Help for Migraines (and Other Headaches)

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Introduction: Help for Migraines (and Other Headaches)

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Here are a number of safe home remedies and suggestions for preventing and alleviating migraines and their symptoms. I want to emphasize that migraine symptoms can be specific to the individual so some these suggestions may be great for one person and not work for someone else. They’re worth a try though. Nothing here can hurt you and you might find some real relief!

For those of you who don’t get migraines, they are a whole body neurological phenomenon that affects your vascular system, messing up your head and stomach, and generally making you feel like you’ve got food poisoning while you have the flu.

There are medications that you can take to help prevent migraines and medicines that you can take to abort a headache that has already started. But (I know from lots of personal experience) this is often not enough. migraine medicines don’t always work and often work very slowly. So what do you do then?

(Also, migraine medicines can have a rebound effect, so the less you take, the better.)

Here are some things to try:

Step 1: Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

This is good for everyone.

Pain and discomfort make us tighten up and restrict our breathing. This is the worst possible thing you can do for a migraine. Instead, remind yourself to take deep, slow breaths with long exhales. If you’ve ever done any meditative or deep breathing (lamaze counts here), this is exactly what you’re looking for. If not, try these beginner steps from Harvard Health:

First steps. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

Breath focus in practice. Once you’ve taken the steps above, you can move on to regular practice of breath focus. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.

I sometimes do these breathing exercises by counting to 6 or 8 during the inhale and again during the exhale. After a while you don’t need to count anymore.

Step 2: ​Drink Water

Really. Just water. You may not feel dehydrated, but not being hydrated enough can cause or exacerbate a migraine. Stay away from the sugar and chemicals that can aggravate a headache. So, just water and plenty of it.

Step 3: ​Eat Some Protein

This will help stabilize your blood sugar. Low blood sugar or blood sugar swings can bring on migraines. A small amount of protein, every 2 – 3 hours, can make a huge difference. Also, eat before you are very hungry.

Step 4: ​Hot and Cold

This varies for people with migraines. For some people a very hot shower gives relief. For others, popsicles and ice packs are the way to go. Targeting the face, neck, upper back and shoulders with heat or cold can greatly relieve migraine symptoms and sometimes even stop the migraine before it takes hold. Try these ideas and see what helps you. You may find a combination works for you:

* Lie down or sit with an ice pack on the back of your neck.

* Alternate very hot and icy cold (damp) washcloths on your face and neck.

* Put hot packs on the back of your neck and shoulders.

* Hold ice or a popsicle to the roof of your mouth.

* Take a hot shower or bath. Focus the hot water on the back of your neck and shoulders.

* Press an ice cube against the painful points around your eyes and forehead.

Step 5: ​Have a Nice Cup of Tea.

Or other drink with caffeine. Tea is good because there’s not much in it to upset your stomach.

Step 6: ​Rest, Relax, Sleep

Sleeping off a migraine is a tried and true method of relief for many people. However, what if you feel too sick to sleep or you’re in a situation that makes sleep impossible? Then rest and relax as best you can for the situation. If you’re home, zone out in front of the TV (computers and books can make things worse because of neck and eye strain). Being at work is hard, but relax your muscles and try to get as comfortable as possible.

Step 7: ​Ginger

Ginger tea or candied ginger may help with the nausea. This folk remedy can be helpful for the stomach upset that comes with a migraine.

Step 8: ​Exercise

Regular exercise is very important to help prevent migraines from starting. Exercise reduces stress, loosens tight muscles and helps with blood sugar levels. Whatever you like to do is good. Just try to avoid things that stress your neck. (Which most of us should probably be avoiding anyway.)

I find exercising with a migraine sometimes helps the headache, but check with your doctor first to see if it’s okay for you.

Step 9: ​Adjust Your Environmental Temperature

Being too hot or too cold makes a migraine worse. Try adjusting your thermostat. Add or peel off layers of clothing or blankets as you get warmer or cooler. Adjust as often as you need to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Step 10: Feel Better!

I hope some of these easy home remedies help your headaches. I know there are many more things to try (I think I've tried them all!), but this is a very good start. And everything on this list is good for you even when you don't have a migraine. Good luck and feel better!

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I though it might be helpful to add a note about record keeping. For years I used various headache diaries, including a tiny notebook I always kept with me. I recently switched to a phone app, Migraine Buddy. If you're like me and always have your phone with you it's a great option. The program itself isn't perfect, but it's pretty good and easy to use. Just thought you'd like to know.

Migraine is responsible for permanent vision loss. One should treat this health problem as soon as possible after detecting. A medical advice is necessary. Thanks for sharing this information about migraine with us. Keep sharing such informative thoughts with us.

Thank you.

First, it is my hope that any one with migraine and vision issues gets a full medical evaluation. However, I don't want people to be scared that their migraine auras will lead to permanent damage. My daughter has visual snow, which is essentially a 24/7 visual aura that makes it difficult for her to see. It's a rare and disabling problem that has increased in intensity over the last 5 years. Between this issue and the rest of my family being treated for migraine, we have been assured by both the head of neurology at UCSF and head of neurology at Stanford that migraine vision problems do not lead to permanent vision damage or loss. That being said, sometimes a persistent migraine aura can mask another medical problem which can lead to permanent damage. Someone like my daughter is closely monitored to make sure nothing else is going on with her vision. So, again, anyone with visual disturbances should tell their doctor and follow his/her instructions.

Actually they're are many types of migraine; the kind i have, Basilar migraines, can & do cause permanent vision loss. My eyesight has already degraded considerably in the last 4 years as my migraines have worsened. I am also being treated at Stanford medical; also my personal doctor treats my vision issues seriously, and has warned me of possible permanent damage.

(I should also mention the head of Stanford Neurology failed to detect my Basilar migraines; he wanted to correlate my symptoms with a period of childhood abuse by a stepfather--ignoring the obvious fact that the migraine symptoms had been happening since well before that period of my life, appearing first following a major concussion when I was six. So the head of Stanford neurology means well, but he did exacerbate my medical case needlessly & erroneously, and mis-treated my condition. FYI.)

Thank you for sharing this. I'm glad to hear you were able to get a diagnosis. I know how difficult this can be. There's still so much research to be done on migraine.

There really is--my daughter gets abdominal migraines! Seems like something in our human environment needs to be addressed; and promptly changed/healed!

Forgive the typos of my above post, i don't always catch my phone's auto-correct mistakes.

I wish migraines were as easy to fix as a broken leg. For someone like myself with daily (yup, some months it's every single day) migraines you have to take advantage of every possible relief so that you can function. That means daily medications, abortive medications and the home remedies I mention in this instructable. These are especially important because there's a limit to how much medication is medically safe and effective. If I didn't have non-medicine help for my migraines, I would literally spend half my life in bed, in pain. Migraine control is all about management. Keeping meds to a minimum and keeping your sleep, stress, etc. in balance are key. That being said, a good neurologist is also key. Someone at a teaching hospital who keeps up on the latest treatments is ideal. Take care and feel well!

Yep, same here--lately been fewer days migraine-free than with migraines; can last many days at a time; utterly exhausted, physically wiped out, and every little tiny bit helps. And i do meditate, also; have been since age 9. It helps to cope with the pain & symptoms, but doesn't remove either completely.

One thing I don't think has been mentioned is meditation. Especially if the migraine is stress related, meditation relaxes the whole body and relieves strain as well as yoga...these are definitely worth a try.