By Angelica Bottaro

I’m no stranger to the horrible torture of migraine. If you’re anything like the other billion people who suffer from migraines worldwide and me, you can almost feel the excruciating pain just thinking about it. It’s enough to make you want to crawl into a hole and die just to have it be over.

The migraine itself is awful; there’s no getting around that, but what people never seem to talk about is the aftermath you have to deal with the next day. It’s like a hangover, except you didn’t have any fun or make any future-story-worthy mistakes the night before. The migraine hangover is the worst kind of hangover.

What Is A Migraine Hangover?

The migraine hangover, or if you want to get intellectual about things, the postdrome phase of migraines, is the phase that comes after the symptoms start to go away. You know the ones—pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and extreme exhaustion. Well, eventually, those symptoms do start to die down. The problem is that some other symptoms persist for a while after. It’s like finally seeing the light at the end of a tunnel and then realising it’s an oncoming train. The symptoms are similar to that of a—you guessed it—hangover.

When you’re in this final phase of the migraine, you might experience some symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, weakness, body aches, and trouble concentrating. That’s not all! You may also still be sensitive to light, feel some discomfort in your head, and your neck might be stiff. Oh, and you could be moody, but I mean, who wouldn’t be after going through that horrific experience? The worst part is that these symptoms could last for up to two days.

Why Do They Happen?

These hangovers are one of the least researched and least understood parts of migraine syndrome. It’s like people who were looking into the condition simply forgot about the aftermath. That has been changing in recent years, though, and more scientists are exploring why the migraine hangover happens and what exactly is going on in the brain when it does. As it turns out, dealing with excruciating head pain causes a need for recovery time, and that’s precisely what the postdrome phase is all about.

The symptoms you’re going through post-migraine are the brain’s way of trying to get over the brutal attack it just went through. Studies have shown that when imaging is done on a person in the postdrome phase, it shows that the blood flow in the brain is seriously reduced. Since adequate blood flow is pretty much a necessity, it’s no wonder that you would experience all those aftermath symptoms. People have also reported that they don’t feel quite themselves during the postdrome phase and could even have some attention, motivation, and concentration issues.

For some of the lucky ones, the migraine hangover doesn’t affect them at all. Research has found that roughly 32% of people who suffer from migraines will not have to deal with the collateral damage that occurs following their attack. The study also showed that females were more likely to experience postdrome, so lucky us, I guess.

How To Deal With Them 

The first thing people are advised to do to avoid postdrome is to avoid the hangover altogether. For those of us who know that’s not always possible, there are some ways to cope and deal with the hangover symptoms while you wait for your brain to recuperate. First, you have to treat the migraine properly while it’s happening. That is of the utmost importance, and if you can do that, you’re more likely to avoid the postdrome phase. Do this by using migraine-specific medications or any other treatments you and your doctor have worked out together.

Other than that, you’ll want to go easy on yourself. The worst of it might be over, but your body still needs to get some R&R, so the best thing you can do is rest, avoid pushing yourself into strenuous activities until you have recovered, and stay hydrated. If you do have the power to get yourself out of bed, experts suggest doing some light stretching exercises as they can help with the whole healing process. 

Other things you can do include using a heating pad or ice pack, getting a massage, or eating some comfort food. Caffeine has also been shown to help during the postdrome phase, so if you can, grab yourself a coffee and relax as it does the work.

Dealing with migraine attacks is a nasty business, and for those of us who have had them, we know just how rough it can be during and afterwards. The good news is that there is relief on the other side of it all, and a migraine hangover doesn’t have to get you every time.