Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How do I know if I have Chronic Migraine?
Chronic Migraine is defined as:
or more days of headaches each month (also called headache days), including...
or more days of HEADACHES THAT HAVE FEATURES OF migraines each month...
or more months.
Refer to the next question to find out what migraines might feel like.
If you're suffering from frequent headaches some of which are migraines, the Identifying Chronic Migraine (ID-CM) Screener can help you and your physician determine if you have Chronic Migraine. Take the ID-CM Screener and share the results with your doctor.
If you're unsure about the number of headaches and migraines you're experiencing each month, start tracking your headaches using the Headache Diary.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
Migraines are headaches that:
- Are usually moderate to severe in intensity
- Are throbbing or pulsating
- Often occur on one side of the head
- Can be accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound
- Can get worse by routine physical activity (such as walking or climbing stairs)
- Can be associated with changes in vision or hearing (also known as aura)
- Can last from 4 hours to 3 days
To begin tracking the frequency and severity of your headaches and migraines, download the Headache Diary.
What causes migraines?
Currently it's not known what causes migraines, but scientists believe that genetics, environmental factors, changes in the brain, and imbalances in brain chemicals may play a role.
What are the most common migraine triggers?
It has been shown that certain factors can trigger a migraine. Common migraine triggers include:
- Weather (e.g., temperature change, high humidity)
- Diet (e.g., chocolate, aged cheese, caffeine, alcohol)
- Surroundings (e.g., bright lights, strong odours, loud sounds
- Hormones (e.g., menstruation, birth control pills)
- Physical factors (e.g., strenuous exercise like aerobics, poor quality of sleep)
- Stress (e.g., anxiety, worry)
Identifying your triggers, and avoiding them as much as possible, is key to managing the frequency of your migraines. To begin tracking your migraine symptoms and triggers, download the Headache Diary.
What can I do in my daily life to help manage my migraines?
There are many things you can do to help reduce your chances of having a migraine, including:
- Limiting caffeine intake to less than 2 cups per day
- Having regular sleep habits
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet with protein at every meal
- Eating regularly throughout the day and not skipping meals
- Exercising regularly (aim for 3 times a week)
- Avoiding common triggers
If you need help with making lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor.
How's Chronic Migraine treated?
People living with Chronic Migraine may be treated with general prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers to help alleviate a headache with preventative migraine therapy, and/or with alternative therapy.
To explore these approaches and learn about specific treatments, go to the Treatment Options page.
What's the difference between preventative and acute migraine therapy?
Preventative migraine therapy is taken regularly to help reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of headaches. Acute therapy is taken to relieve symptoms after a migraine or headache starts.
What's a medication overuse headache?
Medication overuse headache is a type of headache caused by taking acute headache medications – including over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription medications – too often.
To help prevent medication overuse headaches:
- Do not take over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g., Advil®) for more than 14 days/month.
- Do not take acute prescription medications (e.g., triptans) for more than 9 days/month.
What can I do if my medication is not working for me?
You may have to try different medications before you and your doctor find a treatment approach that's right for you. If you think you could be doing better, be sure to talk to your doctor about your treatment experience and goals.
To learn more about preventative, acute, and alternative treatments, go to the Treatment Options page.
For tips and tools to help start an important conversation with your doctor, explore the Talking to Your Doctor section.