I Logged My Migraines For A Year

Thu, 12 Mar 2020

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I've been having migraines for as long as I can remember, so it's not surprising to get a few here and there. But 2019 was not an average year; it was more like 3x my average.

Prior to 2019, I would've told you I averaged 1-2 migraines a month. Now, in 2020, my answer would be 4-6 times a month, and I only know this because I kept track of all 67 of them.

Years of being told by doctors and friends alike to keep a migraine log in an effort to control them have finally made sense.

Why Did I Have So Many Migraines?

I'm still figuring that out. For years, I've had a pretty basic understanding of what my triggers are:

  • Sudden changes in barometric pressure: honestly, I can't fully explain this one, but here's an article that discusses it in depth.
  • Stress: I think this one is actually self-explanatory.
  • Bad sleep, or lack thereof: healthy sleep and regular routines, like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, are positive habits.
  • Over-processed foods: it turns out a full year of soda and frozen, ready-to-eat corndogs in takes a toll on more than your gut.

So while it hasn't been a mystery, a year of spreadsheet-tracking surely helped. Look at these graphs!

Two charts I created with my migraine data

What Was I Looking To Find?

I have this potentially unhealthy truly great relationship with data and spreadsheets. Any and all data I thought could be useful I tracked, but I was most excited for these:

  1. What times of day am I most likely to get a migraine? (it's a tie of 15 between 4:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. & 8:00 a.m. - noon).
  2. Did one day of the week have a higher migraine occurrence? (Mondays & Saturdays tied at 12).
  3. Can I pinpoint a trigger or two and take my preventative care to the next level? (Spoiler Alert: not quite).

I thought I'd have more graphs than I do, but I didn't want this project to consume me.

What Did I Find?

My main goal was to create calendar heat map detailing each migraine day, color coded by the main trigger, and I'd say I succeeded.

My migraine calendar heat map

I created the calendar with the following underlying data:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Main Trigger
  • Secondary Trigger

Any Difficulties?

Other than the actual pain? Yeah. The most difficult part of this project was assigning a trigger for myself. While sometimes I can say stress directly caused it in X cases, in Y cases it is not so clear.

I realized over the year that it's less "what was the cause?" and more "what were the causes?"

Getting poor sleep wasn't always enough to cause a migraine by itself, but drinking the night before might put me in a bad situation.

And I can't control the weather or tough times at work, so it's up to me to limit my exposure to other triggers as best I can. The more they stack up, the higher my chances are.

Now What?

Knowing what I know now, I'm taking precautions while also cutting myself some slack. For example, I'm meditating more and seeing a neurologist again. I can't get rid of the migraines entirely and I accept that.

It's not worth it to get bent out of shape unless they get more extreme or happen way more often.

As of writing this, I've had seven and that's pretty nice, all things considered. If you're keeping math at home, that's a month's worth of migraines in three months time.

It's only uphill from here.