Traveling to Doctors’ Appointments with Chronic Migraine

By Sarina

Many of the individuals who live with chronic migraine also live with one more other chronic illnesses. This means a lot of traveling to specialists, some close by and others farther away. When it comes to traveling to those far away doctors, car rides and flights can easily trigger a migraine attack.

Additionally, when you are outside of your comfort zone, the area you can control (to an extent), controlling triggers and situations becomes incredibly difficult, leaning towards impossible. With all that being said, there are a few measures and items I have with me at all times when traveling to a far away doctor. I use a lot of these same measures when traveling local as well.

1. Neck Support:

It is not uncommon knowledge that an unhappy neck can lead to a migraine attack. But when you are traveling, your neck can easily get tight, stiff, unstable, and sometimes even subluxations can occur.

So how do you go about trying to prevent this? The answer is neck support!

The type of neck support that works best really depends on the person. Some people (myself included) find a memory foam neck pillow to be great for traveling. I think this is especially great for car rides of any length. I also occasionally use a soft cervical collar. This neck brace typically gets pulled out for especially long car rides, however, my recent increase in cervical instability means that I may need to use it more.

A hard cervical brace, like the Aspen Vista Collar, is also great for those who deal with cervical instability and need to be immobilized for travel. I have one of these braces at home as well, but try to stay away from it mainly because it really aggravates my TMJ symptoms. And the soft cervical collar does an okay job for me in conjunction with the neck pillow!

2. Medicine:

From pre-medicating to bringing along your assortment of migraine meds, having medicine with you is crucial when traveling! You never know what type of situation may arise. If you are without a certain medication, the entire trip could become a disaster.

I have a separate bag within my purse that is strictly for medicines. If I am hit with a migraine or a headache I feel is going to turn into a migraine, I do not play around. If I am at home I may wait until the last minute to take medicine but when I am on the road I do not hesitate.

Having that separate medicine bag makes it ten times easier to find a medicine I am looking for. Before the bag, I would be fishing around my purse praying the prescription bottle I am feeling is the one I actually need.

3. Homeopathic Relief:

For some people, homeopathic medicines and routes really work. For others, not so much. That being said, know your body and know your migraine! If peppermint essential oil really helps you, use it. If peppermint essential oil triggers a migraine for you, maybe try lavender or simply steer clear of all essential oils.

The reason why I have included homeopathic medicines and options in this post is because a lot of prescription migraine medicines can cause drowsiness. And if you are the one driving to the appointment, you cannot be distracted or disoriented in any way.

Even if you are the passenger, sometimes the driver needs navigational help. There are some homeopathic migraine medicines at my local Health Food store that I have had success with! I strongly recommend looking around where you live for something similar. Or you could look on Amazon!

4. Medical Mask:

Wearing a medical mask may not be for everyone. However, if you are especially sensitive to certain smells, I highly recommend wearing a medical mask in the car and at the actual appointment. Even if you are driving with the car ventilation pressed on “Inside Air,” some smells always manage to sneak through.

It is times like this where I am grateful for my medical mask. The possibility of being hit with an unfriendly smell automatically increases at the doctor’s office. Some patients have loads of perfume on, some have the lingering smell of cigarette smoke on them, the whole office smells like a Clorox bottle — do I need to continue? I think you get the picture.

5. Ask Someone Else to Drive:

This is something I can’t suggest enough. See if someone else can drive you to the appointment. This could be an Uber or a friend or a family member. When going to my TMJ specialist, I know there is no way I can drive myself the three hours there and back. If this is also the case for you, find a buddy to drive!

We can’t always prevent a migraine attack or control our environmental triggers, especially on the road. Traveling to doctors is something we can’t avoid, but that doesn’t mean the ride to and from needs to be miserable. I hope you can use some of these tools on your next medical travel and find them helpful.

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