If you ask a migraine sufferer how they deal with the crippling, all-consuming pain of a migraine attack, they'll probably say something along the lines of, "Find a dark room to lie down and groan until it subsides." A terrible headache is just one part of a migraine, but it's a pretty big part of why these are so awful to endure. And medication can only do so much about it.
A migraine is a complicated neurological condition that impacts more than 37 million people in America, yet doctors still don't really know why they occur, or why they hurt so badly. "Historically, when someone experiences pain, we think that something is wrong and we need to find the source of the pain," says Rebecca Wells, MD, MPH, a neurologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who studies migraine pain and the efficacy of mind-body interventions for migraine treatment. With migraines, though, the pain is just there for seemingly no reason — which means you can get a little creative when trying to treat it.
When you stress about pain that you're experiencing, it can make the perception of your pain worse, says Elisha Goldstein, PhD, a psychologist and cofounder of The Center for Mindful Living. "Typically, what we do is start trying to wrestle with the pain, resist it, and push it away, because we hate it," Dr. Goldstein says. "We start wrapping negative thoughts around it, and what that's doing is basically putting stress on top of the pain — so you have pain and you're amplifying your perception of pain itself."
There is some promising proof that certain non-medical interventions, such as meditation, may help make the attacks less severe. We may not be able to all-out prevent pain, in other words, but we can change the way we think about it.
Ahead there are some different techniques from experts that might help you grapple with those feelings, whether you're a migraine sufferer or not. Ultimately, the goal of these tips isn't to avoid medication entirely, it's to add more tools to your pain-solving kit, and if you are experiencing pain that isn't familiar to you, you should seek medical attention before going off-book to cure it. But having a handle on your body when you are in pain can be extremely valuable. Start to learn how, ahead.