when I got lymes disease years ago, it also messed up my short term memory, I stutter when I have migraines, it is hard to find my words. Can’t concentrate or function well at all I am on disability. My whole life had changed so much since 2012. I have had migraines since my twenties that have gotten so much worst over the years. I have them at least 15 or more a month. Weather changed and seasonal change make mine so bad. Just going outside can bring it on. I can be fine on minute and then my head hurts so bad I just need to get to dark and my meds. I can’t go to opening movies cause of perfume and cologne Mage me so sick with head pain. I have to go home from places cause my head hurts so much. Hot showers on head and neck shoulders. Hold mouth open. Loudness can’t bring it on. Sometimes I just think abt shaving my head bald.

  • marg221
    3 years ago

    I am still amazed that I learn new things on forums like this. I used to use Head-On which could help immediately damp down a new daytime headache at the first signs and keep it from ballooning out of control. It is no longer made and I miss it. I am going to try some of the gels, soothers and similar products mentioned here.

    Ginger has saved my life. My worst migraines used to start with me waking up at 3 or 4 am with nausea. I had countless days of uncontrolled headache with vomiting before I discovered Gin Gins. The soft ginger chews are very strong and I keep them in my bedside table. I can put one in my mouth without opening my eyes and chew some and let it dissolve. No fear of vomiting like with ginger ale.

    Since my headache doctor put me on a large dose of melatonin (20mg) I have these early morning headaches at 6 or 7 am and mostly related to barometric pressure. With the Gin Gins I can often get the headache to go away with no medication.

    I always go back to relaxation. At one time my headaches were so bad sleep was the only way out. A friend gave me a guided meditation tape for headache. To this day, when I first get in the bed with a headache I lay on my back and make sure I relax, often with heat on the back of my neck, cold pack on my forehead. Sleep is good.

  • juus5q
    3 years ago

    I use similar products! I wear glasses from Axon Optics which is similar to Theraspecs. I wear The Headache Hat which is also a wearable ice hat. I have more than one because I wear them so often! I got them both on Amazon and would highly recommend them!

  • JanetH
    3 years ago

    Re: Ginger ale–in Michigan, we all swear by Vernor’s, which used to be made in Detroit. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it has a stronger ginger taste than Canada Dry. I like the bitters idea–will look into it. Thanks for other ideas, folks. I really don’t have anything to add that hasn’t already been said. Heat or ice packs, tylenol, Badger Headache Soother (got the idea from this site!). Thanks for the Fragrant Heart site and Lightning Bug info; also the Bose product. Oh, if you’re a lavender fan, get some lavender herbal tea bags. The taste is wonderful and calming.

  • SaraEutsler
    3 years ago

    This website has been a big comfort to me! I’ve learned so much and it’s made me feel less alone in all of this.

    I use ice packs every day. They help keep the swelling down in my neck and shoulders. They are also a great comfort when I have a migraine.

    Lavender and peppermint oil have worked pretty well for me. They don’t make the pain go away but when I rub them on my neck it’s comforting.

    I also love flannel sheets! They are my favorite and help me sleep a lot better. I am looking for a good pillow. I was diagnosed about ten years ago with chronic migraine, but I think i actually have cervicogenic migraines because they always originate from a tight, sore neck and since I’ve been seeing the chiropractor they are slowly getting better. I need a good pillow for my neck.

    My eyes hurt really bad when I have migraines. It’s usually the first symptom I get. I tried theraspecs but they weren’t as dark as a pair of Von zipper glasses I purchased so I don’t even use them.

  • Sherri
    3 years ago

    When I went through a long string of Migraines, what helped me was envisioning the perfect Ice Pack that would put pressure on the pain points, stay where I place it, stay cold for a really long time, have the versatility to move it around to chase those pain points…plus block out light and get the ice right on my eye brown bone area. Then I created it and launched this product… and now have sold thousands on Amazon and my website over the last two years. I’d like to share the link but don’t know if its allowed in this forum – you can google it though its called the Headache Hat 🙂 I hope it continues to help more people!

  • jns192 moderator
    3 years ago

    SaraEutsler,
    We are so glad that our website has been a helpful resource for you and that you have had the opportunity to connect with other community members. It is amazing what we can come up with when we all brainstorm! Flannel sheets sound amazing…
    Eye pain is one of the first symptoms I get upon a migraine attack as well and it is very common: https://migraine.com/blog/early-signs-symptoms-migraine-attack/
    Specifically for the eye pain, I like to press on pressure points on my temples and around my eyes.
    Here are some other tips & tricks from the community: https://migraine.com/blog/community-thoughts-crazy-things-help/
    Stay well,
    Jillian (Migraine.com Team)

  • NatJen
    3 years ago

    Excellent article topic: Lavender essential oil has a great soothing and calming effect. I like Lemongrass to bring everything back to a neutral clean smell. I too use soft blankets, socks and sweaters as a tactile external comfort. My cats have been very helpful in having a soothing effect by sitting or laying on or next to me. In fact one is named Noni after Noni juice that has been used in the tropics to help some people with migraines. I find when a migraine attack is at its worst, laying in bed in a dark room with layers and layers of blankets to curl up under helps give a sense of security. I too used to be an avid reader but find that my eyes really hurt during a migraine attack so I can’t distract myself by choosing that activity. Sometimes having a favorite movie on low volume can help distract from the level of miserablility experienced. It really is interesting how many of our senses become hyperactive during migraine episodes.

  • Cindy McMillan
    3 years ago

    This a great article.

    A few things that help me:
    Peppermint tea for nausea. I don’t like the taste of ginger, but peppermint is a wonderful comfort.
    A small heat pad for the top of my head and a warm blanket. Even if I’m not cold, these are wonderful. I’ve tried ice, but it actually makes my pain worse. Heat relaxes and eases the pain.
    Lavender essential oil for blocking strong odors. My fiancé likes to clean with bleach. This doesn’t always bother me, but on days it does, lavender not only blocks the scent, but it also helps to relax me.
    Coloring and/or listening to an audio book are great distractions. I’m an avid reader, but migraines have made that very difficult. Audio books make it easier to bear not being able to read. Coloring is like meditation for me.
    I also use sunglasses whenever I leave the house, blackout curtains in my bedroom, and I stay in the shade whenever possible.

  • Karen
    3 years ago

    This article is fantastic! I already employ a lot of these tactics, but a couple of them are new to me, and I’m excited to try them out. My husband bought me the Bose Noise Canceling headphones, and they go with me everywhere! Sometimes I hook them up to my iPod, but a lot of the time, I don’t have them plugged into anything. The quiet is a life saver.

    I’m going to order a pair of Theraspecs, because I can’t find sunglasses that are dark enough for me. Light is a huge trigger for me, and when I’m in the middle of a bad migraine, I can’t stand to have any lights on in the house.

    I’ve never seen a Duff headband before, but I do carry a bandana in my purse, sprayed with peppermint, that helps when smells bother me. My husband says I look like a gunslinger when I wear it, but it beats the nausea that smells can cause. 🙂

    I use ice packs on almost a daily basis, but have never tried a heating pad along with the ice. Gotta try that one!

    Ginger Ale is a life saver when the nausea takes control. Have never thought of adding bitters to it, so will have to try that too.

    Thank you so much for all the great tips! Nothing (so far!) takes the pain away, but with these tips, I might be able to ride the wave a little easier. Hope you’re feeling well today!

  • Holly H.
    3 years ago

    Thank you for the article; I also find such good information on this site.
    -Thankfully, I have the Theraspecs that cover my trifocal glasses. For instance, I have found them very helpful if I’m trying to get through a church service where one sits in a chair looking up at a podium, because one is always looking up towards the lighting. They also tone down reaction to fluorescent lights.
    -Watching Netflix or little YouTube videos or reading an involving novel on my Kindle helps distract when moving my head ratchets up the pain and/or when exhausted from enduring pain and aura non-stop.
    -Tactile comfort also helps, as in comfortable clothes, warm socks, and soft blankets.
    -A cool apartment temperature is a must for me because a hot and stuffy living space equals big-time aura increase.
    -Simplifying was essential for me as I get overwhelmed so easily now after years of constant migraine. I live a daily low-key lifestyle with the occasional forays into the “normal” things folks do.

  • Holly G.
    3 years ago

    Thank you for these coping tricks, most of my best practices are from helpful places like this. To add to the list:
    -blackout curtains in my bedroom ♡♡♡
    -while hot/cold therapy has been mentioned, different combos work for different folks so I thought I’d add my method: a neck/shoulders heating pad plus gel pack to the forehead can feel like heaven in an attack
    -meditation helps me relax my tense neck muscles during migraine attacks. I particularly enjoy fragrantheart.com’s lengthier guided meditations.
    -fav aromatherapy: Body Works had a stress relief lotion with peppermint
    -for staying positive this year I promised myself I’d start journaling to help me reflect on the good and reframe the bad – an app called Bliss has made this easy and enjoyable by reminding me to log and asking directed questions.

    Stay strong everyone!

  • Alison
    3 years ago

    Thank you for this article. Sunglasses in shops for me as I can’t bear the light, I never leave the house without them. Bose headphones are a Godsend though they are expensive. I have a heated fleece blanket as I get shivery when I get a migraine, I couldn’t be without it and am wrapped in it now as I write this. Soft, warm fabrics seem to help a lot, I have a warm scarf which is wonderful wrapped around my neck on a cold day, My cat also is a great comfort during those days spent in bed, even if he’s not on the bed I am comforted by his presence. Delta wave music on You tube helps me drift off to sleep, though it doesn’t always work. I also watch drama to escape from the pain but when the migraine is too severe I read on my tablet with a black screen and sepia writing as the normal screen is too bright. My greatest comfort is always a hug from my children and my daughter tucking her softest teddy into bed with me,

  • 23r1c5h
    3 years ago

    Nausea – I found out not too long ago that commercial ginger ale is misleading, it says it’s made from real ginger but if you look at the ingredients listed, ginger isn’t one of them. So either it’s not there at all or it’s so minuscule it’s not necessary to put it on the list. Next time you go to the store, double check your brand, so far I’ve found the Seagram’s and Canada Dry Ginger Ale’s do not have ginger listed in their ingredients. That being said, I’ve taken to making my own ginger drink for my nausea – the ginger root itself is what you need and you should be able to find it in your local grocery store. Scrub it down when you get it home, slice about a half inch off the tip, mince it incredibly fine and put it into a cup. Pour in hot water, allow it to hang out for a bit then add lemon juice (if you want and I do on the occasion) and sweeten it to your liking. You can even drink it cold, which is twenty times more refreshing than the commercial and settles the stomach a lot quicker as well. This also cuts out the unneeded corn syrup used to sweeten and the yeast since it’s an ale, it’s fermented. I also make my own peppermint candy when I get an opportunity and keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil in my purse.

    Photophobia & Phonophobia – The trusty old blindfold works for me, I recently sent off for information regarding Zecuity and when the kit arrived, it had a blindfold and a pair of earplugs. I use both regularly.

    Relieving anxiety – There’s an app I use called Lightning Bug – it’s one of the best white noise apps I’ve found, you can set your own background noise using the dozens of presets available. Right now I’m using a crackling fireplace, soft steady rain, a ceiling fan and rolling thunder. Once I’m comfortable in bed, I slip my earbuds on and select the app, settle deeper into bed and I’m relaxed in no time.

    I’ve also recently just completed a crocheted ripple afghan that I use to wrap up in when I am having a particularly rough attack. Nothing beats the warm feeling and relaxation from an afghan.

  • 23r1c5h
    3 years ago

    You can find the Lightning Bug app here: http://lightningbug.me/ which is the app’s website or you can find it here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.media1908.lightningbug&hl=en on the Google Play Store. It’s a very small app, barely 3mbs to start.

  • Alison
    3 years ago

    Hi, I have been looking for the app you mentioned, lightning bug, and seem to only come up with a children’s app featuring Leo the lightning bug. Where did you find the app?

  • Hope and a Prayer
    3 years ago

    In writing this article about finding comfort, you have brought comfort to me. Thank you. Although I always enjoyed a good movie or TV series, I preferred reading. In my other life, life-before-migraine, my TV was stored behind the couch and came out only when I wanted to watch a DVD. In this life, life-with-migraine, I have a big screen TV and Netflix. I have been hard on myself because I now watch a lot of TV, but reading that you binge watch and then following the link to Janet’s post “Comforting TV” allowed me to see that I am not alone in this and that I am choosing to comfort myself. I am not lazy or less intelligent, I am simply doing my best to cope.
    When there seems to be no relief, as is often the case, any comfort is welcome, so thanks for sharing your list. Here’s a few things on mine.
    – Eyemask. I have one in my purse and one in my bedside table. And one in the car. Sometimes sunglasses just aren’t enough for me. I look pretty weird with an eye mask under my sunglasses but if a bad one hits when I’m away from home, I’m prepared.
    – Peppermint essential oil. Inhaled it can help relieve tension headache pain, calm nausea and cover trigger scents. I also carry peppermints to help with nausea.
    – Gel cooling cloth. I keep mine in the fridge and carry it with me in hot weather and when traveling. It’s not as good as ice packs, but it brings some relief.
    – Heating pad. (You did mention this but I have some different uses.) Having ice on my neck and forehead can help ease the migraine pain, but I often end up feeling cold so I use the heating pad on my feet. And, lying in bed for long periods coupled with muscle tension from fighting with the pain can end in some cranky muscles, so I use the heat for that too.
    – My cat, Jazz. I am grateful for the people in my life and for the care they give to me, but when the pain is bad, I don’t really want them with me. I need to be alone and would feel isolated if it wasn’t for Jazz. Petting him and listening to his purring is soothing and when he cuddles up next to me, it is very comforting.

  • Erin
    3 years ago

    I too, couldn’t make it through the excruciating pain without my baby cat Patchie. He wraps himself around my head, and softly purrs. It’s quiet, and very soothing. I’ll also pop in the DVD movie Aliens, and sit in the dark with a sleep mask over my face. I have it memorized so I don’t need to watch it to enjoy it. It is one of my favorite movies. Somehow the scary monsters sooth me. I’m strange like that.:)

  • Lori
    3 years ago

    I also need my pet near me when I have a migraine and people are too loud, too talkative, and too …. everything. My dog Buddy requires nothing from me and never judges when I can’t find words or when I am too much in pain to change out of my pajamas for the day. He is warm and snuggly and soothes me in ways that my drugs and ice bag lack.
    Thanks for the heads-up about the EarPeace earplugs. Great reviews and on sale right now. Just ordered 2 sets.

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