How to Stay Active This Summer Without Triggering Migraine
“Isn’t this weather great? Perfect for a beach trip. Can’t wait to get out and enjoy it,” your friends and coworkers say.
You nod and smile. You’ll probably spend the weekend indoors, again, hoping the temperature and humidity don’t trigger a migraine. It’s so frustrating!
Here’s a little bit of good news: While you can’t control weather changes, you can control how you prepare for them to reduce your migraine risk.
Understand your specific weather triggers.
Common weather-related migraine triggers are temperature, humidity, bright or flickering light, winds and specific weather conditions, such as an unusual warm front, said Jan Hoffman, MD, PhD, a migraine researcher who spoke about this topic at the 2021 Migraine World Summit. Barometric pressure can also be a trigger — not low or high pressure, necessarily, but a sudden shift from one to the other.[i]
However, Dr. Hoffman said, many people who think weather is a migraine trigger may actually be triggered by something else. He theorizes that people who already are in the premonitory phase of a migraine attack may be more sensitive to changes in temperature, light or barometric pressure, so they notice them more acutely.
How can you determine your specific migraine triggers? The best way is to keep a headache diary, whether on paper or in an app. When you track your migraine attacks and symptoms, as well as factors like diet, sleep and weather, you can spot recurring patterns.
When exercising with migraine, experts generally recommend choosing activities that go easy on your body, without jarring or pounding. Good choices include:
- Tai chi
But you should follow your passion! If you love running, then run. Just stay hydrated and pay attention to your body. If you love rock-climbing, then climb. To avoid neck strain that can lead to migraine, some climbers recommend light-refracting belay glasses to wear when belaying.
Like a scout, be prepared.
If you’re venturing out for the day or the weekend, bring key elements from your migraine tool kit:
- Water: You already know that dehydration can trigger migraine attacks, and it’s easy to underestimate the amount of water you’ll need in the summer. Strenuous hiking in hot weather may require you to drink 1 liter of water — or more — per hour, according to the outdoor pros at REI. They also recommend pre-hydrating before you exercise and bringing sports drinks or powders to restore your electrolyte balance.[ii]
- Snacks: Skipping meals can also be a migraine trigger. Migraine-friendly snacks can include fresh fruit (apples, pears and grapes travel well), carrots, celery, sunflower seeds, pretzels, potato chips.
- Sunglasses and a hat: If you’re sensitive to bright light, these are a must-have. The best sunglasses for migraine are polarized, which reduce glare from reflected sunlight, or have an FL-41 tint.
- Cooling gear: To avoid overheating, wear breathable, lightweight clothing. A cooling neck wrap or evaporative hat can deliver sweet relief on blazing days.
- Acute migraine treatment: Bring your CEFALY, your migraine medication, and any other treatments you rely on.
Pay attention to your other triggers.
On its own, hot and humid weather might not spark a migraine attack. But if you’re already stressed or sleep-deprived, you could be at risk.
“There is more and more evidence showing that over a given month, the threshold to trigger a migraine attack varies substantially,” Dr. Hoffman said. “So there are days where you're very susceptible to have a migraine attack, and other days where you're not. Probably, for example, a change in weather may be the last thing you need to trigger an attack, whereas on another day, you just wouldn't care.”[iii]
CEFALY can help raise your migraine threshold by gradually desensitizing the trigeminal nerve. CEFALY sends tiny electrical impulses through a self-adhesive electrode placed on the forehead to stimulate the trigeminal nerve, reducing the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks.