Five Steps to Reduce Migraine Pain by Mark Tyrrell
1) Stop migraines in their tracks by tracking the pain:
It sounds obvious but, as soon as possible, get into a quiet place, pull the curtains, and switch off the light. Bright or even moderate light can worsen the effects of migraine. If it is not entirely dark, then close your eyes and begin to imagine it is getting darker. Imagine it being 5% darker, then 20% darker, and so on. This can actually ‘fool’ the brain into believing it is darker than it really is.
When we suffer pain, we tend to be ‘all or nothing’ about it: I am either ‘in pain’ or ‘not in pain’. But of course there are subtle degrees of pain. If you are experiencing a headache, say to yourself: “If ultimate pain is 100%, where am I right now?” You might decide you are 80 or 70. Now tell yourself: “I might not notice going down from 80 to 79 or even 75, but I’ll notice when it goes down to 70…” Then start to imagine the numbers in your head going down: 70 being replaced by 69, by 68, 67, and so on. Track the sensations in your body as you visualize the ‘pain grade’ lowering. This technique can be surprisingly effective in lowering pain.
2) Stop migraines by relaxing:
“Tense, nervous headache?” inquired the steely voiceover to an ancient painkiller commercial. And it’s true. Migraine pain is worsened by tension and also causes it. But relaxation lowers your blood pressure, easing any tension in and around your brain. Relaxation also lowers stress hormones (such as cortisol) in your system and helps you release the natural painkilling chemicals.
Start by breathing deeply – focusing on breathing out longer than you breathe in. Tell yourself: “With each out-breath, I am going to relax more and more deeply.” Direct your attention to different parts of the body in turn, letting them relax. Focus on your feet, legs and hips, hands, arms and shoulders, and finally your chest and neck. Imagine relaxation as a color really starting to circulate around your body as you relax deeper.
3) Control your own blood flow:
This trick is quite easy to use, but very powerful. Migraine sufferers find that if they warm up their hands by, say, putting them near an open fire or under warm water, then their migraines often lessen and stop much quicker.
This may work because when we start to relax and feel sleepy, slightly more blood travels into the hands and feet as our core temperature drops. This relaxes us. But here’s the really interesting bit: Research has found that 95% of people, on their first attempt, can warm their hands simply by imagining them heating up.
When I want to relax, go to sleep, or stop a migraine, I close my eyes and imagine my hands around an open fire. I imagine the air around the fire circulating around my hands and warming them. Try this – it’s surprisingly effective.
4) Stop migraines by re framing the pain:
When it comes to pain, we can be terribly descriptive: “pulsating, stabbing, wrenching, tearing, ripping…” How we perceive migraine pain can actually affect the pain we experience. Try this: Close your eyes and ask yourself: “If this pain/sensation were a color, what color would it be?” (It’s amazing how many people say “red”.) Then ask yourself: “What shape would this pain/sensation be?” – perhaps square or oblong. Then: “What texture would this pain/sensation be?” Many people say “jagged” or “sharp”.
Now you have re framed the pain as a colored shape with a texture. Next, with eyes still closed, gently start to change the color, perhaps making it paler, and start changing and shrinking the shape and changing the texture. Now begin to move the shape away from the front of the head (or wherever it is) to the back…and slowly down the neck and back and eventually let it dissipate through the fingers and watch it drift away into space.
5) Remember comfort – even if it feels like you never had any:
Finally, you can use ‘remembered wellness’ to feel better. We don’t just remember with our minds, but with our bodies too. If I recall a time I was very angry, my blood pressure may rise (people with chronic heart conditions are encouraged not to recall times when they were very angry) and I may begin to breathe quicker and feel hotter.
If I recall reclining on a Caribbean beach (that’s better), my blood pressure may go down; my hands and feet may feel warmer; I may begin to produce more serotonin in my brain, making me feel better; and so on.
Remembering wellness is a technique that uses the physical aspect of memory. Starting to recall times you felt relaxed – totally mentally and physically comfortable and happy – can start to influence the way you feel now. Take your mind back to a time – possibly a quiet but happy time – when you were feeling great. Start to picture it, imagine feeling the air in that place, hearing the sounds, etc.