Introduction: Help for Migraines (and Other Headaches)
First Prize in the
Home Remedies Challenge
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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