You might expect a hangover after one too many piña coladas. But after a migraine attack? Hate to break it to you, but you can also have one then — no rum required.
It’s officially called postdrome, but you might better know it as the migraine hangover. Postdrome is the fourth (and final) stage of migraine, after prodrome, aura, and peak pain phase.
It’s that phase after you’ve recovered from the intense pain, but you then experience a host of lingering symptoms before you fully bounce back. The postdrome can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
Just like alcohol-induced hangovers can vary from person to person, so too can migraine hangovers. Symptoms of postdrome can include:
- neck stiffness
- body aches
- GI issues
- sensitivity to light
- brain fog
- residual head pain
- mood changes
Despite the lingering symptoms, postdrome means you’re in the homestretch of your migraine episode.
So how do you cope with the dreaded migraine hangover when all you want is to finally feel better? We’ve got a few self-care solutions to help get you through.
Screeech! That’s the sound of a migraine episode bringing your life to a halt while you lie down in a dark room and try not toss your cookies.
Migraine episodes can be frustratingly debilitating. So after the peak pain has passed, you might be determined to hop up and get back to ticking off items on your to-do list — the exact opposite of what you should probably be doing at this phase.
Instead, more rest may be the thing you need to recover from those postdrome symptoms, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
That doesn’t mean you have to remain horizontal with all lights off, though. Try taking a hot bath or listening to your favorite podcast — whatever feels restful to you. Keep taking it easy until your migraine hangover symptoms go away for good.
OK, so you’re not up for any burpees or box jumps. (Is anyone ever ready for those?) But a little gentle — lots of emphasis on gentle — activity might actually help boost the healing process.
Try some easy stretching or yoga, walk around the house or even the block, or just sit and do something you enjoy if possible. The point is to see if you can tolerate being out of bed for a bit without pushing it. If not, you can always plop your head back on the pillow.
Glug, glug, glug! Drink up. Staying hydrated is important throughout every phase of a migraine, including postdrome. It can help replenish the fluids you lost if you vomited or slept for a long time.
Drinking plain old water is perfectly fine, but you might also want to try an electrolyte drink to see if it can help speed up your migraine hangover recovery. Preliminary research suggests that balancing your electrolytes can help with migraine (but more research is needed).
Once you’ve recovered from your migraine hangover, do your best to stay hydrated. A 2020 study found that drinking more H2O may also make migraine episodes shorter and less frequent. Score!
Craving a coffee to soothe your migraine hangover? Go for it! A caffeine jolt can help curb head pain, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Caffeine helps some people with postdrome, but it can worsen symptoms for others. You can test the waters with a lightly caffeinated tea, but maybe hold off on that intense double shot of espresso unless you’re sure it’s the right fix for you.
Gastrointestinal symptoms can be the evil sidekick to migraine. In fact, a 2016 survey of nearly 8,000 people with migraine found that 57 percent experienced nausea or vomiting during attacks.
And those GI symptoms can happen at any point during migraine, including the not-so-fun hangover part. That’s when you might experience residual wooziness, a lack of appetite, or abdominal discomfort.
If you’re dealing with some or all of that (we hear you, it can be super rough), go easy on your stomach. Start with bland foods or even just sip a broth to see how you handle keeping something down.
You might also want to talk with your doctor about the possibility of taking medications to help you manage frequent nausea and GI issues.
Feeling a little sore and limp after a migraine attack? That’s pretty normal.
Many people have muscle weakness and neck stiffness after their headache has gone away, according to research from 2016.
Heat can work wonders on stiffness, so try taking a hot shower or bath, or using a heating pad on areas that feel tight.
Gentle yoga and stretching can also help you feel more limber and build strength gradually.
And if there was ever an excuse to splurge on a massage, it would be coping with postdrome. Research shows that a restorative rubdown can provide relief from neck and shoulder pain. Ahhh.
It’s enough to make you feel like a vampire!
If you experience intense sensitivity to light (aka photophobia) leading up to and during a migraine attack, you might also remain sensitive to light during postdrome, so try not to expose yourself to anything too glaring.
Protect your peepers with dark sunglasses if you have to be outdoors and avoid any fluorescent lights indoors.
You might also want to try minimizing your screen time. Our devices emit blue light, a common migraine trigger, according to a Harvard study. Migraine glasses, which have an FL-41 tint or filter, might help if light plagues you during postdrome.
The migraine hangover has nothing to do with margaritas. Rather, it’s the last phase of a migraine attack called postdrome that comes on after the big pain party in your head.
You might still have residual migraine pain during postdrome. If so, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the best way to manage it.
Other lingering symptoms, like GI issues, neck stiffness, and dehydration, can often be dealt with at home.
While you might want to get back into your regular routine once your migraine attack is over, take some time for self-care to fully restore yourself during postdrome. Your body is still recovering from the main migraine event and just needs you to take things a bit slow.
And never hesitate to reach out to friends and family for support. They’ll be happy to deliver a heaping bowl of your favorite brothy soup or just lend an ear if you need to vent about how long the postdrome is lasting. Hopefully you’ll be back in the full swing of things within just a couple of days.