Sensory Sensitivity and Migraine: Strategies How to Promote Relief

Migraines are debilitating headaches that affect millions of people worldwide. While they are commonly known for their intense pain, migraines can also be influenced by sensory sensitivity and overload. In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between sensory sensitivity and migraines, addressing important questions and providing strategies to promote relief.

Post concussion, migraine can be an issue that has a huge impact on your patients ability to fully re-integrate into the world. Whether you are a physical therapist (PT), occupational therapist (OT), or speech therapist (SLP), these strategies can be integrated into your practice to assist individuals dealing with migraines.

Let’s examine the link between sensory processing and migraine, to see how a therapist is best placed to address the issue!

Teach your patients to monitor their migraine symptoms with this concussion log!

Are Migraines a Sensory Processing Disorder?

While migraines are not classified as a sensory processing disorder, individuals who experience migraines often exhibit heightened sensitivity to various sensory stimuli. Sensory processing disorders, on the other hand, involve difficulties in processing and responding to sensory information. However, sensory sensitivity can contribute to migraine symptoms and exacerbate their intensity.

Can Sensory Overload Trigger Migraines?

migraine relief

Yes, sensory overload can indeed trigger migraines. When the brain is overwhelmed by excessive or conflicting sensory input, it can lead to a migraine episode. Common sensory triggers include bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, and certain textures. For individuals prone to migraines, managing sensory overload becomes crucial to prevent or reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

How can a PT, OT and SLP be instrumental in treating migraines?

Effective Relaxation Techniques for Treating Migraines

Relaxation techniques can play a significant role in managing migraines and promoting relief. Here are some effective techniques that can be recommended to individuals experiencing migraines:

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1. Deep Breathing: 

Encourage slow, deep breathing exercises to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. Inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth can help calm the nervous system and alleviate migraine symptoms.

2.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation: 

This technique involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body. Guiding individuals through the process can help release muscle tension, ease physical discomfort, and reduce the impact of migraines.

3.  Guided Imagery: 

Using visualization techniques, individuals can imagine themselves in peaceful and calming environments. Guided imagery can help distract from migraine symptoms, reduce stress, and induce a sense of relaxation.

4.  Mindfulness Meditation: 

Practicing mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness meditation can help individuals manage stress, enhance self-awareness, and reduce the impact of migraines by redirecting attention away from pain.

Read more about mindfulness/meditation with concussion in rehab right here!

 Strategies for PTs, OTs, and Speech Therapists 

As PTs, OTs, and Speech Therapists, you have a unique opportunity to support individuals experiencing migraines. Here are some strategies you can incorporate into your practice to help:

1.  Education: 

Educate your patients about the connection between sensory sensitivity and migraines. By increasing their awareness, they can better understand their triggers and make informed decisions about managing their condition.

2.  Environmental Modifications: 

Collaborate with your patients to identify and minimize sensory triggers in their environment. This may involve adjusting lighting conditions, reducing noise levels, providing access to quiet spaces, and recommending ergonomic modifications.

3.  Sensory Integration Therapy: 

For individuals with sensory processing difficulties, sensory integration therapy can be beneficial. Work with an OT to develop personalized interventions that address sensory sensitivities and help regulate sensory input.

4.  Stress Management Techniques:

Teach stress management techniques such as relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, and mindfulness practices. By helping patients manage stress effectively, you can contribute to reducing the occurrence and intensity of migraines.

5.  Posture and Body Mechanics: 

Assist patients in improving their posture and body mechanics to reduce muscle tension and minimize physical strain. This can include ergonomic assessments, postural exercises, and guidance on proper body mechanics to prevent exacerbation of migraine symptoms.

6.  Physical Exercise and Activity: 

Encourage patients to engage in regular physical exercise and activity, as it can help reduce stress, promote overall well-being, and potentially decrease the frequency and severity of migraines. However, it is important to consider individual limitations and tailor exercise recommendations accordingly.

7.  Relaxation Equipment and Tools: 

Introduce patients to relaxation equipment and tools that can aid in managing sensory sensitivity and promoting relaxation. This may include weighted blankets, eye masks, noise-canceling headphones, and aromatherapy diffusers with calming scents.

8.  Collaboration with Other Healthcare Professionals: 

Foster a collaborative approach by working closely with other healthcare professionals involved in the care of individuals with migraines. This may include neurologists, psychologists, and pain management specialists. By coordinating efforts, you can ensure a comprehensive and holistic approach to migraine management.

9.  Patient Empowerment and Self-Management: 

Empower patients to take an active role in managing their migraines. Educate them about self-care strategies, including lifestyle modifications, stress management, and the importance of maintaining a migraine diary to track triggers and symptoms. By encouraging self-management, patients can gain a sense of control over their condition.

Sensory sensitivity can significantly impact the experience of migraines. By understanding the relationship between sensory overload and migraines, and implementing effective strategies, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists can play a vital role in promoting relief and improving the quality of life for individuals with migraines. By incorporating relaxation techniques, environmental modifications, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals, you can provide comprehensive care and support to those dealing with migraines.

Remember, it is crucial to tailor interventions to each individual’s specific needs and collaborate closely with other healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes. By utilizing these strategies, you can make a positive difference in the lives of your patients who are seeking relief from the burdensome impact of migraines.

*Note: This blog post provides general information and strategies. It is essential to consult with healthcare professionals and specialists for personalized advice and treatment options.*

Want to learn more about specific interventions that you can use to promote health and independence with your patients who have had concussion? Check out our course: Practical Approaches to Concussion Management here for more essential strategies!