The Science of Migraine – How to Deal With Postdrome

The “Migraine Hangover” Can Cause Lingering Symptoms After Head Pain Subsides

Many people know about the auras that can precede migraines, and the pain during a migraine, but fewer know about the “postdrome” that can come after the pain ends. Postdrome also called the “migraine hangover,” comes after the pain of a migraine attack has subsided. Symptoms can last hours or even several days. While not everyone with migraine suffers from postdrome, those who do report it can be as debilitating as the migraine pain itself. Common postdrome symptoms include fatigue, nausea, sensitivity to light, dizziness, body aches and difficulty concentrating. One postdrome sufferer described the day after a migraine headache as feeling like “a mental fog, one so heavy that even routine tasks take on an otherworldly quality.”

What Causes Postdrome?

Just as it can be difficult to determine what triggers migraine attacks in individual people, there’s no singular known cause behind postdrome. Postdrome is actually part of the migraine attack itself. The profound changes in activity and blood flow that occur during the aura and head pain phase of the attack, persists even after the pain has ended. Not every migraine will be followed by a postdrome phase, and the severity of the migraine doesn’t always correspond to the intensity of the postdrome that follows.

Preventing or Reducing Postdrome Symptoms

Drinking plenty of water and resting can be beneficial as your body recovers after a migraine. Some people report fewer postdrome experiences when they follow their migraine attacks with calming activities like yoga, or when they avoid electronic devices. If you have postdrome and want to experiment with ways to avoid or lessen your postdrome symptoms, remember: different “fixes” will work for different people, and it’s OK if they don’t work for you. A soda might help your friend recover during postdrome, but it’s not guaranteed to speed up your healing process. Healthy and careful experimentation can help you find things that help with your postdrome.

Managing Migraine to Manage Postdrome

Avoiding factors that you know trigger migraines may help reduce your likelihood of postdrome, or at least reduce the duration and severity as well as the potential for triggering another full-blown attack. For many people, stress can trigger or exacerbate their migraine, so take time after a migraine attack to focus on your mental health and take care of yourself. Regular exercise, a consistent sleeping pattern and a healthy diet can help reduce stress, as can relaxation techniques like meditation. Eat healthy, nutritious meals frequently and try to get more sleep. If light is a migraine trigger for you, don’t be afraid to keep things dark for a few days as you go through the postdrome phase.

 

If you’re experiencing postdrome, take this time to focus on yourself and your well-being to help your body recover from each migraine attack and its aftereffects. A headache specialist can help you better understand your unique migraine experience and identify patterns that help you manage your migraine and postdrome. Visit the American Migraine Foundation’s guide to migraine and headache specialists to find a partner in your treatment journey.