What to track in a migraine diary

Learn how to track potential patterns in your migraines from Excedrin.

One of the most important tools you can use to help manage your migraines is a migraine diary. This record, if accurate, can help you and your doctor monitor the frequency, duration and severity of your migraines over time, identify patterns that may help determine migraine triggers and improve treatment, as well as track medication use and how you responded to the medication.

“Gaining control of your migraine headaches often means knowing and recognizing what sets off your migraines,” Dr. Keri Peterson tells viewers in an Excedrin video. “Migraines tend to follow a pattern, so keeping your diary accurately will allow you to see the pattern of intersecting triggers that result in a migraine.”

Peterson urges migraine sufferers to log various things in their migraine tracker, including:

Time of Day, Duration and Severity: Did the migraine come on shortly after waking up? Were you fast asleep and jolted awake by the headache? Or maybe you tend to get the migraines after lunch. How long did the pain last? Was the pain mild, moderate, or severe? You should also track where you felt the pain and how you treated it.

Diet: A variety of foods may serve as a trigger in some people. Highly processed foods such as hot dogs and lunch meats as well as aged cheeses and soy products may be a trigger for some. Skipping meals and dehydration are other commonly reported migraine triggers. By noting in your diary what you ate that day and how much, you may notice that migraines tend to come on after eating a specific food, which you can then know to avoid in the future.

Stress: As the most common migraine trigger, stress can lead to migraines for some. “When you feel yourself getting stressed, take time to breathe, settle down and understand the situation,” Dr. Peterson says. “Do not mix trigger foods with a stressful situation.”

Sleep Patterns: If you’ve noticed that migraines tend to come on days where you haven’t gotten enough sleep during the night or days leading up to it, that’s a pattern you’ll want to note in your diary.

Menstrual Cycle: You should note each day you have your period, not just the first day. This can allow you and your doctor to see if your migraines occur at the same or similar time as your period.

Understanding your potential triggers can help you better manage your migraines in the future. Click here to download a headache diary.



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