COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the landscape of our lives. What seemed routine and certain has turned into unpredictable and fleeting. And for those with headache conditions, this uncertainty can be disheartening. Doctor’s offices have either stayed open, but with restricted services, or have closed due to redistributed duties. What does this mean for headache care? How do you cope? Read on to learn about my 5 tips to managing your headaches during this era of COVID-19, tips you can use now and as we enter a post coronavirus existence.
a. Make a list of what you would need incase of a headache attack- For example, your medication plan is important. So, take inventory of your prescriptions. Call your pharmacy to establish whether you have any refills. If not, call your doctor to replenish your amount. Specify 90-day supply (some insurance companies may not allow this, but we won’t know if we don’t try, right?). This way you won’t be waiting for a prescription to be created. Doctors may be less likely to fill ASAP requests on time. So, make sure you are attack ready when it is show time. Please note that there are certain medication classes that cannot be given in 90-day quantities. Be sure to clarify this with your doc.
b. Create a headache safe space- A safe space is one that provides comfort and serenity. Having a dedicated space to go to in your home when you have an attack can be soothing. This space can be anything you would like it to be but must include the settings and goods you need during an attack. Do you need a darkened setting? Like pillows and instant ice packs? Medications and a bottle of water? Only you know what you will need most during an attack. But make sure to let members of your household know that your space is off limits!
**Special Consideration for devices: If you rely on treatment from certain devices, such as Cefaly, eNeura TMS, vagal nerve stimulator or Nerivio, be sure to see if you need a refill on components. For example: Cefaly requires separate electrodes that are good for 20 uses, do you have enough? If not, contact the company.
Call your Doctor
Because of the pandemic, many office visits are being transitioned into tele visits either by phone or video. Do not be stressed out about this. These visits are dedicated time you can spend with your doc to come up with a plan since having an in-person visit may not be an option. So, request one! During these visits, be sure to discuss the following:
What preventive options do you have in replacement of BOTOX, nerve block, or trigger point injections. Are you a candidate for the anti-CGRP medications?
What options do you have for medications you can take when you have an attack? I often give my patients a plan A, B, and C. Every doc is different. Be open to suggestions but you should be comfortable with the chosen potential solution.
What about stress and sleep? These 2 factors can contribute to increased attack frequency, so be sure to discuss strategies to improve both.
**Special consideration for those diagnosed with Cluster headache. If you are approaching that time of year where your cluster attacks occur, it is a good idea to get ahead and contact your doctor to discuss a treatment plan should they occur. Perhaps you can have a medication stash for quick access. You have the chance to get ahead, let’s take it.
3- Keep a Regular Schedule
I always tell my patients that the migraine brain loves a schedule. But here we are in a state where normalcy has been disrupted, which translates to schedule disruption. If you have been working from home or have experienced unemployment, it is best to try to mimic pre-pandemic days. Set activities for yourself that span throughout the workday. Create breaks that involve moving away from your workspace. Home schooling the kids? Incorporate your schedule with theirs; while they work and do practice exercises, you should work. While they play or watch a show, you should engage in self-care (as best you can)…away from your workspace!
What a perfect way to take a break from your responsibilities, by incorporating movement as part of your daily routine. This can serve as stress relief and tension relief of head and neck pain. I don’t need you to be fancy now. If you feel like you are on the brink of an attack or are stressed, try some light bodily stretches. If you are used to routine high intensity workouts, then go for it!
Maintain Social Interaction
In the grand scheme of things, social distancing means physical distancing. So, interaction with others does not have to stop at all. The same support that you used to lean on pre-COVID, should apply here as well. You do not have to go through this alone. Maintain contact with family members and friends. We are so fortunate to live in a time where technology puts loved ones literally at your fingertips! Take advantage.
Use these tips to navigate these months with strength and assurance.