If you are like most Coloradans, you probably find yourself packing up your hiking or camping gear every chance you can get. The great outdoors gives us so many benefits, from keeping us active to calming us down and providing a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But how do you plan for trips into the wilderness when you are a headache or migraine sufferer? Sadly, many find themselves cancelling plans last minute or never making them at all for fear of their next episode. We want patients to feel empowered to tackle the great outdoors without any anxiety – so here are a few helpful tips and tricks for making the most of your next backpacking trip.
1. Stay hydrated – This may seem obvious, but it is very important to maintain a proper level of electrolytes and fluid during physical activity. Without proper hydration, the brain can temporarily contract from fluid loss. This causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing pain and resulting in a dehydration headache. Be sure to always bring an extra water bottle or two along with you – just in case.
2. Take frequent breaks – Prolonged, intense physical activity can lead to an exertional headache caused by the blood vessels in your head, neck, and scalp dilating due an increased need for blood in those areas. Allowing yourself to take periodic rest stops gives your muscles a chance to recover and helps your blood flow to return to normal.
3. Be aware of altitude increases – As altitude increases, so does the risk of experiencing a migraine. Be sure to keep track of how quickly you are increasing your elevation and bring ear plugs with you if necessary. They can help to slow the pressure flow in the inner ear. For more information on how headaches and migraines are affected by barometric pressure changes and altitude, ,check out our podcast episode on this topic.
4. Communicate with your travel partners – Informing your hiking or camping partners about your needs ahead of time can help to alleviate some of the anxiety that you might feel about needing to make modifications for your headaches. Setting clear expectations before the trip will prevent moments where you may potentially feel guilty for needing to take a break. Remember that your health is the most important thing!