Migraine is a medical condition affecting about 15 percent of people worldwide. In fact, statistics show that migraine affects more people than diabetes, epilepsy, and asthma combined.
Although migraine is generally associated with throbbing headaches, other symptoms of migraine disorders include nausea, vomiting, vision disturbances, tingling or numbness, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. These symptoms can be debilitating, and in chronic cases, have a significant impact on well-being.
Thankfully, there is a wide range of options for relieving migraine symptoms, many of which you can use on your own without a doctor’s prescription. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular lifestyle changes and home remedies for migraine.
In many cases, preparing in advance can lessen the severity of your migraine attacks. According to Mayo Clinic, when you first feel that an attack is coming on, take a break and find a quiet spot. Then do the following steps.
Turn off the lights and minimize noise, as migraines often cause extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Several MyMigraineTeam members have discussed the benefits of darkness and quiet in easing their migraine symptoms. “After several good days, I woke with tightness around my head ... stayed in a dark room and it is easing gradually,” one member wrote.
Another said, “I feel like I need to sleep or sit in a dark quiet room when having headaches.”
Cold compresses have a numbing effect, which may dull headache pain, while hot compresses help calm muscle tension. Along similar lines, taking a warm bath or shower can have a similar effect.
Caffeine can help relieve a migraine attack during its beginning stages. It can also enhance the effects of pain-relieving medications, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen). Drinking one or two servings of a caffeinated beverage per day can help prevent headaches. However, too much caffeine — three or more servings per day — can cause unwanted side effects, including caffeine-withdrawal headaches and disrupted sleep.
“Woke up with a migraine … caffeine seems to help,” one MyMigraineTeam member wrote.
Another said, “My doctor recently told me if I take my migraine meds with caffeine, they work better.”
The mineral magnesium is commonly used to ward off migraine attacks. It’s available in pill form, and the recommended daily dose for helping migraine is 400 to 500 milligrams.
Magnesium is also naturally available in certain foods, such as:
Read more about magnesium for migraines here.
Herbal supplements, such as butterbur and feverfew, may help reduce both the severity and frequency of migraine attacks. According to the American Migraine Foundation, a 150-milligram dose of butterbur sustained over about three months may help lower the frequency of migraine headaches. However, butterbur is linked to serious liver toxicity. Thus, it’s not available on the market in Europe, and many neurologists in the United States no longer prescribe it. Feverfew is less effective but may help some people. However, feverfew has been found to increase your risk of bleeding, and it should not be used during pregnancy.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting new natural remedies or herbal supplements for your migraines. While supplements can offer some benefits, it is important they do not interact with any other medications you may be taking. Extra caution should be taken if you are pregnant or planning to conceive.
Migraine attacks can both cause and be caused by lack of sleep. Although getting the best possible sleep can be difficult, it’s important for someone living with migraine. “I have a mild migraine — didn’t sleep well, which can impact me,” one MyMigraineTeam member wrote.
“Lack of sleep can be a trigger,” wrote another.
Below are tips on how to sleep better if you have migraine.
Set and stick to a sleeping schedule to get your body used to a regular sleep-wake cycle. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including on weekends.
Relax at the end of the day. Avoid intense activity, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, and watch what you eat before bedtime. Try to engage in relaxation techniques, such as listening to soothing music or reading a calming book.
“Sleep hygiene” means practicing good sleeping habits. These include minimizing distractions in the bedroom, especially electronic devices such as a TV or cell phone. Keeping the bedroom’s temperature cool, using dim lights, and using the bed only for sleep and romance are all helpful for getting better rest.
Trying too hard to fall asleep only makes it more difficult. If you cannot fall asleep, do not force it. Get out of bed and do a quiet activity, such as reading a book, until you feel drowsy again.
If you are taking medications for any health condition, check to make sure they do not contain caffeine or other stimulants, which can disrupt your sleep. Talk to your doctor about potential adjustments to your medication if you think they are impacting your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Your eating habits can have an impact on your migraine. Tracking which foods trigger or worsen your migraine symptoms can help you learn what to avoid. Some common triggers for migraine flare-ups include:
According to Mayo Clinic, other healthy eating habits for people with migraines include dining at specific mealtimes and observing the same routine each day. Not skipping meals is also important.
Regular exercise has many benefits for people with migraine. People who are obese are at increased risk of chronic headaches. Importantly, exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain that block pain signals. Exercise is also known to help with anxiety and depression, both of which can exacerbate migraine symptoms.
When starting out, choose light exercises that will not leave you overtired, such as cycling, swimming, or walking. Intense exercise can actually have the opposite effect and trigger migraine attacks.
Meditation and mindfulness practices may provide migraine relief. One small study found that people with migraine who practiced mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques had 1.4 fewer migraine headaches per month than those who received standard treatments.
Over-the-counter painkillers that include caffeine, aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen — such as Excedrin Migraine — are thought to work by altering the body’s sensation of pain. However, they are usually only effective in relieving mild migraine pain.
MyMigraineTeam is the social network for people living with migraines and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 67,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with migraine.
What tips or tricks do you have to share to ease migraine attacks? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.