Gentle Post-Migraine Recovery
Last updated: October 2022
After a migraine, do you ever have that “beat up” feeling as if you’ve been hit by a truck? That’s your body telling you to take it easy. Do you give yourself time to recover from a migraine attack, or do you rush right back into life as soon as the pain subsides?
What happens after the headache phase?
A lot can happen in the 2-24 hours after the headache phase is over. When a migraine attack occurs, all of our senses are disrupted. Brain chemistry and electrical activity take wild spikes and freefalls. Our bodies need time to adjust to the rapid changes. Our reflexes are still slowed, so we can be clumsy. We can continue to have light and sound sensitivity, ringing of the ears, fatigue, mood swings, and even brain fog.
What was my dad like after a migraine?
As a child, I remember watching my dad come out of postdrome. After hours of isolation, he would emerge from the bedroom – wrinkled white t-shirt, bare feet, hair in a mess, eyes still squinting from photophobia. He wouldn’t speak a word until after he’d had something to eat and drink. That gave him time to regain a sense of normalcy. Even after eating, he would remain quiet and still for hours. Except for Sunday afternoon football, that was the only time I ever saw my dad sit and watch TV longer than to check the weather or evening news.
Why shouldn't we push through postdrome?
When the demands of life are strong, it can be tempting to jump back into our responsibilities as soon as the pain starts to ease up. We often forget that a migraine attack isn’t really over until we have regained our normal energy and tolerance to stimuli. That slowness we feel is simply the migraine inching its way out of our brains. We’ve all pushed ourselves to return to “normal” too soon after an attack. The problem is that we can still make silly mistakes, have difficulty communicating, and have trouble staying awake. It’s really better for everyone (and safer for us) if we wait just a little longer until we are fully recovered.
How do I slowly come out of an attack?
As a general rule, I avoid driving, intense physical activity, and any work requiring mental focus until the postdrome has ended. Fortunately, my body gives me a very clear signal. I know the attack is really over when my ears stop ringing. Even if I feel fine, I will still wait until that last symptom is gone. Until then, I find soothing activities to occupy my time, such as a warm bubble bath, coloring, or snuggling with my granddaughter.
Can you tell when your postdrome is over? What kind of limits do you observe as part of your recovery process? Are there self-care habits you’ve found helpful?
Which are you most sensitive to?