After peak headache pain goes away, some migraines go through one final phase. Here’s how to recognize postdrome, also called migraine hangover.
Migraine is far more than a bad headache. The condition, which impacts one billion people worldwide, includes a range of symptoms that can include nausea, throbbing head pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and exhaustion.
Even after the head pain from a migraine starts to subside, other symptoms may persist. This is known as the postdrome phase of migraine. Some people also refer to this phase as the “migraine hangover” because the symptoms can be similar to the morning after a night spent having a few drinks too many.
(It bears noting that not everyone uses the term “migraine hangover.” “Some people use that term but others prefer not to use that term, feeling that it stigmatizes or minimizes the severity of migraine disease,” says Dawn C. Buse, clinical professor in the department of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and a member of the board of directors for the American Headache Society .)
A 2018 literature review published in Continuum found that postdrome is the “least studied and least understood” phase of migraine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any insight into what causes it or how to treat it.
Allure spoke to two doctors about what migraine hangover is and how you can manage your symptoms when it happens.
In ancient Greek, “drome” was a word for the race or a course. Combined with the prefix “syn,” which means “together,” or “with,” “syndrome” became our term for a group of symptoms that run their course at the same time. A“postdrome” refers to what happens after the majority of symptoms have resolved.
Just because the peak symptoms of your migraine attack have subsided, it doesn’t mean you’re at the attack’s finish line. Lawrence C. Newman, director of the headache division at New York University and chair of the American Migraine Foundation, says that postdrome symptoms can last for several hours or days.
“Postdrome [for migraine] consists of symptoms such as extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, body aches, hypersensitivity to touch, and brain fog — the migraine hangover.”
It takes some time for your brain to fully recover from a migraine attack, and the symptoms of postdrome indicate that your brain is still recuperating. Medical imaging done for people with migraines has shown “widespread reduction in brain-blood flow in the postdrome, which explains the multitudes of symptoms experienced by patients,” according to the review published in 2018 in the medical journal Continuum.
“During the postdrome phase, someone may report not feeling like themselves. This phase may involve difficulty with concentration, attention, motivation, and fatigue,” says Buse,
Having migraine doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have postdrome. A 2006 study published in Cephalagia found that out of 827 study participants with acute migraine, 68 percent reported postdrome symptoms.
Female participants in the study were more likely to have postdrome, and the most common symptoms were tiredness and a low-grade headache.
How do you treat a migraine hangover?
For those who typically suffer migraine postdrome, it may be easier to preempt them by treating your migraine attack itself while it is happening. Of course, that’s not always possible.
“The postdrome may be reduced or eliminated when the migraine attack is properly treated,” says Newman. “Migraine-specific acute medications treat the head pain and the associated symptoms.
If these medications are taken early in the attack, they can prevent or reduce the postdrome symptoms for many people.”
Options for treatment will vary, and you’ll need to speak to a doctor about a long-term treatment plan if you have frequent migraines.
In general, over-the-counter pain relievers (like ibuprofen and aspirin) or prescription-strength triptans can reduce or dull migraine pain, while anti-nausea drugs may be prescribed to manage symptoms of digestive upset, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you are experiencing a migraine postdrome, be gentle with yourself. The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) recommends getting additional rest, staying hydrated, and doing light activities, like stretching.
The AMF also notes that after a severe migraine attack you may (understandably) be eager to resume your normal activity, but ignoring symptoms of postdrome may increase your risk of having another full-blown migraine attack.
To avoid postdrome in the future, focus on migraine prevention. Newman cites lifestyle changes such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule (including on the weekends), avoiding migraine triggers in your diet, exercising at least three days a week, and drinking at least five glasses of water per day as foundational to reducing migraine frequency.
He also emphasizes the importance of reducing stress. “Take time for yourself, at least 30 to 60 minutes daily, that is your time to decompress,” he says.
If you’ve never been officially diagnosed with migraine but are experiencing symptoms, it may be a sign that it’s time to see your doctor.
“If you have moderate or severe headache that makes it difficult to function and is associated with sensitivity to light and/or sound, and feelings of nausea, you may have migraine,” says Buse.
“Talk to your health care provider about what you experience to obtain an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan.”
This article originally appeared on Allure US| Author: Kate Watson.