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Postdrome: The Aftermath Of Migraine Attacks  

Millions of individuals experience migraine attacks each year [1]. This complex neurological condition is experienced differently by each individual, but many migraine attacks have four phases: prodrome, aura, attack, and postdrome [2]. The prodrome and aura phases are the early warning signs that let you know when you are about to experience headache pain (headache phase). The postdrome phase of migraine attacks is the final stage and has an after-migraine hangover feeling.  

If treated early, individuals may be able to avoid the headache and postdrome phases entirely, or at least lessen the symptoms and manage the pain [3]. One key to finding the best treatment plan is tracking your symptoms to look for patterns using a migraine diary [4]. Once you recognize the early warning signs, you can treat your migraine as soon as an attack begins.  

Research has shown that women are three times more likely to develop migraine than men [5]. A contributing factor is a change in hormonal levels women experience during the menstrual cycle, which can trigger migraine. Studies have shown that veterans who are returning home from high-stress environments like Iraq or Afghanistan experience at least twice as many migraine attacks as the general American population [6].  

What is the Postdrome Phase of a Migraine?

Riding on the tail end of the painful migraine attack is the postdrome phase, also known as residual migraine symptoms. In this stage, individuals experience a hangover effect that may include migraine postdrome symptoms like inability to concentrate, fatigue, depressed mood or euphoric mood [7]. Many patients report that the effects of migraine aftermath can be just as brutal as the headache [8].  

Not everyone experiences a postdrome effect, but it is common in most cases. This phase typically lasts a day or two.

What is the Difference Between the Attack and Postdrome Phases?    

The attack phase of a migraine is when most people  experience painful throbbing in one side of their head, along with sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, nausea/vomiting, and other symptoms [9]. The attack phase is typically the most painful phase. After the attack phase, the postdrome phase begins, leaving the individual in a fog-like (“hangover”) state.  

The attack phase can last from a few hours to three days [10]. Postdrome symptoms typically last one to two days. Attack phase primarily includes the headaches, which can vary between mild to severe pain. The postdrome phase has non-headache symptoms, which differ from those of the attack phase, such as inability to concentrate (brain-fog), fatigue, depressed mood or euphoric mood. 

Postdrome Phase Symptoms:

Quick Reference    

The migraine aftermath symptoms of the postdrome phase may include:    

  • Brain fog (difficulty concentrating)
  • Fatigue  
  • Depression  
  • Euphoria  
  • Dizziness  
  • Body aches 

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Prodromal Phase Symptoms: Quick Reference

The prodrome migraine phase may include these non-headache symptoms:
  • Neck stiffness or pain
  • Fatigue or extreme weakness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Sensitivity to smell
  • Nausea, vomiting, or constipation
  • Yawning
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Food cravings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Slurred speech
  • Nerivio’s Quick Q&A Guide on Navigating a Migraine

    “Can I Treat Migraine Attacks in the Postdrome Phase?”

    Although best treated in the prodrome and aura phases to avoid headaches and hangovers, or during the headache phase to abort the pain, there are treatment options for the postdrome phase [8]. Patients experiencing migraine aftermath symptoms should consult their doctor for a customized treatment plan. 

    Each patient experiences migraine differently. It’s important to share the details of your symptoms with your doctor to ensure you get the best options to manage your neurological condition. Treatment is complex due to the comprehensive nature of a neurological  disease.  


    “How can I Prevent the Postdrome Phase After a Migraine?”

     The best way to prevent the postdrome phase of a migraine is to treat when the early symptoms begin. If you experience  prodrome or aura, you will have warning signs alarming you know a painful headache is about to come [3]. These symptoms may include neck stiffness, fatigue, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, irritability, mood swings. They may also include visual disturbances, temporary sight loss, or somatosensory symptoms like numbness and tingling associated with the aura phase.   

    Tracking your symptoms in the early phases will help you recognize the next migraine attack earlier. Migraine journaling is a tool that tracks each phase’s symptoms, duration, and severity [11]. Sharing your migraine diary with your healthcare specialist will ensure you get a customized treatment plan. While there is no cure for migraine, there are many options to help manage your symptoms effectively.  

    To ease your postdrome symptoms you may consider the following: 

    • Rest in a dark room, away from bright lights and loud noises. 
    • Consider trying to consume a small amount of caffeine. For some people, caffeine is a trigger for migraine attacks [12]. If it is not a trigger for you, it may help ease your migraine symptoms in the postdrome phase. 
    • Some individuals find relief from their symptoms through relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga, or through engaging in mild physical activity. 
    • Drink plenty of water, stay hydrated, and eat healthy food. 

    Together, these activities may help ease the brain-fog and improve your mental health.  

    Doctors may prescribe pain medications or treatments to ease the symptoms. Many drugs have side effects or harmful drug-to-drug interactions that can worsen your situation. Ask your doctor about drug-free alternatives like Nerivio, a Remote Electrical Neuromodulation (REN) therapy, indicated for acute and preventive treatment of migraine, in patients age 12 and up. It is a prescription use, self-administered device used every other day for migraine prevention and/or at the onset of migraine or aura to treat migraine attack. In addition to providing migraine treatments, the Nerivio app also has a journaling feature (migraine diary) to help you track your symptoms and progress. Visit our step-by-step guide for more information about getting the Nerivio drug-free migraine treatment.

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    1. National Headache Foundation. (n.d.). Facts About Migraine. https://headaches.org/facts-about-migraine/
    2. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Migraine Headaches. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5005-migraine-headaches
    3. Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 02). Migraine. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20360201
    4. Stanford Health Care. (n.d.). Headache Diary. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/brain-and-nerves/headache/diagnosis/headache-diary.html
    5. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Migraine. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/migraine
    6. Migraine at Work. (n.d.). Why is Migraine a Veterans’ Issue? https://migraineatwork.org/articles_migraine/why-is-migraine-a-veterans-issue/
    7. The Migraine Trust. (n.d.). Stages of a migraine attack. https://migrainetrust.org/understand-migraine/stages-of-a-migraine-attack/
    8. American Migraine Foundation. (2018, February 22). Migraine Hangover. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-hangover/
    9. Mayo Clinic Health System. (n.d.). What are the stages of a migraine? https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/what-are-the-stages-of-a-migraine
    10. American Migraine Foundation. (n.d.). Migraine signs and symptoms. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/migraine-signs-symptoms/
    11. American Migraine Foundation. (2019, May 02). Headache Journals: Tracking Your Migraine. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/headache-journals/
    12. American Migraine Foundation. (2017, July 27). Top 10 Migraine Triggers And How to Deal With Them. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/top-10-migraine-triggers/

    Safety Information

    It is highly recommended that you consult your doctor before taking any action based on the information above. This content does not constitute medical advice or a recommendation.

    Nerivio is an FDA-cleared, drug-free therapy for acute and preventive treatment of migraine with or without aura in patients 12 years and up. It is a prescription use, a self-administered device for use in the home environment at the onset of migraine headache or aura for acute treatment, or every other day for preventive treatment.

    Nerivio should not be used by people with uncontrolled epilepsy, an active implantable medical device, such as a pacemaker, hearing aid implant, or any implanted electronic device. Such use could cause electric shock, electrical interference or serious injuries or medical conditions.”

    For full user instructions and safety information, please see the Nerivio User Manual.
    Talk to your doctor to see if Nerivio is right for you.