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Coping Mechanisms

Coping Mechanisms

With all of the medications and treatments currently available for migraine, there are probably more combinations than I can count that a doctor may use to help their patients find relief. Unfortunately, for many people the current options do not always work, or do not work at all. Add in the number of OTC drugs available paired with all of the homeopathic remedies searchable on the internet, and a person could go absolutely mad trying to play Sherlock Holmes looking for that perfect pairing to cure what ails them.

For this article however, I would like to look more in a different direction and discuss the coping mechanisms many of us have put in place to help get through the harder days. I’ve mentioned them in other articles, but mainly I have mentioned them in passing. I’d like to put more focus on them because for most of us, these are the things we use even more than the medications we take while we fight through particularly bad migraine.

Migraine cave

The “migraine cave” is a really common coping mechanism. This usually involves blacked out windows and a comfortable place to sit or lay. Some people cope simply by resting/sleeping through a migraine. For some, any room will work as long as they have a comfortable place to sit with their favorite blanket. Pets can function as coping mechanisms (often referred to as pain pals). Some people cope by massaging their head and then others cope with meditation.

I’m sure that most of us use some combination of these or similar coping mechanisms when we face a severe migraine depending on what they are comfortable with. For myself, the best combination seems to be the cave and pain pals and cold flowing air.

All of the coping mechanisms in the world won’t take the pain away, but for some reason they seem to make the pain much more bearable. I do try and sleep when its practical during a migraine, but the pain doesn’t always allow for sleep. Being in the cave doesn’t remove my photophobia, rather, it removes me from the extra pain I would be dealing with otherwise. The dogs are always up for cuddling up on the couch or the bed, and they serve as a mild distraction from the overwhelming discomfort.

Flowing cold air

The last mechanism I prefer is cold flowing air. I say it that specific way for a reason. For many people, a cool room can help with a number of things. For me however, I can be in a cool room and be sweating at the same time. I personally need to feel the cool air flowing to be comfortable. Typically, I achieve this using a fan. I can’t speak to why it helps, just that it does. The sound of the fan helps me too but that’s not so much of a migraine thing as it is a daily thing. The steady sound of the electric motor has a calming effect on me and helps me sleep.

What is your “go to” coping mechanism when you are having a particularly bad day? How has it made surviving the bad days better?

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


  • Katiemcguire68
    2 months ago

    I go to bed or recliner (there is a cozy one in my bed room) with black out curtains closed tightly, ice pack on my head, overhead fan blowing. I ask Alexa to play soothing wind chimes or gentle rain or lapping waves. I try to do some imagery, like “going to my happy place” but if the pain it too bad I can’t always get there.

  • Scarleight71
    1 year ago

    I opt for the migraine cave, ice packs and my purring pain pals. Even though they are cats, they know when to come. Honestly their purr is about the only sound I can tolerate. Even the sound of the fan motor makes me want to rip off my ears (sorry for the graphic). I have terrible tinnitus so my white noise is already built in and I’d give anything for actual silence. We moved about 18 months ago and I can’t achieve the same darkness in our new place – in any room so I also rely on bean-bag eye mask that I keep in the freezer. In a perfect world I’d have a little freezer next to my bed and rotate them every 20 minutes! Staying hydrated also key and I keep water next to me at all times and both my son and husband are great about keeping it full when they are around. OK one last thing…deep breathing…always breathing…until I’m alseep. Does anyone else feel like they wish they could rest in their cave without sleeping so much? I know it’s important not to sleep too much or risk a headache from that but I have yet to find a way to take my meds, finally get comfy, lay still and not fall asleep. The meds usually knock off just enough pain so I can doze off but they don’t help enough so I’m up and around and back to my normal life. I’m interested in other opinions on sleeping. I really feel like I’m sleeping my life away!

  • Lynda Hillebrenner
    1 year ago

    Before the pain gets too bad, I do relaxation or self hypnosis exercises. I then meditate. If I can’t meditate, I run through my gratitude list & try to journal. I take a turmeric ginger supplement, a muscle relaxer with a full bottle of room temperature water, so I can drink it all quickly & rest in a dark room, with the fan going.

  • Ginalcb
    1 year ago

    I either lay down in dark room or have to sit up depending on the pain I’m experiencing. Must be cold, no light or noise and I can’t be touched. Totally believe in peppermint oil dabbed on the areas of pain. Mine are usually temples or the back of my head. Peppermint also helps with nausea. Thanks for all the other ideas!

  • MDM
    1 year ago

    To take the pain down a notch, I fill the tub with as hot water as I can stand. Get in with ice pack on neck and or head. Soak for as long as possible. Some epsom salt (magnesium) is helpful
    but not necessary. It eases, not erases the most unbearable pain.

  • marycr8on
    1 year ago

    I go to my bedroom, close the curtains and clip them tight so no light comes in, then I climb into my bed with my dog and put my weighted eye mask on. I have one that’s satin and feels cool when I put it on. It also has lavender in it, which is calming. I turn my fan on, if it’s warm or there is noise outside. The sound is kind of soothing and helps me go to sleep. I have 5 pillows, the best thing about that is that I can arrange them around my head so there’s no strain on my neck.

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