Migraine Hangovers: How to Cope with Postdrome (2023)

Recovering from a migraine can often be accompanied by other challenging symptoms that can last up to two days. However, there are steps you can take to prevent these symptoms or shorten their duration.

Migraine is a complex disease that has four phases and corresponding symptoms. According to theAmerican Migraine FoundationThese include, among other things:

phases of migrainesTimed coordinationsymptoms
1. Prodromeup to a few daysirritability
Sensitivity to light and sound
difficulty concentrating
fatigue and yawning
sleep disorders
2. Auraup to 1 hourvisual disturbances
temporary vision loss
numbness and tingling
3. Headacheup to 3 daysthrobbing, boring, burning or stabbing headache
nausea or vomiting
stuffy nose
feelings of anxiety or depression
Sensitivity to light, sounds and smells
4. Postdromup to 2 daysfatigue
Difficulty concentrating or understanding
Stiffness in the neck or shoulders
Residual discomfort in the head or sensitivity of the scalp
body aches
euphoric or depressed moods

Take a moment to learn more about phase four, known as the postdrome, and tips for managing the symptoms during migraine recovery.

After recovering from phase three, the headache phase, you may experience the fourth and final phase of a migraine: postdrome. This stage is sometimes referred to as a "migraine hangover" because the symptoms are similar to those experienced after a long night of heavy drinking.

For some people, the transition from the headache phase to the postdromic phase is not always obvious. The main signs that you're experiencing a migraine hangover are when the symptoms extend beyond the headache to include things like a stiff neck or shoulder, a sensitive scalp, brain fog, or dizziness.

Postdrome symptoms usually resolve within a day or two. However, for some, a migraine hangover can be just as debilitating as the headache phase of a migraine.

Everyone who suffers from migraines is different. Some people don't go through the postdrome phase at all. Even if you've had a migraine hangover in the past, it doesn't always happen with every migraine attack.

There is no exact known cause of Postdrome. It's possible that this phase occurs as a result of irregular blood flow to the brain during earlier phases of migraines. There is no proven association between the severity of migraines and the occurrence of postdromas.

The same steps you take to avoid a migraine altogether can also help prevent a migraine hangover or reduce its severity and intensity.

Begin by creating and maintaining a normal daily routine that includes good head hygiene. Consider these steps:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
  • Do sports regularly.
  • Eat nutritious meals regularly.
  • Take steps to reduce stress.
  • Avoid other known triggers.

Keep a migraine diary to keep track of your daily habits and any symptoms you experience during each migraine stage. This can help you pinpoint what types of migraine triggers to avoid.

If, despite these efforts, you still experience migraines, taking the following steps at an earlier stage can help prevent a migraine hangover:

  • drink enough
  • Do gentle stretching exercises.
  • Avoid overstimulation.

There is no cure for migraines. Certain medications can help manage symptoms that appear at each stage, including the postdrome phase.

Ask your doctor what options may best treat the postdrome symptoms you're experiencing. This can include:

  • Painkiller.These over-the-counter or prescription medications can help relieve body aches, stiff necks, or headaches.
  • Triptane.These prescription medications can help relieve more severe migraine symptoms, including pain.
  • ergot alkaloids.These work best against migraine symptoms when taken at the onset of a migraine. They are not prescribed as often as they can lead to headaches and nausea if overexerted.

If you experience frequent, severe, or prolonged migraine attacks, your doctor may also recommend preventive migraine treatment. Consultation with a headache specialist can help determine the treatment plan that is right for you.

The postdrome phase does not last long - it usually disappears within 2 days. In the meantime, there's a lot you can do to ease the discomfort.

Symptoms of a migraine hangover are sometimes treated with cold compresses or heating pads, whichever works best for you. Some people find that a gentle massage helps relieve stiff or sore spots.

Try these other strategies to manage postdrome symptoms and get back to your normal routine while recovering from a migraine episode.

Treat yourself to a lot of rest

When recovering from a migraine, try to give yourself time to rest and recover. If possible, gradually return to your regular schedule.

For example, when returning to work after taking time off due to a migraine, it can be helpful to continue with reduced work hours for a few days.

Consider starting your workday a little later than usual or ending it earlier if you can. Try to focus on relatively easy tasks on the first day of your return.

It might also be helpful:

  • Cancel or reschedule nonessential appointments and social engagements.
  • Ask a friend, family member, or babysitter to look after your children for a few hours.
  • Make time for a nap, massage, or other relaxing activity.
  • Go for a leisurely walk and avoid more intense physical activity.

Expose yourself to as little bright light as possible

If you experience sensitivity to light as a migraine symptom, consider limiting exposure to computer screens and other bright lights during recovery.

If you need to use a computer for work, school, or other purposes, it can be helpful to adjust the monitor settings to lower the brightness or increase the refresh rate. It can also be helpful to take regular breaks to give your eyes and mind a rest.

When you have completed your duties for the day, consider taking a leisurely walk, taking a bath, or engaging in other recreational activities. Relaxing in front of your TV, computer, tablet, or phone screen can make ongoing symptoms worse.

Nourish your body with sleep, food and fluids

To promote healing, it's important to give your body the rest, fluids, and nutrients it needs. For example try:

  • get enough sleep Most adults need7 to 9 hours of sleepevery day.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to keep your body hydrated. This is especially important if you've vomited during a migraine episode.
  • Eat nutrient-dense foods, including a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. If you're feeling nauseous, it may help to limit yourself to bland foods for a day or two.

Certain foods seem to trigger migraine symptoms in some people. Common triggers include alcohol, caffeinated beverages, smoked meats, and aged cheeses.

Aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also cause symptoms in some cases. Avoid anything that triggers your symptoms.

Ask for help and support

When you get back on your feet after a migraine, you should ask others for help.

If you are struggling to meet a deadline while coping with migraine symptoms or their aftermath, your manager may be willing to grant you an extension. Your co-workers or classmates may also be able to help you keep track.

When it comes to your chores at home, your friends or family members may be willing to lend a hand.

For example, try helping with childcare, chores, or errands. If you can hire someone to help you with such tasks, you may also have more time to rest or catch up on other tasks.

Your doctor may also be able to help you. If you experience migraine symptoms, let them know. Ask about treatments you can use to prevent and relieve symptoms, including postdrome symptoms.

It can take time to recover from migraine symptoms. If possible, try to get back to your normal everyday life. Take as much time as possible to rest and recover. Consider asking your friends, family members, and others for help.

Sometimes talking to people who understand exactly what you're going through can make a world of difference. Our free Migraine Healthline app connects you with real people suffering from migraines. Ask questions, offer advice, and build relationships with people who receive it. Download the app foriPhone or Android.


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