Musicians and Migraines

Drumming in a heavy metal band when there is already a heavy metal drummer in your head? Nobody said it would be easy…

There are well known aids such as lying down in a dark, quiet space with cool air, no distractions or demands. Balanced diet, reducing stress, gentle exercise, holistic therapies etc. Here are my 7 top tips to survive a migraine.


  1. Travel pillow. We might not be making any flights for a while so if you have one of these in a dusty suitcase, now is the time to hoke it out for the sake of your head and neck. If your head feels like a bowing ball, one of these around your neck can feel like a personal assistant in supporting the weight of your head and hugging your neck. If you haven’t got one, now is the time to buy when the travel items are on sale!
  2. Ice caps- Migra-cap. You will get teased by your household members or friends for organising a rugby practise but it is worth the jest. I have three of these and rotate them in the freezer once one thaws out. The numbing ice is a heavenly welcome to a head on fire. (Don’t use peas. You will stink).
  3. Kool n’soothe forehead cold strips – use instead of or as well as the ice cap, I highly recommend these for a better sleep. The benefit can be felt for several hours. Does not leave a sticky residue like plasters either. Easy peel cool gel. Both these are available in most local pharmacies.
  4. Tight hat and headbands- If you see me wearing a hat it is not necessarily a fashion statement. The tension of a tight baseball cap can actually counteract the pressure felt internally of a throbbing head. Likewise, if I resemble Matilda or Rambo with headbands. Whilst I am not currently a combat expert in the jungle, I am not against the look if it eases pain.
  5. Noise cancelling headphones- Background sounds I can usually handle can be hugely amplified with migraines. For this, noise cancelling headphones can be essential to protect your sanity and head. (For example, sounds like passing traffic, garden machinery (especially noticeable in warmer months), ice-cream van jingle, bin lorry, neighbours arguing, radio in a shop.)
  6. Hydration- I will not feel like eating as much as usual with a migraine, however my body tells me to constantly drink water like it is trying to cure me by turning my belly into a lake. Obey it.
  7. Gentle exercise- If your body can barely move, lie down and rest! If, however you have had a migraine lasting for some days and/or it is easing, sea swimming is one of the best forms of exercise in my experience (if you can go with someone who does the driving to the nearest coast!) A gentle stroll can help too, especially if the air is cool. Although I love cycling, with the helmet and balance required, I do not recommend this while suffering a migraine even if you are on a quiet towpath away from traffic! DO NOT DRIVE.

Those are my top seven non-prescriptive migraine aids. If requiring pain killers- speak to your GP. Do not take any medication without a proper, thorough consult. It can be surprising how simple combinations of certain tablets can affect your brain chemistry and body’s reactions. Three criminals also to watch out for are alcohol, sugar and caffeine. Learn your triggers and avoid them. Some people also find the app ‘migraine buddy’ useful for tracking triggers, weather and other factors. Migraines can also be hereditary and for women, often hormone-related.

‘Women are two to three times more likely than men to have migraines. The condition typically hits women hardest in their thirties, when the consequences of days lost to debilitating pain can be tremendous.’

Why? Hormones. Thanks nature.(source:

Top photo credit- Ethan Haddox

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