Treating Migraine with Sensory Overload: Patient Tips

Treating Migraine with Sensory Overload: Patient Tips

Understanding Sensory Overload and Its Impact on Migraines

Sensory overload refers to an overwhelming amount of stimuli that can trigger or worsen migraine attacks. During a migraine attack, individuals may become more sensitive to their surroundings, making certain sensory experiences unbearable. Common triggers of sensory overload during migraine attacks include bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, and busy environments.

Strategies for Managing Sensory Overload During Migraines

Managing sensory overload during migraine attacks is crucial for finding relief and reducing the intensity of symptoms. Here are some strategies that can help:

Creating a Calm and Quiet Environment

  • Find a quiet room or space where you can retreat during a migraine attack. Breathe in fresh air, close your eyes, and try to relax.
  • Close curtains or use eye masks to reduce light sensitivity. Investing in blackout curtains can help create a dark environment that soothes the pain.
  • Wear earplugs or headphones to block out noise. Consider using noise-canceling headphones or playing soft, soothing music to create a calm ambiance.
  • Utilize scents or aromatherapy to promote relaxation. Experiment with essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus, which are known for their calming properties.

Limiting Exposure to Sensory Stimuli

  • Minimize screen time and electronic device usage, as the bright screens can exacerbate symptoms. Opt for dimmed screens or enable blue light filters on your devices.
  • Avoid crowded or noisy places that can overload your senses. Instead, seek out quiet areas or spend time in nature to enjoy the calming effect of natural sounds.
  • Be mindful of strong smells and avoid triggers such as perfumes, cleaning products, or certain foods. Consider using unscented or hypoallergenic products.

Practicing Relaxation Techniques

  • Engage in deep breathing exercises to calm your body and mind. Take long, slow breaths in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Try progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and releasing each muscle group. Start from your toes and work your way up to your head, consciously relaxing each muscle as you go.
  • Explore meditation and mindfulness practices to reduce stress and promote overall relaxation. Apps like Headspace or Calm can provide guidance and support.
  • Use guided imagery to create soothing mental images and redirect your focus. Imagine yourself in a peaceful place or visualize a pleasant scene to distract from the pain.

Taking Medications for Sensory Overload During Migraines

Medications can play a vital role in managing sensory overload during migraine attacks. Here are a few options:

Over-the-Counter Options

  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help alleviate headache pain. However, it is important to follow the recommended dosage and avoid overuse, as it may lead to medication-overuse headaches.
  • Anti-nausea medications can address gastrointestinal symptoms often associated with migraine attacks. They can help reduce nausea and vomiting, allowing you to focus on managing other sensory overload triggers.
  • Natural supplements like magnesium or riboflavin may provide relief for some individuals. Consult your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements to ensure they are safe and effective for you.

Prescription Medications

  • Triptans are a common class of medications specifically developed for treating migraine attacks. They work by constricting blood vessels and reducing inflammation in the brain. Examples of triptans include sumatriptan, rizatriptan, and eletriptan.
  • Ergotamines are another prescription option that narrow blood vessels and relieve migraine symptoms. Ergots like ergotamine and dihydroergotamine are typically used for more severe migraine attacks or when other treatments are ineffective.
  • Other prescribed medications, including beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, or CGRP inhibitors, may be recommended based on the individual’s needs and medical history. These medications can help prevent migraine attacks and reduce their severity.

Discussing Medications with Healthcare Providers

When considering medications for sensory overload during migraine attacks, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider. They can recommend appropriate options based on your specific symptoms and medical history. It is important to understand potential side effects and interactions, follow recommended dosages, and report any changes or concerns to your healthcare provider.

Tracking and Monitoring Migraine Symptoms and Sensory Overload

Tracking symptoms and sensory overload patterns can provide valuable insight into your migraine attacks and help enhance your treatment approach. Here’s what you need to know:

Importance of Tracking Symptoms

  • Identify triggers that contribute to sensory overload and migraine attacks. By tracking your symptoms and sensory experiences, you can pinpoint patterns and better understand what may be exacerbating your migraine attacks.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of different treatments or strategies. Keeping records of your symptoms and their response to various interventions can help you and your healthcare provider make informed decisions about your treatment plan.
  • Facilitate productive communication with your healthcare provider by providing accurate and detailed information. By sharing your tracking records, you can communicate the impact of sensory overload and ensure your healthcare provider has a comprehensive understanding of your condition.

Possible Methods for Tracking Symptoms

  • Use a migraine diary or journal to record important details about your attacks. Note the date, time, duration, and intensity of each migraine episode, as well as any sensory overload triggers experienced.
  • Utilize smartphone apps or digital trackers designed specifically for migraine attacks. These apps often include features such as customizable symptom tracking, medication reminders, and the ability to generate reports for healthcare providers.
  • Create a personalized tracking system that suits your preferences and needs. Whether it’s a spreadsheet, a bullet journal, or a combination of different tools, find a method that works for you and allows you to easily record and analyze your symptoms.

What to Include in Symptom Tracking

  • Date, time, and duration of each migraine attack. This information will help you identify any patterns or triggers related to specific times of day or specific circumstances.
  • Intensity, location, and specific characteristics of headache pain. Describing your pain in detail, such as its quality (throbbing, pulsating, etc.) and location (one side of the head or both), can aid in identifying the type of migraine and potential treatment approaches.
  • Additional symptoms experienced during the attack, such as nausea, vomiting, or visual disturbances. This information provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of the migraine attack on your overall well-being and can help guide treatment decisions.
  • Trigger factors and their impact on sensory overload. Record any sensory overload triggers you encounter during or before a migraine attack, noting their intensity and how they contributed to your symptoms.

Communicating with Healthcare Providers about Sensory Overload

Effective communication with your healthcare provider is key to managing migraine attacks and sensory overload. Here’s how:

Discussing Sensory Overload Symptoms during Appointments

  • Describe the impact of sensory overload on your migraine attacks, such as increased pain or additional symptoms. Be specific about the sensory experiences, triggers, and how they affect your daily functioning.
  • Share your symptom tracking records to provide a comprehensive overview of your condition. This evidence-backed information can assist your healthcare provider in making well-informed decisions about your treatment plan.

Asking Relevant Questions to Healthcare Providers

  • Inquire about specific strategies to manage sensory overload during migraine attacks, tailored to your needs. For example, ask about light-blocking glasses, sound-cancelling devices, or other tools that can help mitigate sensory triggers.
  • Seek recommendations for avoiding or dealing with individual triggers. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on managing common triggers such as strong smells, bright lights, or loud noises.
  • Discuss potential adjustments or alternatives to medication if sensory overload persists. Your healthcare provider may suggest alternative medications or treatment options if the current plan is not effectively managing your symptoms.


Managing migraine attacks with sensory overload requires a proactive approach and self-advocacy. By implementing strategies to create a calm environment, limit exposure to triggers, practicing relaxation techniques, and engaging in open communication with healthcare providers, individuals can find relief and improve their quality of life.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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