10 Tips For Migraine Relief

So you suffer from migraines too?

I’m sorry… I understand.  I really do.  And for the first time in probably 25 years, I’ve finally figured out how to find *some* relief.  Some.  And if you truly get migraines, you are like me and desperate for ANY relief.  So read on…

I started getting them in my teens, about every 6 weeks, and consistently for 3 days each time.  For 24 years.  Yes the dark room, yes nausea and throwing up, yes please crush my head with some metal plates.

Not my finest moment, but I documented my last migraine attack:


Just like everyone’s symptoms and frequencies are different, relief comes in different combinations.

Combinations.  There is not one thing to relieve migraines.  It’s a lot of factors.  I am convinced I get them because my personality is go go GO, so much that I am anxious and stressed all the time, not sleeping enough, not eating regularly, saying yes to everything and then the migraines hit because it is the ONLY way I become forced to do absolutely nothing for 3 days.  Well, I do the bare minimum like go to work still and finish my responsibilities (while literally dying inside), then running home and crashing on the bed not because it makes me feel better but because I  just need to close my eyes and dig my fists into my temples. Sound familiar to anyone?  Oh and you have kids too?  Forget about it.  Worst mom ever.

Wow that was a lot of venting.  Moving on.

Here are 10 tips (or superstitions) that have worked for me:

1) Stay really hydrated.  I literally chug a glass of water about every hour.  Don’t believe me?  This is my water bottle, I mean 64 ounce jug.  I put my daughter’s 8 ounce cup on the side for comparison.  I don’t care how much you hate water.  That’s why I said chug.

2) Goodbye caffeine!  When I got pregnant with my first daughter 6 years ago, I gave up caffeine. If you really need coffee, switch to Decaf and just  let the flavor convince you that there’s a caffeine kick.  Otherwise, tea.  Decaf tea has worked for me… but make sure the tannins in tea are not your trigger.

3) And that is my husband’s wine collection… yup, goodbye alcohol.  Remember, do you want a migraine???  I’m sorry… but it’s the truth.  Alcohol is definitely a trigger…

As a side note, if your significant other is like mine and loves wine but now has no one to enjoy it with, you must get them a Coravin.  It is a device that allows you to pour out a portion of wine through a little needle without popping open the cork and the wine stays fresh.  Pretty innovative!

4) Uh oh.  I know you hate me now.  I hate this post too.  My weakness: chocolate… mmm chocolate.  I love chocolate chip cookies.  I love chocolate ice cream.  I love these chocolate covered caramel macadamia nuts.  $&@!  Everything comes in moderation and is a trial and error PER PERSON.  My solution is everyday I have a whey protein smoothie that uses natural chocolate flavors and it has worked to satisfy my craving without triggering my migraine!  Whew!

5) Aspartame: An artificial sweetener used in lots of drinks or foods is a trigger.  I used to love having Diet Coke everyday.  Or Barq’s root beer.  Reach for that glass of water instead.  Chug chug chug!!!

6) Eat regularly and eat natural foods more often than not.  Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, basically the less processed the better.  Opposite of fresh food: hot dogs. Sausages.  Those also have nitrates which I know trigger my migraines.  Opposite of fresh food.  Ramen packages that I grew up on and crave, but also have MSG, another trigger.  Natural, fresh, I know where this came from and how it was made or what ingredients it has… and eat regularly, aka let your body have a little bit of nourishment throughout the day.

7) Sleep enough.  Like my girls.  Strict bedtimes.  Full night’s rest.  Ha!  Guilty guilty guilty.  I said I had some ideas for relief… but trust me it’s hard!!!  I went to Hawaii and slept in, took naps, felt great, and the first day I get back?  5 hours of sleep.  Went straight through teaching 3 intense classes in a row plus 4 loads of laundry, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, catching up on work, all while taking care of my 2 and 5 year olds who were cranky from the time change.  Slept 5 hours at the end of that day.  How can I not expect to get a Migraine?

8) Bodywork.  I knew I always loved deep tissue massages but now I know that regular bodywork actually helps prevent migraine attacks.  I carry so much stress (as most people do) in my neck and shoulders.  I used to get massages randomly as a special treat, but a year and a half ago, I started seeing my amazing friend Bill Vrabel at Marin Power Yoga regularly as a form of treatment.  And he’s not a “follow a sequence I was taught” type person.  I don’t have to say anything about where it is hurting and he can follow the energy lines in my body to know where I am tight on any particular day.  You need to find someone like that.  And see them regularly.  My home treatment?  Lying on random tennis balls or using this truMedic massager at home.  Better than nothing!

9) Medication.  I tried meds before and they never worked because I would always take the pills too late.  But I kept taking them in hopes of some magic.  I stopped meds when I became pregnant and was off meds for the past 5 years… and my migraines were worse than ever.  Just last year I was desperate and restarted Sumatriptan.  The difference is I know my body better now that I have had migraines for 25 years.  I know before the migraine is coming.  I know that cloudiness that begins to fog up my brain.  I know that general whole body unwell feeling and loss of appetite.  If you catch that moment BEFORE your migraine, the medicine is magic.  At least it has been for me… and I completely believe my yoga practice has been what has helped me distinguish a deeper level of mind and body awareness.  I am more in tune with my body when it starts to drift into migraine mode.  On to my final tip: #10.

10) Do you do too much?  Are you constantly thinking?  Are you running around like a headless chicken most of the day?  If so, you need some form of stress relief that lets your brain stop thinking.  I recommend yoga.  And just like bodywork, you have to find the yoga class and teacher and studio and community that resonates with you.  You’ll know if you take a class, and simply feel better afterwards.  That’s it.  You’ve found something good.

I started yoga 15 years ago in hopes of relieving my migraines.  But I still drank coffee, alcohol, didn’t watch what I ate, basically did not follow anything else on this list… so… yup still had chronic migraines.  But it’s the combination of all the above.  Maybe it’s because I am a mom now and have to take care of others… that I started to really notice what I needed to do to take care of myself.  You know, like how they say on an airplane to first put on your oxygen mask before your child’s?  All I know is I cannot live with migraines and I cannot take care of my kids when I get an attack.  I needed to find relief, so for the past year I have committed to this list above.  Not perfectly by all means, but *more often than not.*
And for the first year in 25 years, I had only FOUR migraines in 2016 compared to an average of TEN each year (of 24 years!!!) before.  This year, it is April 2017 and boy am I due for one… but *knock on wood,* I haven’t had one yet.  I must be doing something right.

And to me, that shows there is HOPE.  The only reason I wrote this post spontaneously is because for the very very very first time in my entire life, I found hope with my migraines, and I pray that you do too.  I feel you.  I understand you.  These steps are not fun nor easy, and they do absolutely take commitment, but I wish for your healing.  Please leave a comment if any of this has helped.



PS #11) Do NOT do no-handed headstands.  They are absolutely a trigger for me!!!  Bad Grace BAD!!!


“You Must Do The Thing Which You Think You Cannot Do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Marin Power Yoga

This past weekend I taught my Power Yoga class and began with 2 questions for my students to reflect on:

  1. What is something in your yoga practice that you have wanted to try or achieve, but you have been held back because of fear?  (For example, fear of falling, fear of not being strong enough, fear of getting out of your comfort zone, fear of embarrassment…)
  2. What is something in your personal life that you have wanted to change but fear has held you back?  (For example, changing jobs, saying no or yes more, apologizing to someone, fixing a bad habit…)

For myself, I also answered those same questions.  In my yoga classes, one area that I struggle with the most as an instructor is sharing about myself and letting students get to know my “story.” I hold back and usually stick to “textbook teaching” of cueing poses and alignment.  It is what I am comfortable doing.  Although teaching makes me seem like an extrovert because I stand in the front of a room full of people, I am truly an introvert and in all other areas of my life, I prefer to be hidden in the back corner of a room, keeping all my thoughts swirling around in my own head, silent to others.

Well, this weekend I decided to face my fear…

At the end of class, I shared about my hair.  My hair has been incredibly long since my teens, so around 25 years.  My hair is my security blanket.  I associate myself with Violet, from Pixar’s, “The Incredibles.”  Violet is the daughter of a superhero family and she uses her hair to hide behind so she won’t stand out. In fact, her superpower is becoming invisible, which is exactly how I relate to my hair – a symbol of something to hide behind!

The Incredibles "Violet"

As some of you know from my previous posts about migraines and attempts to heal my migraines, I have been suffering from migraines all my life and I am desperate for any chance of relief.  My latest theory is… maybe my 25 years of having long, THICK, hair, plus wearing them in high, heavy ponytails for most of that time during gymnastics, cheerleading, and now yoga/fitness classes, causes too much weight on my neck (my migraine pain seems to originate from my C1, where the base of my skull meets the top of the spine).

So in front of my students, (and facing my first challenge of sharing openly about myself…) I pulled out a pair of scissors (oh I wish I could have videotaped the giant gasps and “NOOO” cries in the room… haha!).  My husband and daughter came into the room and helped me to cut off my braid.  I went from shaking uncontrollably from nervousness and fear, to immediately feeling so refreshed and light!  It is just hair… but cutting my braid symbolized so much more.  I am facing my fears.  I am embracing change.  I am free!

Pantene Beautiful Lengths Haircut

I will be mailing my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths because someone out there with cancer needs my hair more than I do… sending all my love to everyone out there who has been or is fighting the biggest battle of their lives.  Stay strong and know you are loved!

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

The Grateful Habit

Grateful 365 Days a Year

“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night.  For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I celebrate another birthday.  Yes, some things are different today.  I might hear from more people than a usual day.  I might receive a few more cards or gifts than a usual day.  I might eat a little unhealthier than a usual day.

But one thing that does not change from the other 364 days in the year… is feeling grateful.

We don’t need a special occasion or event to feel grateful.  We don’t need to receive anything or be acknowledged to feel grateful.  We don’t need to wait until we lose something or someone to feel grateful.

Being grateful is a skill to learn, a habit to form, a discipline to master.  It requires effort and it demands practice.  But when you put in that effort and when you truly practice being grateful, the way you see and experience the world will drastically change.

To be honest, on most days I am a nervous and anxious person who worries about everything and stresses out over the smallest things, causing me to be an insomniac, and is probably one of the triggers for my life-long migraines.  On other days, my naturally introverted personality likes to be self-critical and forces me so deep inside my head that I feel like I am bordering between moodiness and depression.  It is easy to be negative, to be pessimistic, to be angry.  Life is cruel to everyone in so many ways… but life can also be beautiful if you allow yourself to see the light in the darkness.

Three years ago, I received a gift from my sister – a five-year journal.  Each page had the date on the top, for example, March 10th, and underneath were 5 spaces for the journal entry, one for the current year, one for the following year, and so forth.  I chose to use this journal as a tangible method of forcing myself to see, really see, at least one positive thing that I was grateful for that day.  And so I began forming the habit of writing in my gratitude journal, and more importantly, forming “The Grateful Habit” of seeing the positive in negative, or simply ordinary, days.

Feeling grateful for not only the big things, but mostly the little things, is what transforms your attitude, your perspective, and your approach to life.  I am grateful for the rain because it makes my daughter so incredibly happy to jump in puddles when normally I would avoid being outside at all, I am grateful when I share a positive conversation in passing with someone I might normally not have talked to, I am grateful I was kept safe instead of being in a horrible accident that I witnessed, I am grateful for the barista that decided to give me a free drink for no reason, I am grateful for sitting here right now sharing my thoughts with all of you…

My birthday wish this year is for you to try it, at least for today, to reflect on your day so far and pinpoint one unique moment that made today different, a little better, a tiny bit more special.  What is something that made you smile, pleasantly surprised you, warmed your heart, helped you simply get through the day, or perhaps, made you laugh out loud today?

Today, I am grateful for YOU for taking the time to celebrate my birthday and reading my thoughts on this blog.  Thank you, I so appreciate you, and I hope you will be inspired to join “The Grateful Habit” in your own daily life.

Here are some of my favorite Grateful quotes that I would love to share with you:


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

~ Melody Beattie


“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

~ John Milton


“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach


“The greatest contribution we can make to the well being of those in our lives is to have peace in our own hearts.  When our hearts are filled with gratitude and our minds are brimming with enthusiasm, everyone we encounter leaves our space feeling a little lighter than when they entered it.”

~ David Simon


“Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift.  In the past, I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline.  The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”

~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

Hit Me With Your Best Crack

Lower Back X-Ray

Pretty healthy looking “C”-shaped curve in my lower back.

As many of you know, I have suffered from debilitating chronic migraines for approximately 20 years.  I have tried everything from taking pills, to eliminating all sorts of food from my diet, to exercising more, to drinking enormous amounts of water, to journaling my daily activities and moods in search of triggers…  Unfortunately, nothing has worked and the migraines keep coming.

In my most recent migraine attack last week, I desperately started Yelping “migraine” on my phone in search of something, anything, that could bring me a little bit of relief.  A chiropractor’s name popped up on the list with multiple 5-star reviews from Yelpers who swore that their headaches were treated.  The reviewers also mentioned that in their first consultation, this specific chiropractor took x-rays to help them see all the misalignments.  Having always been curious about what my neck looked like at the deeper skeletal level, and also finding an x-ray coupon so I would know exactly how much my first visit would cost, I decided to schedule a visit to see this chiropractor.

Here’s what I learned:

First, a little bit about what’s normal and what’s not.  As you can see in the left image of a Normal X-Ray, there is a “C”-shaped curve, similar to the “C”-shaped curve in my lower back x-ray at the start of this post.  The image on the right shows when the neck not only does not have a “C”-shape, but it is actually starting to curve in the opposite direction!

Take a look at my neck x-ray:

Neck X-Ray, Atlas Subluxation

My abnormal neck that lacks any “C”-shaped curve.

As you can see, my neck clearly fits the Abnormal category.  You can see a faint black line that my chiropractor drew on the x-ray to show where the normal “C”-shaped curve should be.  Instead, my neck sticks straight out (not even straight up!) and is starting to have that reverse curve which is no good!

What’s even more interesting about my x-ray is when you look closely at my C1, or Atlas, which is the first vertebra in the spine.  Take a look at where the C1 is on this normal X-ray.  Notice the “space” between the C1 and the base of the skull, or the occipital bone.

Now look at my x-ray again and notice something really interesting…

Atlas Subluxation, Neck X-Ray

Could this be the reason why I experience migraines???

Why I do not have a space between my C1 and skull is most likely from some kind of injury, according to my chiropractor.  So I will blame my childhood gymnastics trainings where I am 100% sure I fell on my head multiple times.  But really, who knows?

What we do know is this: There are nerves that travel to different parts of the body from each spinal vertebra.  The nerves that are above C1 are those that directly bring blood supply to the head, scalp, pituitary gland, bones of the face, brain, inner and middle ear, sympathetic nervous system, and the eyes.  If my skull is directly touching my C1, then it is very likely that those C1 nerves are getting pinched.  What are the symptoms of a misaligned C1 vertebra and possible pinched nerves?

  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Head Colds
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Nervous Breakdowns
  • Amnesia
  • Chronic Tiredness
  • Dizziness

I experience 70% of those symptoms on a regular basis.  Could this C1 misalignment be the answer to my chronic migraines???  Quite possibly.  It’s at least a good, logical theory, and is something my chiropractor seems confident to improve, if not correct.  Therefore, I committed to a 3-month treatment plan with my chiropractor to give it a shot, even though I hate being in vulnerable situations where someone is using extreme force and I hear loud cracks.  I know some people love their chiropractor visits… but honestly, it’s just something I really, really don’t enjoy!

I am a pretty optimistic person, however, when it comes to my migraines I have felt helpless and hopeless after every failed treatment attempt.  This is the start of yet another treatment path, and I am surprisingly hopeful for any bit of positive change that can come about through these chiropractic visits.  We shall see.  At the end of 3 months, my chiropractor will take another x-ray, which I will definitely share with all of you, and of course, I will know by then whether or not my migraines have continued, have lessened, or – is it even possible to imagine – have been cured???

Oh, how I hope that dream can come true.

God Gave Me Migraines

Migraine Barbie has Snapped!

Migraine Barbie has Snapped! (Photo credit: Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick))

Sigh.  Day 2 of another migraine.  Frustrated at not knowing the trigger… again.  Desperate to find a cure – but not willing to give in to drugs or medicine.  I want a long-term fix, not a short-term one.  Not only do I feel awful, but I feel bad not having the energy to interact with my family and friends.  Today I apologize for being a terrible mom, daughter, wife, and friend.

This is a re-post from my old blog that gives me a little bit of hope whenever I get my migraines… a reminder to appreciate even things like pain.


Ever since I can remember, I’ve suffered from migraines.  They come whenever they want – as soon as 2 weeks later or as long as 6 weeks later – but when they come, they last for 3 days.  Guaranteed.

On the first day, I know something doesn’t feel right.  I try to drink water, rest, close my eyes, whatever I can… but as the day goes on, the pain increases and all I can do is dread the next 48 hours.  The second and third day are the worst.  Pain constantly shoots through the right side of my head, behind the eyes, down the neck…  If I’m lucky, I won’t have nausea and dizziness, but I always have sensitivity to light and difficulty just keeping my eyes open.  I get through the days by lying in bed with my eyes closed.  Not sleeping, though.  With a migraine, the pain is so intense I can’t fall asleep.  Instead I lie my head or neck on a closed fist and let my knuckles create some acupressure.  Massage doesn’t help, but I think it would feel good to squish my head between two metal plates (that Barbie picture above is a PERFECT description).

Why?  What’s the purpose of suffering?  Everyone has something that causes them pain – maybe back pain or sciatica or even cancer.  Maybe there is some value for those that suffer more and experience chronic pain.  When I wake up on that fourth day after a migraine attack, I feel amazing.  My neck is light, my head is clear, and my energy is rejuvenated.  Maybe suffering creates reminders to appreciate what no pain feels like.  It is the best feeling ever to simply have no pain.

I often feel hopeless when I think about my migraines.  To put it in perspective, I lose about a month out of every year, lying in bed in a dark room.  But some people have it much worse than I do… God gave me migraines.  Maybe God is teaching me not to take my health for granted.  The 11 months I do have, I am reminded to be grateful.  To hold my head high.  And to smile.