A migraine is more than your garden-variety headache. According to Healthline, it is an intense headache that can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sounds, sensitivity to smells, sensitivity to light, even changes in vision.
Where do migraines come from? There are four hypotheses on this: 1) an underlying disorder of the central nervous system, 2) flaws in the brain’s vascular system, 3) genetic predisposition, and 4) defects in nerve pathways and the brain chemicals that use them. With four competing hypotheses, I think we are safe in saying that migraines are still very much a mystery.
While we don’t understand causes, we do know that migraine episodes tend to have triggers. Migraine sufferers learn their triggers, and they manage their episodes by avoiding the triggers. The American Migraine Foundation provides a list of the 10 most common migraine triggers, and they fall broadly into things you can control (such as sleep schedule, caffeine and alcohol, diet, and dehydration) and things you can’t (changes in the weather, hormones).
The Role of Stress
But the single most common trigger — affecting about 70% of migraine sufferers — is stress, which often seems to fall into both categories. While you may not be able to do much about the stresses of your job or those of managing some of your relationships, you can take steps to control your physiological reactions to those stresses. The Migraine Foundation suggests biofeedback, relaxation therapy, meditation, exercise, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
I think all of those techniques are worth trying, especially since several of them are portable and can be deployed on the fly. Keep your running shoes at hand, and when customer demands are getting to you, get somebody to cover while you go run a mile. Or learn to meditate at your desk. But there’s another technique that may not be particularly portable but which is nevertheless powerful: flotation REST. REST is the abbreviation physiologists use for restricted environmental stimulation therapy.
The Power of Flotation REST
We provide Flotation REST at Peak Recovery & Health Center with Float Pod sessions. The Float Pod uses 1,000 pounds of Epsom Salt in 10 inches of water. When you float in it, you relieve the stresses of gravity on your body, thus allowing you to fully relax. The salt water is set to the same temperature as your skin (93.5°F) leaving you so relaxed that it will be nearly impossible to tell which parts of your body are above and below the water. Since your body is no longer fighting gravity and has no external distractions, floating allows you to de-stress and enter a state of deep mental and physical relaxation.
Research has shown that flotation REST reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. Many tension relieving techniques can achieve similar results, but flotation REST is exceptional in that the reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension persist after the floating is finished. Furthermore, it causes a reduction in stress mediating hormones, particularly cortisol. Because the cortisol reduction persists between sessions, it suggests that flotation REST actually resets the hormone to a more healthy level.
If you suffer from migraines, follow the advice of your doctor. But whatever your doctor says, consider also booking a few Float Pod sessions at Peak Recovery & Health Center to get control of your stress response.
Image: “Visual Disturbance” by Stinging Eyes, who offers it as an attempt at portraying a migraine and writes, “Each one can be different for the same person — sometimes I get visual disturbances; once while typing my spelling disintegrated; last time my speech slurred. Areas of the brain seem to temporarily shut down as blood vessels get constricted. Thankfully, my migraines last only 6 hours; some people’s last — dreadfully — days.” Creative Commons license.